Charting the practical dimensions of understaffing from a managerial perspective: everyday consequences of the UK’s sonographer shortage

Waring, Lorelei, Miller, Paul K. ORCID logo ORCID: , Sloane, Charles ORCID logo ORCID: and Bolton, Gareth ORCID logo ORCID: (2018) Charting the practical dimensions of understaffing from a managerial perspective: everyday consequences of the UK’s sonographer shortage. In: UK Radiological and Radiation Oncology Congress: Disease and Diversity, 2-4 July 2018, ACC Liverpool, UK. (Unpublished)

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Background: The Society and College of Radiographers reports that by 2014, 18.1% of UK ultrasound vacancies remained unfilled, a substantial rise from the 10.9% reported in 2011, and the 10.1% reported in 2009.[1,2] Indeed by 2013, the UK government’s Migration Advisory Committee had listed sonography as an official ‘shortage specialty’.[3,4] The research reported herein is designed to lend qualitative depth to our current understanding of the “coal-face” situation in the UK’s ultrasound units from the perspective of their managers.

Methods: Using a Straussian model of Grounded Theory,[5,6] extended accounts provided by N=20 ultrasound department leads in public (n=17) and private (n=3) units were analysed.

Results: Three global themes emerged from the analysis. The first addresses how a lack of staff in the broader economy has created a migratory system that works chiefly to the advantage of the most junior and the most senior clinicians, often leaving mid-career professionals in a borderline impossible situation. The second highlights how the knowledge economy in many departments is being stymied by early retirement and late-career migration, rendering questions about how advanced expertise in ultrasound might be obtained and sustained by the remaining experienced clinicians. The third underscores how it is often workplace instability, rather than simple short staffing, that is most damaging to staff morale, planning capacity and clinical self-efficacy.

Conclusions: This work ideally opens up debates on some largely undiscussed practical contingencies of the sonographer shortage, and can help ground future deductive research in the real-world experience of key actors.

1. Society and College of Radiographers. Sonographer workforce survey analysis. SCoR; 2014.
2. Society and College of Radiographers. Developing and growing the sonographer workforce: Education and training needs. SCoR; 2009.
3. Migration Advisory Committee. Skilled shortage sensible: Full review of the recommended shortage occupation lists for the UK and Scotland, a sunset clause and the creative occupations. 2013.
4. Parker PC, Harrison G. Educating the future sonographic workforce: Membership survey report from the British Medical Ultrasound Society. Ultrasound 2015;23:231-241.
5. Sloane C, Miller PK. Informing radiography curriculum development: The views of UK radiology service managers concerning the ‘fitness for purpose’ of recent diagnostic radiography graduates. Radiography 2017;23:S16-S22.
6. Charmaz, K., Grounded Theory, in: Smith, J.A., ed., Qualitative Psychology: A Practical Guide to Methods, Sage, London, 2008, 81-110.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Departments: Academic Departments > Medical & Sport Sciences (MSS) > Health and Medical Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Miller
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2018 14:15
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 19:18


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