Stress is part of the environment in many healthcare settings, but high levels sustained over a long period of time can be a major detriment to employee health and ultimately stand in their way of providing quality care to patients. —Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare.
My previous career in journalism was great in many ways.
I worked with dozens of amazing writers, editors, photographers, designers and artists during my 20 years in the newspaper industry. Many of these people are still my friends.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the work of journalism. As a reporter, I loved interviewing people, learning their stories and sharing them through my writing. I discovered that almost everyone has an interesting tale to tell, and that has proven to be a valuable life lesson regardless of my profession.
As an editor, I honed my proofreading skills and gained my first experience managing a team. The latter, especially, has helped me progress in my career.
On top of those practical benefits to my previous job, I've got to say that there's nothing like the thrill of chasing a breaking news story. The excitement in the newsroom when something huge is happening and you're helping organize a dedicated group of people to disseminate that information is something I haven't experienced in any other setting.
So, if it was so great, why did I leave the news industry?
Well, as I've written before, all of those opportunities come with a cost. For me, the always-on, 24/7 nature of the job no longer fit with my life and family goals. I really wanted better work-life balance.
And then there was the stress. The job was often exciting, but it was also extremely stressful. It seemed like we always had far too much to do and too little time to do it. As the industry changed over the years, media organizations nationwide cut reporting and editing positions, and that situation only grew worse.
When I left journalism, I moved into a job in the health care industry. I was excited to be part of a company that helps people, and I was looking forward to more regular hours, holidays and weekends off and, hopefully, quite a bit less stress.
Fortunately, it's worked out just as I had hoped, and I have no regrets about changing careers. But that's not to say my new gig is completely stress-free. In fact, with the upheaval now facing U.S. health care, the stress level seems to be rising fairly significantly with each passing month.
I don't say this to make any kind of political statement. Whether you're an opponent or supporter of the Affordable Care Act, you can't deny that it's leading to lots of change in health care. And even if that change will be positive in the long run, change itself is never easy and is almost always painful.
With that in mind, I wasn't too surprised to see the results of a recent CareerBuilder survey, which showed that health care industry employees have the highest stress levels in America right now.
CareerBuilder's survey of 3,211 workers across multiple industries asked people to comment on their stress levels and workloads. According to a press release about the results, 69 percent of health care industry workers said they felt "stressed" in their jobs, and 17 percent described themselves as "highly stressed."
More than half of the health care workers surveyed also said their workloads had increased during the past year, and 25 percent said they planned to change jobs in 2014.
While stress is an expected part of many health care jobs, this still isn't good news, according to Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare.
"Stress is part of the environment in many healthcare settings, but high levels sustained over a long period of time can be a major detriment to employee health and ultimately stand in their way of providing quality care to patients,” Lovelace said in a prepared statement.
He suggested that health care leaders deal with the problem by adding staff, working with employees to adjust schedules and create a more manageable work environment or evaluating company vacation policies to make sure workers have time to "unwind and recharge."
That sounds great, but based on what I've seen during my brief time as a health care worker and what I'm reading about the industry environment going forward, I'd be surprised if the stress levels decrease much in the next few years. With all the change and uncertainty we face, I suspect the stress will only increase.
However, this isn't to say that health care workers are the only people feeling stressed these days. In fact, the CareerBuilder survey showed that 64 percent of workers in professional and business services reported that they were stressed, with 12 percent saying they were "highly stressed." Retail was next on the list, with 63 percent of workers saying they were stressed, followed by financial services workers at 61 percent and information technology employees at 60 percent.
Journalists didn't have their own category in the survey, at least on the press release I saw, so I'm going to assume they would be included in the "professional and business services" category. Or maybe the news industry has become extremely low-stress and relaxed since I left.
Regardless of the industry in which you work, you're going to have to deal with stress at one time or another. If you can develop good tools for handling that stress, you'll be a better employee and a better person in general.
Even though my new job isn't as stressful as my old one was, I still have challenging times at work. And I'm trying to develop the skills that will help me leave that stress at the office and be a calmer, kinder person at home.
I'm interested to hear your perspectives on this topic. Are you usually stressed at work? How do you deal with that stress? And what tools help you keep that work stress from bleeding into your family life?
Please send me an email or leave a comment with your ideas, and I'll share some of them in a future column.