How Medical Professionals Can Manage Job-Related Stress

Avoid Career Burnout in Your Medical Job

Male nurse standing against wall in hospital
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Most jobs entail some degree of stress; however, many medical jobs often are even more stressful than most jobs in other industries. Numerous factors contribute to job stress in medical careers including:

  • Long hours, including nights and weekends
  • Understaffed facilities and/or high patient volume
  • Dealing with ill patients and their families
  • Declining reimbursements and other financial stress
  • High pressure of making life-altering decisions

There are several ways to help offset on-the-job stress. If you feel like telling off a coworker, or worse yet, your boss, you may be overly stressed. If you dread coming into work or feel fatigued or depressed, you also may be experiencing job stress.

Simple Ways to Handle Job Stress

  • Exercise, working out, physical activity: Many agree that blowing off steam with a regular workout routine helps reduce the effects of any stress, including job-related stress.
  • Humor - using a sense of humor and laughter to offset job stress: Perhaps laughter is truly the best medicine. Many medical professionals agree that humor is really important in handling career stress. Barbara Poncelet, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, adds, "I think nurses are some of the funniest people I’ve ever met - we do it to stay sane. Laughter really helps, but sharing with other nurses in an informal way also helps." There are several websites devoted to medical humor, such as GiggleMed, and the Nursing Jocularity Journal.
  • Hobbies and other creative outlets: Doing something you love, that has nothing at all to do with patient care or your medical job, can be a great way to give your mind a break from job stress. Whether it's cooking, flying planes, family time, sewing, hunting, golfing or boating, be sure to put time aside for your favorite pastime.
  • Support network or group of friends: Spending quality time with family or friends can be a great stress-reliever. You don't have to have a formal support group; any group of supportive, helpful, positive friends, family, or co-workers can help you through challenging times at work. Joseph Kim, MD, MPH states, "It’s critical to have a strong social support network, especially during those times when you’re emotionally drained from working in the clinical setting. Healthy coping skills can make all the difference."

Although the above are a few of the most common ways for combating career stress, there are several other additional ways for medical professionals to deal with stress. Professional counseling or communication workshops may help with coping skills and conflict resolution. Additionally, meditation, massage therapy, or other relaxation techniques could help some professionals.

Unfortunately, there are also some less positive ways some medical professionals handle stress. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the stress of a high-pressure career. Substance abuse recovery and rehabilitation programs can help manage some substance abuse issues that may or may not be exacerbated by numerous personal and professional pressures faced by many medical professionals, including long hours away from their families, malpractice suits, and financial woes as reimbursements decline. As a medical professional, substance abuse can be career-ending, so preventing stress and other triggers, as well as early treatment, is paramount.

Living a balanced life outside of work is important. Finding ways to escape from the stress in a healthy, positive way can help you overcome job stress, avoid career burnout, continue to thrive and advance in your medical career.

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