Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe
Science for people
Science for people
Science for people
ProgrammeTopic highlightsStarting out: What I’m looking for in a team?

Starting out: What I’m looking for in a team?

We spoke to Dr. O’Halloran to learn more about her presentation at CIRSE 2022.

Watch her lecture in the session, “Women in IR: building a team.”

A team is defined as “a group of people who perform interdependent tasks to work toward accomplishing a common mission or specific objective.” Specifically, in the case of healthcare, a team is made up of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals working together with the goal of improving outcomes for the patient.


There is increasing research evidence that effective teamwork in healthcare is associated with reduced medical errors, increased patient safety, as well as improved worker outcomes such as reduced stress, intent to stay at work and job satisfaction. Other factors that have been shown to be linked to effective clinical teamwork are reduced patient mortality in hospitals, more streamlined and cost-effective patient care, reduced physician visits and hospitalisation rates, lower staff absenteeism, more effective use of resources and greater patient satisfaction [1].


Currently, more than 50% of medical graduates are female. Recent research has shown that organisations and teams with greater gender diversity have better organisation, increased financial revenue and are better able to retain talent. This improvement extends to healthcare, where reports suggest better clinical outcomes by female physicians. Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of women graduating from medical school, the proportion of women in interventional radiology remains low at 10% [2]. Some of the reasons cited for this, in a 2018 survey of female CIRSE members, were on call working pattern, radiation related concerns, pregnancy related concerns, a workload hard to combine with family and male-dominated work.


These findings suggest some directions for improving the attractiveness of interventional radiology for female trainees. In a male dominated work environment, it can be challenging for female trainees to relate their training or life experience to their senior colleagues. This can hinder the development of a mentor/mentee relationship between female trainees and their consultants, often despite the well-intended, best efforts of dedicated male consultant trainers. Therefore, the importance of organisations such as CIRSE, and specific forums such as the “Women in IR” session, where there is access for female trainees to female consultants, to whom they can relate and engage with, cannot be understated.


As IR training tends to coincide with a time of life where women are often starting their families, pregnancy related concerns are an important consideration for female trainees. Published evidence shows that an IR’s average annual radiation dose is 1.6mSv [3,4]. There is an apparent lack of awareness of the generally low risk posed to pregnant IRs, even among radiologists. Therefore, the advice given to pregnant women in IR may be misguided and inaccurate. Greater education on this topic for both male and female radiologists will allow for more support for pregnant trainees; hence, it is an essential consideration in building the IR team.


Flexible training options are challenging in a practical skills profession such as IR, where skills are developed through practice and repetition with a component of on call learning. However, there is the opportunity for further investigation of what constitutes adequate practice for training and what constitutes service provision by trainees to maximize the flexible training options available to IRs to attract more women into the field. As such, engagement with training bodies and health services will be required to bring about gender parity in IR.


In order for there to be equal female representation within the IR profession, there needs to be a five-fold increase in the number of female IRs. In this regard, there needs to be a visible, meaningful effort from those who have already become consultants to encourage and engage with their female trainees and medical students to entice them to stay the course.


To advance the field of IR, honest discourse regarding the challenges that female IRs face and advice on how to overcome these challenges are needed. Furthermore, efforts to reduce these obstacles need to be implemented. Rather than a passive presence to aspire to, female consultant IRs need to be active participants in the progress of more female IRs, enhancing the specialty as a whole and improving patient outcomes, as the research suggests that there is the potential to achieve.


Niamh O’Halloran


Galway University Hospital, Galway/IR


Dr. Niamh O’Halloran is a Radiology SpR at Galway University Hospital. Before joining the radiology department in Galway, she completed her core surgical training in cardiothoracic surgery and PhD in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.



  1. West, Michael A., and Joanne Lyubovnikova. “Illusions of team working in health care.” Journal of health organization and management (2013).
  2. Wah, Tze Min, and Anna Maria Belli. “The interventional radiology (IR) gender gap: a prospective online survey by the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe (CIRSE).” Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology 41.8 (2018): 1241-1253.
  3. Marx, M. Victoria, Loren Niklason, and Elizabeth A. Mauger. “Occupational radiation exposure to interventional radiologists: a prospective study.” Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology 3.4 (1992): 597-606.
  4. Dauer, Lawrence T., et al. “Occupational radiation protection of pregnant or potentially pregnant workers in IR: a joint guideline of the Society of Interventional Radiology and the Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiological Society of Europe.” Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology 26.2 (2015): 171-181.