A medical imaging department is a high energy and high stress environment. Often, radiologists work 50 hour plus weeks with varying shifts, in addition to being on call when they are off work.
The environment is unpredictable; emergency response is a way of life. Diverse personalities, especially in large departments, add to the stress level. Tension and conflict are inevitable. And, tension and stress interrupts concentration, which can lead to mistakes in patient care.
The majority of conflict in any healthcare department or organization arises from lack of communication. As George Bernard Shaw famously observed, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
In today’s modern medical imaging environment, many communication issues can be cured with faster and more reliable information technology. Getting information more quickly and efficiently lowers stress levels and increases clarity of communication. However, technology cannot replace the crucial component of developing relationship-building skills.
One department that learned first-hand about the importance of technology-independent communication is the anesthesiology department at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospitals. Due to a crisis in the department, the administrators needed to find a way to transform a dysfunctional operating room.
After taking a critical look at their situation, the surgeons, anesthesiologists and surgical services staff ended up developing their own core communication values, which they all signed, as a commitment to a professional code of conduct.
- I will value creative collaboration, not drama, and ask for honesty.
- I will never raise my voice, use profanity or have a heated conversation in front of staff or patients.
- My actions and the delivery of my opinions, at all times and under all circumstances, will be professional. I will reflect positively on UNC Health Care since I am [its] representative.
- By signature, I agree to abide by the above criteria of excellence, which will provide caring, teaching and innovation.
Unresolved conflict in a medical imaging department – or truly, in any workplace – can create a toxic work environment which leads to low productivity and increased organizational costs. Fortunately, the guidelines like those developed by UNC above are applicable to nearly any healthcare enterprise or department.
What tactics have you found that have been helpful in reducing stress at your hospital or health care organization? I encourage you to share via a comment below.
To learn more about how to effectively manage your medical imaging department, whether you are trying to improve communication or technology, I encourage you to subscribe to the Medical Imaging Talk blog via RSS feed or email, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.