Don't fool yourself. You're bound to come face-to-face with job stress working in healthcare, whether you're a nurse, physical therapist, radiologist, a new graduate or a veteran.
Job stress doesn't discriminate. It affects people of all ages, gender, ethnicities and backgrounds. A recent survey of more than 3,000 people by Yale University found that healthcare is one of the top-10 most stressful professions.
Job stress is something we all face as workers and we all handle it differently. But not all stress is negative, and learning how to deal with and manage stress is critical to maximizing your job performance, staying safe on the job, and maintaining your physical and mental health.
Symptoms & Causes
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health defines job stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker.
"Stress also occurs when the situation has high demands and the worker has little or no control over it," said Anne Rohan, career advisor at Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY.
A recent Northwestern National Life Insurance Co. survey pointed out the difficulties people have with job stress. The survey found that 40 percent of workers report their job is "very or extremely stressful." In addition, a quarter of employees view their jobs as the No. 1 stressor in their lives.
Some of the most common symptoms of job stress and burnout for healthcare professionals, according to Rohan, are apathy, low morale, boredom, fatigue, depression, anger/irritability, physical problems (headaches, stomach problems) and absenteeism.
The symptoms of job stress are usually related to being overworked, being in the wrong career or having a conflict with a boss or coworkers, Rohan said.
"People who experience job stress usually try to handle their problems by working harder or completely shutting down," she noted.
There are many methods to cope with or prevent job stress.
Quintessential Careers, an online job search tool, created tips for dealing with the stress from your job.
Put it in perspective. Jobs are disposable; friends, family and health are not. If your employer expects too much, and it's starting to take its toll, start looking for a new job.
Get time away. If you feel stress building, take a break. Get away from the situation, perhaps walking around the unit or hospital. Meditating is always helpful.
Talk it out. Healthcare professionals are often dealing with people who have life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses. Speaking with a chaplain or a group about the situation takes a load off your shoulders.
Use humor. When you or the people around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to break through with laughter. Share a joke or funny story.
Have realistic expectations. We can only fit so much work into one day. Having unrealistic expectations for what you can accomplish sets you up for failure-and stress.
"Find a way to manage your stress and don't let it take control of you," said Rohan.
Nick Schaefer is associate director of Career Services at Gwynedd-Mercy College, Gwynedd Valley, PA.