In 1977 particular attention was placed upon the study of occupational stress in the health care field when the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) pinpointed the fact that healthcare occupations were among the most stressful occupations in the United States. (Mason 1) Occupational stress is caused when a person faces any individual or social stressor within his or her employment environment and this type of stress is considered to be one of the most all-encompassing on the job health hazards. These work stressors are influenced by the employee’s personality, personal value system, physical health, educational background, goal orientation and his or her perception of the current job situation. (Raj na)
Various research studies have taken place to identify the various stressors in the working environment and 8 basic causes have been identified. These causes are “poor job design, role conflict, role ambiguity, chronic work overload, inadequate career development opportunities, organizational culture, leader relationships and the lack of performance feedback.” (Mason 2) Once these stressors become chronic and the employee cannot seem to find relief it’s inevitable that job burnout takes place.
Organizations prone to burnout have many of the same characteristics. For example, common characteristics of the burnout organization is an environment that consists of continuously high stress level are constant giving to others, repetitive work duties, expectations of extended effort with little reward, playful attitude is not allowed and limited feedback from leadership. Education, human services and health care occupations are each consistent with some of these characteristics and have been found to contain a higher incidence of burnout – radiologic technology is no exception to the rule. (Mason 3)
One particular study evaluating the level of occupational burnout within radiographers was a randomly selected number of professionals from a list of American Society of Radiographic Technologists. These selected members were mailed a survey that specifically addressed their “levels of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment.” (Raj na) The study also addressed the potential predictors of burnout such as “environmental stress, guidance, reassurance of worth and workload.” (Raj na) The results showed that “High levels of first-stage burnout, or emotional exhaustion were reported; stress and social support were significant predictors of burnout.” (Raj na)
Another study specific to radiographers was completed by Sechrist and Frazier that addressed the “determinants of job stress and burnout levels.” (Mason 3) This study found that the top 6 stressors for radiographers were “disrespectful physicians, inadequate pay, unnecessary exams, lack of staff, lack of respect and uncooperative or unsupportive radiologists.” (Mason 3)
In 1998 survey results published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists Research and Development Committee also identified other similar patterns between professional radiographers. This similarity centered on alcohol and other substances. These results indicated that “3% to 4% of radiographers may suffer from a substance abuse problem, and of the problem drinkers identified, 100% reported that they use alcohol to relieve stress; a third of this group admitted to always drinking to relieve stress.” (Mason 3) The same group repeated this study again in 2003 and “further correlated respect, appropriate workload and adequate reward levels with overall job satisfaction.” (Mason 3)
Lightfoot carried about another study of radiographers that encompassed 2 hospitals – one located in London in a rural area and the other a teaching hospital located directly in London. Again a questionnaire was sent to the professionals asking for personal stress appraisals and their personal views of the workplace. The questionnaire also asked general health questions and was supplemented by face to face interviews. These studies showed that radiographers in both settings suffered from physical symptoms of stress, however one interesting fact was revealed. The difference between the two groups surveyed is the type of working environment and it was revealed that the radiographers in the teaching hospital were more likely to take time off as a result of the physical stress symptoms. The teaching environment reported that their occupational stress symptoms were the result of “poor lighting, poor ventilation and a noisy environment.” Workload was found to be the leading stressor for hospital radiographers. (Raj na)
In conclusion, occupational stress is obviously a major factor among radiographers and research shows that it not only affects the individual, the department suffers as well. Despite the statistical proof the solution for the radiographer’s occupational stress is poorly misunderstood and the current research has failed to distinguish which stressors are work related and which are outside of work. These studies have also focused on the individual, rather than the organization. Future research in the area of radiography will focus upon interventional relaxation and stress relief courses, which will “play an important role in reducing the damage of occupational stress to radiographers.” (Raj na)
Though not specific to radiography, the Department of Labor OSHA provides employers with a list of intervention suggestions specific to healthcare environments. OSHA suggests that healthcare employers consider implementing methods such as “educate employees and management about job stress,” “establish regular staff meetings and discussions to communicate feelings, gain support and share innovative ideas, and “establish stress management programs.” The Department of Labor also suggests that employers make sure they “provide adequate staffing,” “provide an organized and efficient work environment,” as well as “provide a scheduled rotation of unit assignments.” (Osha.gov na) Other programs suggested by the Department of Labor are Employee Assistance Programs and Organizational Change Programs. (Osha.gov na)
Mason, Starla L. “Radiography Student Perceptions of Clinical Stressors.” Radiologic Technology (2006): 1-30. 3 Feb. 2007 <http://www.allbusiness.com/sector-62-health-care/ambulatory-services-medical/1189785-1.html>.
Osha.gov. “U>S. Department of Labor: Hosptial ETool- Healthcare Wide Hazard Module – Stress.” US Department of Labor. 2007. U. S. Department of Labor. 3 Feb. 2007 <http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hospital/hazards/stress/stress.html>.
Raj, Vinu V. “Occupational Stress and Radiography.” Radiologic Technology (2006).