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Survey of Health IT Pros Reveals High and Frequent Stress Levels

July 21, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A survey of approximately 500 health IT professionals by HealthITJobs.com has revealed that 55 percent of such professionals are frequently or constantly stressed, and 38 percent say their stress is high or extremely high.

The report looked at stress-causing factors such as time spent in meetings, hours worked per week, whether or not an individual manages other people, how frequently they exercise, and how much energy they have. An additional 45 percent of respondents said their stress occurs on a frequent or constant basis. Very few respondents report a low level of stress that occurs infrequently.

As far as which health IT jobs are the most stressful, managers are more likely to report higher levels of stress than professionals with other job titles, but other than that, the survey did not find any one job title particularly more stressful than others. In fact, it seems other factors—such as time in meetings, workload, control over deadlines, and hours worked per week—have a greater impact on stress levels.

Those who are frequently stressed are more likely than those who are occasionally or rarely stressed to:

•             Work in IT management roles

•             Spend 11+ hours in meetings each week

•             Work 51+ hours per week

•             Have very little control over deadlines

•             Have an unrealistic amount of work to do in the time given

What’s more, constantly changing priorities was cited most frequently as a reason for stress on the job. Workload, unreasonable expectations, and unclear expectations were also commonly reported as stressors. More than a third of respondents (35 percent) said they have an unreasonable amount of work to do in the time given, and close to half (45 percent) said they have little to no control over the deadlines and timelines for accomplishing project milestones.

Despite the fact that managers often dictate workload and expectations, only 15 percent of respondents cited their managers as one of the top three sources stress. In fact, the top 3 adjectives used to describe managers were all positive— “supportive,” “trusts me,” and “smart.” However, for the few who did cite their manager as a source of stress, two-thirds ranked them as the number one cause.

Further, more than a third of respondents get six or fewer hours of sleep per night, and nearly half report exercising just once a week or not at all. One-third rated their physical health as ok, and a quarter rated it as less than ideal or poor. One quarter say they have a high level of energy first thing in the morning.

The report concludes, “Knowing the causes of stress is the first step towards managing stress in health IT jobs. While some stress is likely inevitable, individuals can take personal steps to exercise more, get more sleep, and set boundaries at work in order to lower their stress levels. Employers can use the data to help them recognize what causes stress on the job and take steps to change those factors.”

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