A frequent theme in working with our radiology group clients has been the challenge of recruiting pediatric radiologists, largely due to the diminishing numbers of this subspecialty. The shortage is particularly challenging as hospitals, recognizing the value of this subspecialty of radiologists, make increasing demands that radiology groups commit to specific levels of pediatric radiology coverage in new and renewal professional services agreements.
In an opinion article published by the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR) on September 18, 2021, three well-regarded pediatric radiologists seek to bring attention to the "severe national shortage" of pediatric radiologists. They opine on the reasons for the shortage and describe the steps being taken to reverse that course.
The authors note that the number of pediatric fellows is declining, with 44 percent of radiology residency/fellowship training programs currently devoid of any pediatric radiology fellows.
The authors fear that the shortage will increase since it is reported that about 38 percent of practicing pediatric radiologists plan to retire within the next decade. And retirements have reportedly been escalating as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The JACR opinion piece offers some purported reasons (which the authors view as misguided) for radiology residents' reduced interest in pursuing pediatric radiology as a subspecialty. These include apparent perceptions that there is a diminished job market for pediatric radiologists, that there are geographic restrictions for job opportunities, that there is diminished marketability in the private sector, that the subspecialty has lower salaries with decreasing reimbursement, and that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace radiologists. The authors seek to rebut these notions, arguing that there are robust job opportunities in pediatric radiology in diverse practice types and across wide geographic locations. They also note that salaries for pediatric radiologists are on par with those of their noninterventional subspecialty colleagues, and that although private practice salaries tended to be higher than academic salaries, relative value unit productivity was similar between pediatric radiologists and other radiology subspecialties.
My own experience with groups that recruit and employ pediatric radiologists is in accord with the views of the authors.
This JACR opinion article makes a valuable contribution to the efforts to encourage medical students and radiology residents to pursue a career in pediatric radiology. The authors provide a comprehensive inventory of programs and strategies that are being employed to accomplish this. They have nicely shared their "excitement in our specialty, engaging learners, and educating them about the satisfaction and fulfillment of a career in [pediatric] radiology."