Just How Stressed Are Professionals in Health IT?

Guest post by Tim Cannon, vice president of product management and marketing, HealthITJobs.com 

Tim Cannon
Tim Cannon

All jobs can be stressful at times, but anyone who works in health IT will tell you that their job is considerably stressful. In fact, 55 percent of health IT professionals surveyed in The 2016 Health IT Stress Report, by my employer HealthITJobs.com, said they are at least frequently or constantly stressed.

Among those surveyed, 38 percent rated their stress intensity as high or extremely high, while 45 percent said their stress occurs on a frequent or chronic basis.

What’s so stressful about health IT and what impact does it have on employees? Here’s a closer look at the findings and what they mean for professionals in the field:

Work management causes stress

What stresses health IT professionals out the most? Constantly changing priorities. Among respondents, 39 percent rated changing priorities as the top stressor. What’s more, 45 percent said they have little or no control over deadlines and timelines for accomplishing project milestones.

Although project management and their lack of control in the process stresses employees out, they don’t blame their manager for the problems. Only 15 percent listed managers as a top source of stress. In fact, respondents actually have great relationships with their managers, describing them as supportive, smart, and trustful.

With such supportive managers, health IT professionals should turn to them when work gets hectic. Instead of struggling with stress on your own, talk it out with your manager. Let them know when changing priorities are a problem, and talk to them about working together to set project timelines. If a deadline seems unreasonable, give your input and suggestion for a more practical timeframe for completion.

Workloads are unreasonable

After changing priorities, the workload itself gives health IT professionals the most stress — 35 percent of respondents rated it as a top stressor. An additional 35 percent of professionals said they have an unrealistic amount of work to do in the time given. And those who said they are frequently stressed were more likely to say their workload was too much to handle.

What’s bogging down workloads? Meetings could be the culprit. According to the survey, 27 percent of professionals spend 11 or more hours in meetings each week, and those who are frequently stressed are more likely to do so.

If you fall victim to too many meetings, talk to your team about it. Which meetings are absolutely essential? Which ones could be done by email, and which ones could be eliminated altogether? Once you’re in agreement, talk to your manager about which meetings the team sees as a waste of time.

Alternatively, talk to your team and manager about ways to make meetings more productive and less time-consuming. This might include using walking meetings, setting an agenda beforehand and sticking to it, and only inviting people who need to be there.

Expectations aren’t clear

Unclear expectations can also make workloads more tedious — 32 percent of respondents said they were a top stressor. When employees aren’t exactly sure what they need to do, extra work is created, going back and forth between the project manager and client, applying corrections, and more.

Before projects begin and throughout the process, ask questions for clarification to make sure expectations are communicated clearly. That way, things are done right the first time and you avoid extra, stressful work.

Stress and health go hand in hand

Constant stress in health IT doesn’t just impact work performance, but it impacts health as well. In fact, the study results suggest there’s a cyclical relationship between health and stress.

Among those surveyed, 36 percent said they get just 6 hours or less of sleep each night. And that lack of sleep can take away from their productivity — only 27 percent said they have a high level of energy first thing in the morning.

In addition, 46 percent health IT professionals said they exercise between zero and one day a week. And those who were frequently or constantly stressed were even more likely to exercise only once a week or not at all. However, those with less frequent and less intense levels of stress were more likely to say they exercise two to three times per week.

When professionals feel stressed, they feel they don’t have time to exercise and get a good night’s sleep. But both are critical to help reduce stress.

Although you may feel like there’s no time in your busy schedule, make time for your health. Doing so will actually help to keep your stress under control, boost your work performance, and make you happier, overall.

Health IT is stressful, but it’s still a rewarding field full of opportunities. Work with your manager and take the steps needed to get stress under control and get the most from your career.

What tops your list of stressors? How do you manage it?

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