Radiologists Group Addresses Physician Shortage With New Training
More doctors need a specialty certification in reading radiographs, so the American College of Radiology has created a course to fill the expected gap as the current generation of certified B Readers retires.
The demand for B Readers, a group of doctors certified to read chest radiographs for pneumoconiosis, is high. But, according to the American College of Radiology, there are only about 165 certified readers today and their average age is more than 60 years old.
In an effort to get more physicians certified as B Readers, ACR will begin offering training courses to fill the gap.
“At the peak of the program, there were somewhere around 700 B Readers,” said Dr. Cris Meyer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine who will be teaching ACR’s course. “With the advent of new technologies, reading chest radiographs isn’t necessarily as sexy or interesting to our young trainees.”
However, B Readers are needed, as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is required to monitor the lung health of coal miners, and certified readers are able to identify the early stages of diseases caused by exposure to airborne particles, including coal dust.
NIOSH selected ACR to create the training course to encourage more physicians to get the certification.
Vinay Sandhir, director of the ACR Education Center, said the association previously offered a course to help doctors prepare for the NIOSH certification exam, but that course was last given in 2009. Since then, doctors wanting the certification had only one option to prepare: visit NIOSH’s website, request a study kit with sample images, and then do their best to go through them alone.
“Often times, there aren’t enough examples for a person who is newly learning,” Meyer said. “I have been certified since 1999, so going through that with them and understanding what goes into the process is extremely valuable in preparing them for the exam.”
Even though coal mining is on the decline, Meyer notes that B Reader certification is still quite useful. “B-reading can be applied to all of these occupational exposures,” Meyer said, noting that occupational lung diseases also can be caused by asbestos and silica. “We do quite a bit of clinical screening and receive radiographs from all over the country. It can be another source of both volume and revenue in an academic center for a chest section or in a private practice.”
ACR will be offering classes next January and March. “We’re intending to do this for two years, and we essentially want to double the pool of B Readers,” Sandhir said. ACR wants to train 80 physicians by August 2020, and another 80 by the following year.
ACR is reaching out to its 38,000 members to let them know the course is available, and the response has been positive so far. “They’re absolutely thrilled its finally coming,” Sandhir said.
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