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Top 10 Most Unhealthy Jobs in Healthcare (and the Secret to Surviving)

Secrets to Surviving the Top Ten Most Unhealthy Jobs in Healthcare
Cathy Yeulet/

You would think that working in healthcare would be healthy for you.

Surprisingly, there were 10 different healthcare jobs listed on Business Insider’s “Most Unhealthy Jobs in America.”

Shift work can quickly destroy your health. When you are alternating between early morning shifts, evenings, and night shifts, your body is constantly stressed. You might find yourself suffering from sleep disorders, continual high stress levels, and at an increased risk of diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and heart disease.

A study done in 2012 by the Journal of Nursing Administration found that 55% of nurses surveyed would be classified as obese.

Working long hours in high stress situations without regular stress reducing physical activity will throw your body into hyperdrive. No system can continue to function at such unnatural levels of stress.

Don’t forget that working in healthcare means that you are exposed to a higher than usual level of contaminants, germs, and sick people. You ARE interacting daily with people, often the sickest ones!

These 10 healthcare jobs are considered the unhealthiest jobs in healthcare. But please, don’t give up on working in healthcare! You are a needed and necessary part of a healthy society. I’ll share 5 secrets to surviving these top 10 most unhealthy jobs.

  1. Radiologist

A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in radiology or using X-rays and high-energy radiation. This constant exposure to radiation is considered an extreme health risk, especially when combined with regular interactions with critically ill people. Unfortunately, this job also involves spending a great amount of time sitting. Sitting is not good for your body!

  1. Critical Care Nurse

Nurses working on critical care units are at the highest risk for disease and infection. A critical care unit gathers all the most advanced critically ill patients into one place. The critical care nurse works with them all. The exposure to disease and infection gets a score of 99/100 for level of health risk. Also, there are high stress levels, shift work, and irregular breaks.

  1. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

When you are the first responder to an emergency, you are at a high risk of danger! First responders have high levels of exposure to not only disease and infections but also contaminants such as radiation, chemical spills, and poisons. Add to this an almost daily risk of animal bites, fire, insects, burns, and even people that turn violent, and you have a high health risk.

  1. Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist

In order to diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases, somebody needs to be handling and examining those specimens. Performing lab tests exposes a technologist not only to high levels of disease and infection but also contaminants like chemicals and radiation.

  1. Medical Equipment Preparers

This one might be surprising, as you would think that the person cleaning, sterilizing, and installing medical equipment would be safe. But remember where that medical equipment has been, the bacteria and viruses that are being cleaned off, and what contaminants are necessary to make that equipment safe again.

  1. Surgical Technologists/Assistants

Those in the operating room are exposed to all the disease and infection that our bodies typically keep under wraps. Surgical attendants will be inserting tubes and lines into a patient, as well as using very sharp and dangerous equipment to open and close surgical wounds. The operating room has a high level of disease, infection, hazardous conditions, and contaminants.

  1. Podiatrist

What? A foot doctor is dangerous? Absolutely. Most of us politely hide foot disease under socks and shoes, but as a podiatrist, you not only get to see all the hidden foot diseases and infections, you are also treating them with sharp instruments and possibly exposed to high levels of radiation and chemical contaminants.

  1. Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist and the anesthetic team work together in the operating room to administer anesthetic during surgery and other medical procedures. The combination of being regularly exposed to shift work, long shifts without breaks, as well as the diseases, infections, and potentially dangerous substances used in the operating room make this job a front runner for “most unhealthy.”

  1. Dental Assistant/Laboratory Technician

Think about how many viruses are spread through droplet and airborne form. Yes, that means through spit and saliva. As a member of the dental team, you are exposed to these bodily fluids day in and day out. Don’t forget the exposure to dangerous substances AND a highly sedentary work environment. Sitting is horrible for your health.

  1. Dental Hygienist

The number one unhealthiest job in healthcare is a dental hygienist. Shocked? It seems like a pretty standard job that would involve minimal risk, but dental hygienists get a 100/100 for exposure to disease and infections. All those dirty mouths! Not to mention a 91/100 score for daily exposure to radiation, fluoride and sealants. This is paired with a job where you are sitting for 90% of your day! That’s a powerful combo of health risks.

So, what’s the answer?

If you want to be healthy, don’t work in healthcare?

Nope. That’s too narrow-minded, but be aware of the risks of your occupation and use these tips to keep yourself healthy for your patients and clients.

  1. Talk with Your Health Professional

Even though you ARE a health professional, talking to an unbiased health professional about strategies to stay healthy is a smart idea. And pay attention to those suggestions.

  1. Stay Up to Date and Informed

Always be on the lookout for the latest recommendations for how to protect yourself from diseases and infections. Communicable disease recommendations are constantly changing, and you don’t want to miss an important life-saving tip. Also, don’t get lazy about being careful around radiation, contaminants, and chemicals. Always aim to be as cautious as you were on your first day on the job!

  1. Keep Your Own Body Healthy

Eat good food, get proper sleep, and stay active. You know this message already! We all do. But this is the perfect trifecta of keeping yourself healthy. Take a walk on your lunch break. Pack a healthy lunch. Set up a regular sleep routine (no matter what time you go to sleep).

  1. Nix the Negative

Get help to conquer excessive alcohol intake, stop smoking, and see a counselor to work with re-forming negative thought patterns. All 3 of those will destroy your health and make you burn out quicker than you need to.

  1. Find a Good De-stressor

Whatever it is that helps you to feel rejuvenated, relaxed, and ready for the next set of challenges, make sure you make time for this healthy habit each week. This could be listening to music, painting, cooking an elaborate dinner, going for a hike, spending time with a loved one, watching a hilarious movie, gardening, reading poetry, crying over a sappy movie, or enjoying a team or individual sport.

These positive activities can help to rid your body of stress. The less stress your body carries, the easier it is to fight off infections, combat diseases, and keep yourself healthy — even when you are working in one of the most unhealthy jobs in healthcare!

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About Crystal Jones RN

Crystal Jones is a Registered Nurse who moonlights as a professional freelance writer. She uses her expert knowledge, skills and personal experience in health, education, parenting, simple living and mental health to provide content that teaches, engages and inspires readers. When she isn’t writing, working or crying in the bathroom she can be found in the kitchen burning dinner for her husband and 3 young kids when she would rather be out in the garden. Check out her work and how to connect at