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Job Stress - Tips for Managing Job Stress

Avoid Career Burnout in Your Medical Job


"If you have a job without any aggravations, you don't have a job."
~Malcolm S. Forbes

Most jobs entail some degree of stress; however, medical jobs can often be particularly stressful. Numerous factors contribute to job stress in medical careers including:

  • Long hours, including nights and weekends
  • Understaffed facilities dealing with 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.

Here are a few simple ways to handle job stress, listed in order of popularity from highest to lowest, according to a recent unscientific poll on About.com:

  • 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 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 and About.com's Guide to Teen Health, 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 a few other 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. I talk to physicians every day who have been through substance abuse programs as a result of numerous personal and professional pressures, that were exacerbated by the 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 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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