"I've probably saved the hospital $70,000 in the past two months, but my heart isn't really in it," a fellow parent told me. She had moved to a case management position from nursing in the emergency department of a local hospital. "I loved being a nurse, but I couldn't do that and take care of my family. It was just too much," she said.

I don't know anyone with a job who doesn't take a little bit of it home each night, but the mental briefcase is probably heavier if meeting deadlines and solving problems are actual life-and-death matters.

This former nurse validates findings from HR Solutions Inc.'s recent study of hospital employee satisfaction. Employees in the ED, intensive care unit and neonatal ICU had the lowest satisfaction levels of all hospital departments, meaning that the people we think of when we think of hospitals—the clinicians we turn to in crisis—are having the hardest time getting through their days.

My friend recognizes the value she brings to her organization and, by extension, its patients. "I tell myself that each [insurance] denial I resolve gets my patient more care," she said. And any hospital would be happy to have an extra $35,000 each month. But hospitals need committed caregivers at the bedside, and if a handful of nurses or other clinicians leaving for desk jobs or consulting gigs turns into a crowd, we'll be facing another kind of crisis—one where premature babies and sick and injured patients don't have access to the expert care they deserve.

How can we make health care's toughest jobs easier? It starts with acknowledging the burdens these folks shoulder on a daily basis and thanking them for their perseverance.