A look at Tulsans with stressful jobs
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Sunday, January 20, 2013
1/20/13 at 7:10 AM
Every day holds something new for Susan Casper.
As a registered nurse in St. John Medical Center's emergency room, Casper likes never having one day that's just like the other.
Not that it's always sunshine and roses.
"It's a matter of life or death down here," Casper told us between patient visits. "If you forget that, it can go bad. And that, in itself, can be stressful."
Stress is a common denominator among every profession. Levels of stress vary from person to person, as well as position to position.
Some, though, typically deal with more stress than others, from military personnel and firefighters to ER nurses and police officers. Locals in those professions recently shared what their stressors are, as well as how they deal with it - and why it's worth it.
It's not surprising these professions are more stressful, as any position would be when dealing with other people - specifically, being responsible for them, said Michael Sannito, director of Behavioral Medicine for OU Physicians Family Medicine.
Sannito cited last month's horrific shootings in Newtown, Conn., as a prime example.
"What those guys must have seen ... that's going to stay with them forever," Sannito said.
He also brought up recent Pentagon findings: 349 suicides among military members in 2012, which eclipses the 301 reported in 2011.
"It's a life and death job," said retired Air Force National Guard Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon. She's currently the Oklahoma secretary of military and veterans' affairs, the liaison to Gov. Mary Fallin for all the state's military and veterans' issues.
Recently, Forbes published CareerCast.com's list of the top 10 most stressful jobs. Military personnel were listed at No. 1. Military generals were No. 2.
"When you're a general, you have to make sure those people have what they need," she said of the military men and women under a general's command.
When you send those men and women off, she continued, "you have a very great chance that some of those folks won't come back."
It's not an eight-hour day in the military, Aragon said. "You work 10, 12 hours, however long it took to get the job done. If deployed, you're up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
She was a mortuary officer following the Oklahoma City bombing and was responsible for recovering victims' remains and notifying families - 18 hours a day for 28 days at the site of the country's worst terrorist attack until 9/11.
"The whole world was watching," she said. "Everybody was paying attention to how Oklahoma was performing and how they were doing."
Years later, for Operation Iraqi Freedom, she had to send her men and women - among the first in the country - overseas "into harm's way."
Being in harm's way comes with the territory for police, as well.
"Most of what we see is the bad part of society," said Officer Leland Ashley with the Tulsa Police Department, alluding to homicides and other crimes officers face routinely.
After four years of active military duty, Ashley joined the police.
"You hear the standard, 'I want to help someone,' " he said as a reason why he became an officer. "And that is true. You do want to help."
But helping isn't easy, and stressors abound.
If you're an officer working a high-profile case, such as a homicide, you have to deal with media, as well as family members who demand details of the crime, he said.
It's also an isolating job, Ashley continued. For better or worse, officers are treated differently, even when they're not on duty.
As a young officer, you may have to work late shifts, going in at 11:15 p.m. and not getting off until 7 a.m.
"You're sleeping when almost everyone in the world is up," Ashley said.
To combat the stress, it's important to find a hobby, some activity outside of work, he said - something you can look forward to beyond work.
You also can't be afraid to talk to other officers, perhaps a member of the clergy, about how you're feeling, he said. Often, officers are looked at as being a "strong machine that can't be dented."
"We're human," Ashley said. "You bleed, you cry, you hurt.
"When you accept that and realize you're not perfect ... it's a lot easier to cope as a police officer," he said.
To help her cope with stress, Diane White has a "power hour."
"I shut down for an hour several times a week to focus on a project," said the namesake of Diane White PR. Public relations executives ranked No. 5 on that list of stressful jobs.
"PR requires you to keep a lot of balls in the air," she said. It means managing multiple projects simultaneously - writing plans for one, gathering advertising proposals for another, writing articles and press releases, keeping up with what a client's competition is doing, checking social media at any point in the day or night.
Or, most recently, answering our questions even though she had the flu.
Working out is her stress relief, she said, like Pilates at Carbon, or running, playing tennis, going out with girlfriends a couple times a month.
It might be taking time to be with family or attend her daughter's school events. Or going with her husband to concerts or movies.
Capt. Travis "T.K." Fry joined the Tulsa Fire Department in March 1998.
His dad was a firefighter, as were several other relatives.
"I enjoy the guys I work with. It's kind of like a family," Fry said as one of the reasons he loves his job.
That, and helping people.
"Every time we make a run, people are calling us to help them," he said. "It's rewarding."
The other guys at Station 10, as with other fire stations across town, come to work to do their job, and they enjoy it, he said.
Still, firefighters ranked No. 3 on the list.
One of the biggest stressors is going from sleeping at 2 a.m. and, five minutes later, being at a fire or in the middle of some other emergency, said Fire Capt. Terry Sivadon of Station 5. He's been a firefighter nearly 19 years.
That kind of stress can be hard on your heart, Sivadon said.
You might not realize those stressors when you're a young cadet, Fry said. Eventually, it can wear your body down.
Everyone on the job has a hobby, Fry said - hunting, fishing, something to help come down from the stress.
Eating right and staying in shape are important, too, Sivadon said.
Casper, the St. John emergency room nurse, also mentioned exercise. But her best piece of advice, perhaps, was this: "Leave work at work."
The most stressful jobs of 2013
Here are the year's most stressful jobs, according to a recent CareerCast.com list published by Forbes:
1. Enlisted military personnel
2. Military general
4. Commercial airline pilot
5. Public relations executive
6. Senior corporate executive
8. Newspaper reporter
9. Taxi driver
10. Police officer
For a list of the least stressful jobs according to CareerCast.com, check out tulsaworld.com/leaststressful
Original Print Headline: A look at those who hold some of the most stressful jobs
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483
Steam rises from a firefighter's head as he battles a house fire in the 1400 block of North Union Avenue on Dec. 26. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Susan Casper (right), an emergency room nurse at St. John Medical Center, wraps patient Tracey Green's injured foot. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
Susan Casper works on a patient's chart at St. John Medical Center. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World