Foundation trainees’ perception of interventional radiology found to be “poor”

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foundationFoundation trainees’ perception of interventional radiology (IR) is “generally poor due to a lack of adequate knowledge”, a recent survey from the Radiology department of the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Manchester, UK, reports.

Marawan El Farargy, Khalid Bashaeb, Linda Watkins, and Aws Alfahad, all from said institute, set out to assess perceptions of the specialty amongst foundation trainees, with the simultaneous aim of exploring the means by which these perceptions could be addressed, “with the overall outcome of encouraging junior doctors to consider a career in this advancing sub-speciality.”

El Farargy et al distributed a physical copy of an anonymised survey to a total of 79 students in the first and second year of their foundation course (FYs), all of whom responded. Forty-five per cent (34 of 79) were introduced to interventional radiology within their prescribed training posts, and 38% (29 of 79) were “interested enough to learn more through self-directed reading”, El Farargy and colleagues report. Approximately 28% (22 of 79) had heard of interventional radiology during medical school rotations and a few trainees (six of 79) were exposed to the specialty during elective placements.

“The findings of the present survey are indicative of the poor general knowledge of FYs regarding interventional radiology,” the authors surmise, “and highlights that interventional radiology is not introduced appropriately to undergraduates”. They continue: “The Royal College of Radiologists has already made recommendations regarding the embedding of clinical radiology as a whole in medical education. Interventional radiologists must take a leading role in the education of both undergraduate and junior doctors to address the apparent lack of interest in radiology of newly qualified doctors. In addition, universities and societies should ensure that a basic level of general radiology and IR knowledge is obtained by medical students prior to graduation.”

Three-quarters of foundation year students unwilling to consider a career in IR

“Despite reasonable awareness of the IR sub-speciality, 75% of FYs (59 of 79) stated that they were not willing to consider a career in interventional radiology, and around 11% were unsure about pursuing a career in interventional radiology,” the authors write. “Of those who did not wish to consider IR as an option, 53/59 lacked general interest in radiology and 13/59 felt they did not have enough information about this career option”.

While almost all respondents demonstrated awareness that interventional radiology is both an elective and an emergency specialty, over 45% did not know that attending clinic is part of the consultant role. Citing an American study by Julia Fielding (Department of Radiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA) et al that found that less patient contact discourages medical students from selecting radiology as a speciality, El Farargy and colleagues say, “it is understandable that inadequate knowledge of the typical interventional radiology consultant job plan may dissuade junior trainees from pursing interventional radiology as a future career”.

Survey respondents were asked to rate possible ways of raising awareness about interventional radiology on a scale of one to five, with lower scores being worse. “Surprisingly, 65% (50 of 79) rejected the notion of learning more about interventional radiology at all”, El Farargy et al describe, though the most popular method of awareness-raising was deemed to be elective placements and teaching throughout foundation years, followed by lectures in medical schools. Attending multidisciplinary team meetings was the least preferred option.

Discussing these methods, the authors suggest that “multiple strategies can be employed, including radiology placements, electives, and student-selected modules, encouraging attendance at interventional radiology procedures, provision of student access to interventional radiology conferences, and embedding appropriate multidisciplinary team meetings within the student timetable”. For foundation schools, they advise teaching sessions, adequate access to taster week programmes, and the inclusion of radiology rotations within their foundation posts.

“Again,” they write, “the interventional radiology community need to step up and ensure they are involved in both decision-making and face-to-face teaching levels to capitalise on available opportunities”.

They conclude with a call to action for current interventional radiologists: “It is essential that we, as a radiology community, take responsibility for this crucial issue and work to boost perceptions of interventional radiology amongst the consultants of tomorrow”.

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