Unhealthy in Healthcare? Risks of Working in Clinical Settings

However admirable a career in healthcare may be, taking care of others certainly comes with some risks.

by Eileen O’Shanassy

Mostly, the perception of the healthcare industry is a positive one. People often envision happy clinical assistants, eager nurses, and enthusiastic clinicians addressing the needs of patients, one by one. While this may be true when healthcare professionals begin their careers, the glamour tends to wear off relatively quickly. Unfortunately, healthcare as with any job, comes with various stressors, risks, and some generally unpleasant factors. However admirable and necessary, taking care of others may not be as bright and shiny as it is portrayed to be. Here are some common risks of working in healthcare.

Daily Stresses

The toll that working in healthcare can take on employee health can be staggering. There is often little time for human necessities like eating or bathroom breaks between appointments, consultations, and administrative tasks, not to mention meetings or special community events. Routinely rushing from one place to another fosters appreciation for minimizing personal needs, which drastically downplays the importance of self-care. Employees are so often praised for putting the needs of patients first, even when that puts them in physical danger. The idea that safety is a luxury rather than a right in a healthcare setting is unlike values in almost any other industry.

Personal Health

The fast-paced environment in many clinical settings means more ordering out and eating fast food, and less time for meal prep and nutritionally healthy choices. Taking care of other people doesn’t stop at the parking lot for many healthcare providers. Often, these employees are their families’ primary caretakers, which might mean shuttling off to start second shift after their workday ends. Spouses, partners, kids, pets, and other family members rely on healthcare providers to be chefs, maids, tutors, and general givers well after their work shifts end.

Low Pay

Salaries in the healthcare industry are often lower than most would anticipate, meaning that many healthcare workers pick up second or third jobs on top of busy schedules. Juggling jobs in addition to family life can take its toll relatively quickly, resulting in burnout. Additionally, stressful conditions mean potentially strained relationships with coworkers and supervisors. Often, healthcare organizations are hierarchical, which may not leave much leeway for disputing perceived wrongdoings. This lack of control is far from empowering for many lower on the totem pole. Working up to better positions often requires extra schooling or advanced degrees. Many medical personnel use financial aid opportunities provided by employers to go back to school and work toward a job with better pay but this can mean less free time outside of work as well.

Sedentary Tendencies

There is typically less opportunity for physical activity than most would anticipate in a healthcare setting. Lots of time spent working means less time for exercise routines or trips to the gym. Long hours, even twenty-four or thirty-six hour shifts may not leave much time or energy for hobbies in general. Little intricacies like taking fast elevators over cumbersome stairs when carrying equipment also factor into the equation when considering daily health and exercise.

Exposure to Disease

Working in a place where sick patients are treated means frequent exposure to germs, illnesses, and other threats. Sometimes, due to haste or oversight, precautions are not always followed when it comes to infection control. For instance, during flu season, there may be an indication for patients with certain symptoms to wear masks. If front desk staff is not diligent about enforcing said rule, employees can be exposed to the flu.

Exposure to all sorts of bacteria via bodily fluids is also possible in some healthcare settings. Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) is enforced in most organizations, but mistakes happen. Being stuck with a needle or scratched through a glove is not unheard of, and requires follow up care from the employer’s compensation facility.

Some risks within healthcare facilities can be prevented. Others may happen before you know it. However admirable, healthcare work necessitates considering several negative factors before diving in.

Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter, @eileenoshanassy.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.