Radiologists over the age of 50 constitute an essential component of 21st century workforce planning. This demographic often has more clinical and diverse reporting experience and can be more comfortable with risk management than their less experienced counterparts.
The older doctor has a positive contribution to make to radiology as in all medical specialties. Careful consideration of workload, work type and working hours should maximise such expertise with huge benefits for the individual practitioner, radiology departments and patients alike.
The effect of aging on performance
There is no evidence that older radiologists are less competent than their younger peers.
With age comes experience and it would seem logical to assert that, with decades of reporting experience, pattern recognition would be finely honed. However, radiological investigations that involve hand-eye co-ordination, manual dexterity and prolonged procedural time may be more challenging with age. Consideration should therefore be given to tailoring job plans of all radiologists to optimise their performance. Some retired radiologists may wish to work from home if facilities permit.
Reporting discrepancies, errors and procedural incidents occur in all types of radiological practice and at all ages. Even if a consultant has retired but returns to work part time, one has a duty to continue lifelong professional learning and to participate in peer feedback,
More experienced radiologists are an underused resource for induction, training, policy development, mentorship and leadership. These activities must substitute other roles and not be in addition to them. The older radiologist also has a pivotal role in the education and training of specialist registrars. This is particularly valuable given the acute shortage of trained radiologists within the UK and the deficit in training numbers when considered in relation to the rapidly increasing demands for service provision.
Reserch indicates that on-call work becomes more cumulatively onerous, with longer recovery times, as one gets older. As access to out-of-hours imaging studies, demand and the volume of work continue to rise, the stress of non-elective activities takes its toll and is one of the cited reasons for early retirement. Another is the role of ‘duty radiologist’. Both these factors are complex in nature and in their solution, however, by novel and imaginative management, the considerable experience, motivation and professional satisfaction of a senior and expert workforce are retained.