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5 Most Stressful Hospital Jobs

In truth, just about any job involving health care comes with stress. © marcogarrincha/iStockphoto
In truth, just about any job involving health care comes with stress. © marcogarrincha/iStockphoto

Irregular working hours, safety concerns, layovers and jet lag turned being a commercial airline pilot into the most stressful job in the U.S. in 2011. In 2012, enlisted soldiers and firefighters topped the list at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. While it's easy to agree that pilots, soldiers and firefighters do have high-stress work, it seems surprising that chronically stressed-out surgeons don't always top these types of lists. Surgeons do report work-related stress — the career was ranked as the most stressful job of 2009, with high rates of burnout and suicide. But unlike workers in many other careers, they often don't see their work as a negative in their lives. Overwhelmingly, surgeons talk about their love for what they do, and how they couldn't imagine doing anything else.

In general, though, many things considered stressful among hospital workers are pretty similar to what stresses workers in other fields: Complaints including not enough pay (76 percent), an unreasonably high volume of work (70 percent), long hours at work (35 percent), bureaucracy (33 percent), in addition to having to deal with distressed and angry customers (33 percent) all fall into the top 10 job stressors [source: Saha et al]. This is chronic stress, the kind that makes you feel cynical and disillusioned about your work and robs you of your vitality and good health.

Specifically, becoming involved in patients' emotional distress —called compassion fatigue — falls into the top five things that stress out almost half of health care workers [source: Saha et al]. While doctors may spend only a few minutes with each patient, nurses typically take care of the day-to-day patient management. Although the time nurses spend with patients is often considered lower than ideal, we do know that the more time a hospitalized patient spends with a nurse, the better outcome that patient will have [source: Landro]. Since Americans have considered nursing the No. 1 most-trusted profession for more than a decade, let's start with just how stressful it is to be a nurse (spoiler: very) [source: Campaign for Action].