Have you heard about “secondhand stress”? Turns out that stress may be transmitted from one person to another as easily as germs. Dr. Amit Sood, who is an expert on stress at the Mayo Clinic, recently told the Star Tribune that “Stress travels in social networks,” and “It is highly, highly contagious.”
No surprise to any of us who have experienced stress in the workplace. All it takes is one chronically anxious or irritable co-worker to start the wheels in motion and next thing you know the whole atmosphere at work has become toxic. Early symptoms include decreased productivity, lack of morale and general mistrust. Eventually, if not treated will result in chaos, back-stabbing and rapid staff turnover.
No one wants to work in a toxic workplace. The problem is that like many disorders, the condition is not always apparent to the casual observer. And some organizations have become quite skilled in hiding their dysfunction.
Since there is no known vaccine to prevent secondhand stress the best defense is primary prevention. In other words, you should avoid contact with the afflicted.
If you are searching for a new Nurse Practitioner job,
the following suggestions will help you identify a potentially troubled workplace so that you do not fall victim to secondhand stress.
What happened to the person who was in the job before? Why did they leave? If your interviewer is hesitant or stumbles over their answer this could signal a problem. Be especially alert for signs that the previous employee left suddenly or unexpectedly for reasons other than personal illness.
Are there any other new staff? If there seems to be an awful lot of new employees it could mean the organization or clinic has recently had a mass exodus. If that is the case then you need to know why all those folks left.
How long has the clinic manager been in their position? If there is new management, it could mean the organization is currently undergoing big changes and staff is still adjusting. Some changes might be good ones, but change is still stressful.
How long has the position been open? Some jobs are open a long time for a perfectly good reason, but it could also mean no one wants the job.
Do some cyber-snooping
Google the organization. Many healthcare websites have ratings and allow comments. Disgruntled patients can be a sign of an unhealthy environment. Facebook and twitter might also give you a snapshot of what employees and patients are saying about the hospital or clinic. Granted there will always be a one or two complainers but if you see a pattern then you should start to wonder what is going on.
See for yourself
If you still have that nagging feeling that something doesn’t seem quite right you might consider asking for a “Shadow day”. It’s easy for an employer to put on a good face or talk a good game during an interview. Spending a half or whole day shadowing is a great way to get a feel for an organization. Stress is hard to hide. According to the article, the source of the stress can be compared to a vibrating tuning fork that causes everything close to it to vibrate as well. Trust me, it won’t take you long to pick up on vibrations.