Reflections from the Liminal Space: Teaching as a Junior Staff Radiologist

By Crystal Fong

As I went through my training in general diagnostic radiology and then neuroradiology, I always felt that I would end up at a teaching centre, paying back to future residents what was given to me – the tacit knowledge and skills of a diagnostician that you just can’t get from reading a book.

I had many teaching responsibilities as a fellow, and I lived in a cycle of teaching, receiving feedback, and putting even more time and effort into my next teaching sessions – constantly trying to be innovative with both the teaching methods and materials I used.

Now, as I sit here on a Sunday afternoon, 2 weeks into practice as a junior staff neuroradiologist, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to achieve the teaching goals to which I so loftily aspire.

I am “pre-dictating” – doing work that I will have to cover on my next day’s shift. I find that I do this most nights, so that I can manage my daytime workload and not feel overwhelmed. In combination with bringing home resident reports to sign off, I spend about 2 -3 hours of extra work at home in addition to the 10 hours of work I put in at the hospital. Oh, and I also have two young kids that require constant attention when I am at home – so that means staying up late after the kids have gone to bed or waking up early to do the work.

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So, the other day, I found myself hoping that I wouldn’t have a resident working with me – no extra teaching, no extra reports to edit and sign off. But as soon as the thought crossed my mind, it made me to stop and think – what am I doing all this for? Yes, there is the clinical work that is required for patient management. But ultimately, I joined an academic group because I genuinely enjoy teaching, and I thought I could contribute as someone who not so long ago went through the resident experience and understands what it’s like to have one-on-one teaching.

I don’t have a solution to this problem of time management, and like many other clinicians, there is a constant struggle to balance the clinical duties with teaching responsibilities. Most radiologists do not get dedicated teaching time; I suspect the more senior (and efficient) ones manage to squeeze in invaluable teaching during the workday. But for me, it’s slow going, and I use my own time.

However, at the end of the day, it’s important that I remind myself what goes around, comes around. The more effort I put into the junior residents, the more help I’ll receive from them as they learn and come back to rotate with me as senior residents. Ultimately, a little effort now will go a long way, and with time and practice (and ongoing mentorship from my more senior teachers/peers), perhaps I will also be able to incorporate teaching into my daily practice as well.

Images via Wikimedia Commons