According to a survey reported here, those working in the IT (information technology) field report more stress on their job than those working in the medical fields. The survey revealed that these were the top two most stressful jobs. And I suppose, if you round up the percentage of respondents that said their life at work is stressful, IT (97%) and medicine (96.8%) would be tied, making both jobs pretty much equally stressful. It may be surprising that IT is a stressful field, but it is not too unlike medicine. We both fix things—my husband just fixes things that have to do with computers and for many of these people, their computers are like a limb or other indispensable body part—they are very personal items and people get embarrassed about their problems and want a quick fix. I’ll try to draw some parallels in the following scenarios:

Scenario #1
Co-worker: My computer’s not working.
Patient: I’m awfully constipated.
Husband: Did you do anything to it? Like change system files?
Physician: What have you been eating lately? Do you have enough fiber in your diet?
Co-worker: No. I didn’t do anything to it.
Patient: Nothing different from what I usually eat…I think I get enough fiber in my diet.
Husband then is forced to spend a good part of his day undoing whatever his co-worker did to his computer, but refused to admit to.
Physician finds foreign object in patient’s rectum upon physical exam.

Scenario #2
Co-worker: I emailed you for help two hours ago. I really need my computer now.
Patient: I waited an hour to see you. Now I’m late for something else.
Husband: I’m working on Bob’s computer right now. I’ll check yours out once I’m done with his.
Physician: I apologize for the wait, but I have a lot of patients I have to see.
What Husband really wants to say: And you’re the only person working at this company, right? Or you’re the CEO and I should drop everything and take care of you first. Forget that other people asked for help before you and have waited longer than you have. And that if you didn’t do stupid things to your computer, you wouldn’t need help in the first place.
In the physician’s case: There are people who genuinely need help immediately (and let’s hope they go to the ER), but there are others (like my mother-in-law) who think doctors exist to serve them whenever they need and who greatly resent that they even have to wait to be seen. In the end, everyone’s problems are a big deal to them even if they aren’t medically life threatening just like everyone needs their computers to work even if they’re not really doing anything with them except for surfing the internet.

So, even though it may not seem apparent on the surface, the medical and IT fields are rather similar in that they both involve caring for “patients” with a very high demand on the caregiver’s time. Patients don’t have the expert medical knowledge that physicians do and can’t treat themselves just as the average computer user can’t operate/fix their computers as well as an IT professional can. And in both fields, the not-so-happy ending involves the “patient” not getting better (e.g., a terminal illness in the medical field and an irreversible hard drive failure with loss of all data in the IT field). What makes both fields rewarding though, is that happy endings are also aplenty.

And just because no post about IT jobs and stress is complete without these, here are two more common scenarios that my husband faces daily that don’t quite have medical parallels.

Scenario #3
Co-worker: Ah! I can’t get into my email. Is the server down?
Husband: The server’s not down. Did you enter the right password?
Co-worker: Of course I did.
Husband: Try it again.
Co-worker: It doesn’t work.
Husband: Okay. I’ll reset your password.
Co-worker: I didn’t forget my password!
Husband (to self): Riiiiiiiiight. (to co-worker): It’s the fastest way to fix the problem.
This type of problem makes up about 90% of the problems he deals with. No one ever admits to forgetting their password. But that’s the only explanation.

Scenario #4
Co-worker: Ah! I turned my computer on and there’s a blue screen and I can’t do anything.
Husband: Did you try restarting?
Co-worker: No. Should I try that?
Husband: Yes.
Co-worker (restarts computer): Oh. Okay, it works now.
Husband: Okay. You might want to try that the next time it happens.

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