As with radiologists, radiology technologists are in short supply and high demand. Facing a shortage proportionally higher than nursesaccording to statistics provided by the American College of Radiology, there is currently a 15.3% shortage of radiology technologists compared to 13% for nurseshospitals, imaging centers, and professional groups have been forced to think outside the box and offer a number of incentives including higher compensation to attract and retain radiology technologists.
For Western Baptist Hospital, a 300-bed facility in Paducah, Ky, the answer has been to offer sign-on bonuses, relocation costs, and higher salaries. Over the last 2 years, the radiology department has been experiencing shortages of noninvasive vascular,? x-ray, and nuclear medicine technologists. Though the workforce is built from the local community, many young people are lured away to nearby Nashville, Louisville, and St Louis and their higher salaries, says Robert Brown, RT, PACS administrator. Among the tactics being used to retain its workforce and solve its shortages is paying for several technologists to receive training in nuclear medicine, currently understaffed. In addition, the hospital is considering a flex-time system.
The 300-bed St Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo, is in a fortunate position. The local Mesa State College has a radiology technologist program and can count on drawing from a pool of up to 15 new technologists every year.
Recruitment and retention are more, however, than just having a local school and offering good compensation. “We have a customer service training program, and we concentrate on safety, courtesy, image, and efficiency,” says Howard Campbell, RT, St Mary’s human resource manager in radiology. “I think the technologists get something out of this&it fills in all of the gaps and makes it a positive place to work.” Patients have responded favorably to the program and the recognition the technologists receive because it is one of the key factors helping to retain staff, Campbell adds.
Roland Rhynus, RT, director of imaging services for San Diego Professional Services, a radiology management group, has found that the shortages affecting the rest of the country have yet to impact him. He credits some of that to San Diego’s quality of life and the good working conditions his radiology centers offer. In addition to offering competitive salaries and flex time, the organization gives each technologist a yearly education accountwhich consists of both time and moneyto be used any way the employee chooses.
Rhynus has found that quality of work environment is more important than money in retaining employees. But money does play its part. “I don’t think [your salaries] can be too off the market,” he says. “If you’re going to be off of market, then you better have a pretty good bonus plan in place.” Recruitment is done almost exclusively by word of mouth. Many new hires are friends and professional acquaintances of the technologists and administrative staff, which has created a good esprit de corps for Rhynus. “The team wants to get people who are going to work for the team,” he says. “It gives [the staff] power and leverage [in the workplace].”
Leverage is not? achieved only through esprit de corps. After noticing that their 60 technologists were involved in many time-consuming, nontechnical taskssuch as hanging and processing filmsadministrators in the radiology department at the 400-bed Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, hired a radiology technologist aide to take over these duties, first for general radiology and then for mammography and diagnostic radiology. The program has been in place for more than 10 years. The hospital is in the process of recruiting two additional aides, who are assigned to a group of technologists and available as needed.
In addition to increasing the efficiency and productivity of the technologists, the aides are paid about $8 an hour less than the technologists. “The technologists are very pleased with the programthey see that management is trying to help during these difficult recruitment times,” says Monte G. Clinton, administrative director-radiology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “The aides are pleased with the job and feel they are an important part of the health care team. One has expressed interest in becoming a technologist.” The hospital is also working with a local community college to start a two-year radiologic technology program. The first class of 18 will begin this fall.
The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) has developed a recruitment and retention tool kit, free and available on its Web site (www.asrt.org/asrt.htm). In addition, the ASRT has produced a $70,000 marketing video that it has run on various public broadcasting stations. The programs seem to be working. The ASRT saw an increase in those seeking professional credentials in 2001the first since 1994.
However, the shortage is far from over. And according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2008 there will be a need to recruit 55,000 more radiology technologists than are currently needed.