Support at the right moment

In response to the pressures of finding sufficient radiology technologists, Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hospital, Germany, engaged a technologist from Siemens Healthineers in early March 2020. Gerhard Simon, MD, a radiologist and nuclear medicine physician, believes that this was absolutely the right decision, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he says that the long-term solution has to be about encouraging more young people to become technologists. 
Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hospital is a teaching hospital of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich).

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hospital is a full-service hospital with 490 beds and 18 specialist departments.

As Head of Radiology, Gerhard Simon, MD, knows the labor market situation for radiology technologists all too well: For years now, too few people have been entering the profession to keep up with the growing demand, and more and more experienced technologists are retiring. This is leading to serious staffing shortages that demand action from institutions – and Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hospital is no different. The hospital, which is close to the Olympic ski venue in the Bavarian Alps, responded early to the problem by partnering with training centers for radiology technologists throughout Germany to attract young graduates. Unfortunately, these efforts were not entirely successful. Although young technologists frequently came to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in recent years on traineeships and through private contacts, they didn’t provide a lasting solution to the staffing issues. “Our problem is that we don’t have a technologist school here. And because we border Austria, our catchment area is only 180 degrees instead of 360. We also find that technologists often end up returning to places close to where they trained,” says Simon.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hospital is still in good shape as regards the numbers of radiology technologists, but Simon is aware that the situation could change and he’s worried about the impact this will have: “In the worst case scenario, which would be if we were unable to offer diagnostic imaging, we’d have to stop providing emergency care. That would be fatal – medically, economically, and for the reputation of our hospital.” Simon therefore early on began looking for a solution that would allow him to respond to possible staffing shortages. He found the answer in the FlexForce Tech program from Siemens Healthineers. The idea behind this innovative workforce solution is as simple as it is effective: Siemens Healthineers provides the customer with highly qualified technologists who work at the institution for a specified period of time. Thanks to their training and professional experience, these technologists are familiar with systems from Siemens Healthineers, which helps to keep ramp-up times to an absolute minimum.

Tabea Bürling began working in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in early March 2020. Not only did Bürling use her expertise to support Simon’s team in the field of X-ray and CT imaging, she also did so within the unique context of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Ms. Bürling and her successor Mr. Vrieling were a huge help to us, particularly when it came to operating our new SOMATOM go.Top for scanning suspected COVID-19 patients outside our normal rooms.”

The technologists themselves also benefit from regularly switching between different workplaces. Bürling, who is currently working at Schwarzwald-Baar Klinikum in Villingen-Schwenningen, says: “If, like me, you’re young and not tied to any particular place, you should definitely try this. You get to experience lots of different hospitals, doctors, and colleagues, and multiple modes of working. You also learn how to integrate really well into existing teams.” The program is therefore a real win-win situation – both the hospital and the technologist benefit. Bürling has clearly developed excellent teamworking skills. The location for her next placement is already fixed: She’s going back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Hospital is a teaching hospital of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich). It is a full-service hospital with 490 beds and 18 specialist departments. Due to the high number of sporting injuries it treats and its endoprosthesis institute, imaging is in high demand at the hospital.