Healthcare News & Insights

Health IT pros are stressed: Ways to help

Recently, there’s been much attention given to burnout among doctors and nurses, but another group of hospital professionals may also be experiencing high levels of stress: your IT staff. Judging by the results of a new survey, healthcare IT professionals may be the next group of burned-out workers in your hospital. 

According to an article from Healthcare IT NewsGettyImages-468841017, nearly 500 health IT pros completed the survey, sponsored by HealthITJobs.com.

Out of all the respondents, 55% are either frequently or constantly stressed. Even worse: 38% ranked their stress levels as “high” or “extremely high.”

Compared to those who said they were only occasionally or rarely stressed, health IT pros who were frequently stressed were more likely to:

  • hold managerial positions
  • have little control over their deadlines
  • spent at least 11 hours a week in meetings
  • have unrealistic workloads
  • work for at least 51 hours a week, and
  • either don’t exercise or only exercise once a week.

Reducing stress

The general environment of a hospital doesn’t do much to relieve IT pros’ stress. A combination of the pressure involved with making sure life-saving equipment is functioning correctly and the constantly changing requirements hospitals must meet for technology use can take its toll over time. And this contributes to burnout.

That’s why it’s important for hospitals to take steps to make sure there are ways for all staff, including IT and administrators, to destress while on the job. Some staff could benefit from a place to exercise, while others might want an area to relax and collect their thoughts.

At the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Seattle, an architecture professor and his students changed an outdoor space into a healing garden where both staff and patients can relax and regroup.

As described in an article from the San Antonio Express-News, the garden has a water fountain, benches, herbs and other native plants. Its soothing properties are beneficial for recovering combat veterans, but they can also help staff members reduce cortisol levels in their bodies (a major contributor to stress) while increasing endorphins.

Other changes to improve staff’s well-being don’t have to be as labor-intensive as installing a garden. An article from CBSDFW, the Dallas/Fort Worth CBS affiliate, discusses how a Texas hospital (Baylor Scott & White Plano) started providing materials for staff to color on their breaks.

Adult coloring has become popular in recent years as a way to relieve anxiety and stress. So hospital staff gravitated toward the coloring pages, printed with soothing geometric designs like mandalas. Even just spending five or 10 minutes coloring made a significant difference in their stress levels.

Patients at Baylor Scott & White have gotten on the bandwagon, too. They’ll color as a way to decompress after being diagnosed with a serious illness or finishing a chemotherapy treatment.

Benefits for facilities

Whether you offer staff coloring books (which are relatively inexpensive), designate an area for relaxation or give them training on stress-reduction techniques, making the effort to help reduce their daily stress can pay off immensely.

For IT pros, less stress means an easier time getting through big technology updates like an overhaul to your hospital’s network or electronic health records (EHR) system, causing the process to be less disruptive. Lower stress will also help IT staff stay on top of their general workloads and deadlines, which can decrease technology issues that affect daily operations.

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