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Working in healthcare

How to know when job stress is too much? Working in Healthcare


Anyone working in healthcare knows that you can spend a great deal of mental, emotional, and physical energy caring for others and ensuring they are as happy and healthy as possible. This can sometimes lead to your health taking a backseat, and the stresses of your job creeping into your personal life. A little bit of stress can be useful in helping you to stay focused and energetic, but how do you know when job stress is too much?

Job stress, also known as occupational stress, in nursing and healthcare roles is taken extremely seriously. It is distressing for the individual and can lead to ill health, burnout, absences from work, and potentially even choosing to leave the profession entirely. High levels of stress can also have an adverse impact on patient care, so it’s essential that healthcare staff look after themselves as well as having a robust support system in place through their employers.

What are the main causes of burnout?

Burnout is a specific type of work-related stress. It’s a state of physical and emotional exhaustion and is generally caused by long hours, demanding workloads, conflicting priorities, unrealistic time pressures, a poor work-life balance and unachievable deadlines. 

You might work somewhere short-staffed, so there is extra pressure on the remaining staff, or you have unsupportive management who do not prioritise staff wellbeing.

Many people in the healthcare industry report feeling distressed at not being able to deliver a high enough standard of care considering the time pressures and patient numbers, which can result in workplace stress or contribute to burnout.

Nurses and other healthcare providers are often juggling different demands and can be affected by various forms of stress:

  • Physical stress – there might be a lot of helping to lift and move patients, causing aches and pains.
  • Emotional stress – being a source of support for patients and their families can take its toll, as well as working in an environment where there is often pain and sadness.
  • Mental stress – you are constantly required to deliver high-quality care, answer questions, administer medication and react quickly to any situation.

9 signs that you are stressed at work

  • You’re feeling overwhelmed, trapped, or helpless
  • You’re fatigued and drained most of the time
  • Your sleep is affected, and you can’t switch off
  • You have trouble concentrating and might make mistakes
  • You have physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension or an upset tummy
  • You are irritable and moody with a cynical outlook
  • Heart palpitations
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • You say yes to everything but feel constantly pressed for time

How to deal with job related stress

If stress from your job is interfering with your physical and mental health, work performance or personal life, then it needs addressing immediately; by not actively managing stress, you are opening yourself up to potential long-term mental health problems. Below are some steps you can take to help reduce stress and boost your job satisfaction:  

Finding Support

All healthcare professionals should have a solid support system in place through a network of colleagues, a line manager or senior management. Having a clear idea of what is causing you the most stress can ensure people will tackle your main pain points, such as workload, deadlines, or dealing with other people’s emotional distress. Always talk, and if you don’t feel your concerns are being dealt with, escalate to a member of your HR team.

Consider a job change

If you have tried adjusting your work and it isn’t helping, consider whether another job might give you a better work-life balance and a feeling of job satisfaction. You might want to stay within healthcare but consider what aspects of your role you enjoy and find something that plays to those strengths. There is a wide range of temporary and permanent healthcare jobs currently available across the country.

Prioritise your health

Carve out time in your week to prioritise your mental and physical health in the same way that you would do for a work commitment. Have a sacred slot in your diary which is dedicated to you, it could be something as simple as doing a big shop and cooking healthy and nutritious food, getting outside to exercise, or doing a hobby that you enjoy.

Vigorous exercise that raises your heart rate is an effective way to lift your mood and sharpen your focus, whereas a rhythmic activity like walking is a great way to reduce stress and soothe the nervous system.

Get on top of time management

Rushing is a stress trigger, so build small time buffers into your day to ensure you are in control of your schedule. This could look like scheduling coffee breaks or walks with colleagues at lunch, leaving earlier in the morning to ease yourself into your day, learning to say no to extra tasks, and keeping boundaries like banning work-related emails and phone calls when you are at home.

How Safehands can help

As a specialist healthcare recruitment agency, our national branches have opportunities across the UK for health and social care professionals. Whether you’re a care assistant, a private carer, nurse or have any health care related experience, your skills are so valuable and we are here to help you find the right organisation for you to flourish.

If you are stressed in your current role and want to make a difference for your mental health, we have live vacancies for nurses and carers across many sectors, from A&E Departments to retirement villages, so no matter if you are looking for a career change or just to find your next role, we can help.

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