COVID-19 has impacted the workforce at an alarming rate and women are bearing the brunt. In fact, they are leaving the workforce at nearly four times the rate of men. Likewise, jobs in healthcare are down in the U.S. by 542,000 since before the pandemic.

While these statistics are not only specific to radiology, as we continue to navigate a global pandemic, one thing is for sure: To ensure the success of your private practice, things must change.

The effect on women affects your practice

While there are multiple factors for the drop in women in the workforce (and while the economic recovery is ongoing), there are things you can do in your private practice to support women in radiology. Sometimes, making the smallest changes can provide the biggest impacts.

  • Focus on hiring and retention

Diversity in the workforce is front-and-center in this country and the pandemic has brought on new disparities between women of color and minorities within the workforce. The same holds true in the field of radiology and imaging. Educate yourself and establish best practices in these areas. Listen to what women want and are experiencing as physicians in this area. Be mindful of issues your female radiologists and employees may be experiencing. Pay attention to work/life balance needs, consider block scheduling, job sharing or other unique ways to provide flexible work environments in an industry that is ‘always on’.

  • Alleviate stressors at work

For women who remain in radiology, the backlog of imaging procedures and longer hours have created additional stress. It’s no secret that there is considerable burnout in the field of radiology. Add in the pandemic and that stress has increased, landing at a higher rate on women who feel the burden of increased workload at home (a significant percentage more so than their male counterparts). Alleviate some of this stress by providing a work environment that focuses on building personal connections, provides fair disbursement of work, and implements workflows and technologies to reduce tedious tasks.

  • Add work practice efficiencies

The addition of the technologies and updated workflows mentioned above can bring much-needed efficiencies to your private practice. Artificial intelligence, for instance, provides a second set of eyes, adding a safety net to your practice and improves productivity. Radiologists may feel relief in being able to provide a higher standard of care while spending less time analyzing screening results.

  • Expanded networking and training

A fear for some women who leave radiology (or the workforce in general) during this time is that they will begin to lose their connections to the industry. There may also be less training opportunities or chances to receive education in specific areas of breast imaging. Clinical practice, medical education and in-person radiology rotations, for example, have been hindered due to pandemic distancing protocols. A loss in these areas decreases the recruitment and visibility of the profession. As a practitioner, think outside the box to provide alternative opportunities for connecting and learning. Consider offering virtual networking events, training opportunities or outreach to support women in radiology. Be mindful of leadership training opportunities—are you providing adequate pathways in areas of clinical leadership, department head positions and the like for women practitioners?

As we’ve seen, COVID has disproportionately affected private practices and hospitals of smaller sizes. Understanding how the pandemic affects not only your practice but the women in the field is important to realize as you continue to develop best practices and care in radiology. Like all of us in the field, we want practices to thrive and faster detection of malignancies for the best possible outcomes. How will you work to support women in radiology this year and beyond?