Burnout Of Cyber Security Professionals And Your Health

Exhaustion, Cynicism And Perceived Inefficacy From Long-Term Job Stress Are Leading Symptoms



Jothi Dugar
10/08/2019

Cyber Burnout

After a recent personal health struggle after my third baby, and my journey to wellness, I began to explore the reasons why a significant amount of medical professionals/clinicians seem exhausted, burnt out, and overwhelmed. So burnt out that the very human lives they are attempting to save are not successful. It is not because the medical treatments didn’t work as planned, but because the medical professional is in a state of fatigue leading to medical errors. And as a practicing CISO for a large organization, I see cyber professionals falling into a similar pattern.

The Burnout Epidemic Of Healthcare Professionals

In fact, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. resulting in approximately 250,000 deaths a year. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than half of physicians and over a third of nurses feel burnt out, which contributes to detrimental patient care. This burnout epidemic exacerbates the impending physician shortage in the U.S.

What is burnout you might wonder? Generally speaking, burnout is described as exhaustion, cynicism and perceived inefficacy resulting from long-term job stress.

Why should we care about healthcare professional burnout? If you care about your own health, you must surely learn about how the burnout of medical providers affects you. There is a direct correlation between the number of major medical errors committed by surgeons and the surgeons’ degree of burnout along with their likelihood of being involved in malpractice suits.

At an institutional level, medical burnout results in a high degree of job turnover, increased thoughts of leaving the institution – and in a rising number of cases the profession itself – as well as decreased workforce efficiency. With an impending shortage of physicians and nurses predicted in the near future, the medical industry may not be setting itself up for success by having current professionals in a state of continuous burn out.

See Related: Top 8 Industries Reporting Data Breaches In The First Half Of 2019

Similarities Between Cyber And Healthcare Professionals

From a cyber security perspective, there are multiple parallels between medical professional burnout, security leaders and your organization. Apart from the personal ramifications from your own health and wellness of possibly being under the care of burnt out healthcare professionals, let’s look at the similarities of both the professions themselves.

In recent IT surveys, over half of the cyber professionals across the globe feel burnt out on a daily basis. Over 90% of cyber professionals believe that the balance of power is tipped toward cyber criminals rather than cyber defenders and they are always trying to catch up.

Some of the most common reasons found for this feeling were: too many hours on the job, feeling like a cog in the wheel, high adversity making mistakes costly, and every task is considered mission critical. Cyber professionals feel that they can never have a day off yet they can’t directly see or visualize the value of what they do.

The majority of cyber professionals are placed in an IT department and may be far removed from the organization’s mission and its leaders, making it extremely difficult for them to understand their value and role in the mission. Furthermore, due to this placement, the organizations’ leadership themselves may not truly understand or value the need for cyber or have an accurate and comprehensive understanding of risk (that includes cyber) in their organization.

See Related: Growth Of Women Leaders In Cyber Provides Promising Trajectory For Industry Diversity

Recognizing The Warning Signs Of Burnout In High-Adversity Professions

Cultures that foster burnout cost organizations 10x more than absenteeism, which already costs over $150B a year.

So what can be done about Healthcare and Cyber professional burnout? For starters, we must recognize that burnout is real in any profession, but especially in those in high adversity professionals, with Cyber most definitely being one of them.

We must give importance to Wellness of the human being in any organization, profession, or industry. Too often, organizations and their leaders expect a person to function 100% on the job regardless of anything else that may be going on with the person either at home or in other areas of their life. We must understand that our emotional, mental, and physical state are all connected and implement health and wellness programs and resources open and accessible to all employees.

See Related: Cyber Security Cross Over: What To Expect When Making That Transition

That being said, if you see burnout in your organization or you yourself are burnt out, be mindful of your state of mind. Ask for help when you need it and don’t be afraid to communicate what you need to your leadership. Both Cyber and Health professionals spend their lives protecting others and often forget to take care of themselves. We must first keep our own state of mind and health running smoothly before we can help anyone else.

Further, for both professions, once you acknowledge the signs of burnout and understand it, we must be mindful and conscious of what situations, people, or triggers that contribute to the stress levels and burnout and actively choose our reaction and response to them. Yes, your feelings and emotions are your choice and your responsibility to manage and control! We must then replenish our mind-body-energies with positive experiences and to restore a healthy and positive balance.

At the onset of feeling burned out, take a moment or a day to step away and rejuvenate yourself.

Lastly, from an individual standpoint and from an organizational standpoint, reduce and limit exposure to the stressors and do what makes you feel fulfilled and happy, so that you can feel fulfilled on and off the job instead of burned out and overwhelmed.

See Related: 5 Most Stressful Aspects Of Cyber Security

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