A new study scheduled for publication in the January 2023 issue of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists journal, Radiologic Technology, underscores the question whether there is a relationship between mental health (depression and anxiety) and engaging in shift work, working weekend shifts, and taking call for radiologic technologists. The study also sought to identify coping strategies used to manage depression and anxiety.
The study was undertaken by a trio of researchers. Survey instruments were used to measure depression and anxiety levels among a sample of radiologic technologists who are members of Advanced Health Education Center educational programs. The research was conducted by Marilyn Sackett, MEd, RT(R), FASRT, Kevin R Clark, EdD, RT (R)(QM), FAEIRS, FASRT, and Tammy L Webster, PhD, RT(R)(M), FAEIRS.
Shift work is an essential part of a practice in radiologic technology in the clinical setting. Radiology must provide service 24/7 and staff is expected to work shift work to cover more than the regular 8-hour day. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics quoted in 2017-2018 that 84% of wage and salary employees worked day shifts, but 16% worked a non-daytime shift. That included evening and night shifts or those on a rotating shift schedule. Engaging in shift work is associated with mental health disorders and these workers are at a higher risk for adverse health outcomes, such as stroke, obesity, G.I. symptoms and various types of cancer. Health care workers experience elevated stress levels from exposure to emotional and traumatic situations which affect mental health.
The purpose of the study was to answer questions such as:
- Are radiologic technologists experiencing depression and anxiety? If so, does the depression or anxiety affect their job performance?
- Is there a significant relationship between total depression scores and anxiety scores among a sample of working radiologic technologists?
- Are there significant differences between depression and anxiety levels among radiologic technologists who work various shifts?
- Are there significant associations between depression and anxiety levels related to weekend shifts and call status?
- What coping strategies do radiologic technologists use to manage depression and anxiety?
Those participants who worked only days, had never done weekends, and had never taken call were removed from the results. Approximately 66% of the respondents worked in radiography as opposed to other disciplines and 33.5% identified CT as their modality. 69% of radiographers identified a hospital or free-standing emergency room as their primary work situation.
The most common coping strategies used by participants to manage their mental health were support from family and friends, prayer and spiritual activities, and prescribed medication. In the comment sections participants listed deep breathing exercises, drinking alcohol, getting a massage, listening to music, meditating, overeating, smoking cigarettes, spending time with pets, and venting to colleagues.
Respondents stated employers offered employee assistance programs or resources to assist with mental health, but many stated they were somewhat uncomfortable using the programs or resources.
A significant association was found as Radiologic Technologists reported that working more weekend shifts led to higher levels of depression. This association did not extend to suffering anxiety symptoms or the frequency of taking call.
Recognition of the issues associated with shift work include using different methods for management of radiographers who are experiencing adverse responses. This is a preliminary report with a limited audience. It could be replicated using a larger professional target audience. Increased awareness and management erasing the negative stigma of using professional assistance provided by healthcare facilities is needed.
Marilyn Sackett, MEd, R.T.(R), FASRT, is president and managing partner of Advanced Health Education Center in Houston, Texas. She is co-donor in the establishment of ASRT Foundation’s Emerging Researcher Grant and the Marilyn Sackett Leadership Scholarship. In 2012, she established the Marilyn Hedricks Sackett Health Professionals Scholarship with the Jacksonville Education Foundation for graduating students seeking to enter health care professions.
Kevin R Clark, EdD, R.T.(R)(QM), FAEIRS, FASRT, is associate professor and associate graduate program director with the School of Health Professions for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He serves as a member of ASRT Foundation’s Research and Grants Advisory Panel and Radiologic Technology Editorial Review Board.
Tammy L Webster, PhD, R.T.(R)(M), FAEIRS, is associate professor and assistant dean for academic affairs with the College of Allied Health Professions for the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. She is an Editorial Review Board member for Radiologic Technology and a member of the ASRT Committee on Nominations.
Received December 30, 2021; accepted after revision April 18, 2022. Reprint requests may be mailed to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, Publications Department, 15000 Central Ave SE, Albuquerque, NM 87123-3909, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2023 American Society of Radiologic Technologist