Keeping burnout at bay: wellbeing for GPs
Mar 12 2017
It’s a bit of a truism to suggest that doctors can sometimes expend so much energy looking after their patients’ health and wellbeing that they neglect their own. But it’s a profession about which much has been written recently on the subject of stress and burnout - and the challenges faced by locum GPs can make the job even more stressful for locum doctors, who don’t have the support network that comes with being tied to a particular practice. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are a few things you can do to help.
Diagnose the problems
As a GP, you’re used to diagnosing patients’ problems - but what about your own? Addressing your own wellbeing starts by taking stock of the current situation. Learn to recognise the telltale signs of burnout: low morale, exhaustion, random angry outbursts, feelings of hostility towards others, wanting to hide away; all these can be signs you’re burning out, as can feeling uninterested or resentful of your work.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, feeling as though you can’t cope or that you’re burning out, what’s causing it? Perhaps you’re struggling to keep on top of a demanding workload, or inefficient processes in your surgery are causing unnecessary extra stress. Write them all down, then write down a vision of how you want your future working life to look.
Plan the steps to get there
You now have an overview of where you are now and where you want to be, so the next step is to plan what you need to do to close the gap. Having identified the problems, you can then work out what you need to do to solve them. Identify tools and resources you need, or people you need to speak to. Break it down into small, achievable steps that you can do without adding even more to your workload. It could be as simple as allocating ten minutes each morning to answer emails, or it could be a bigger change, such as exploring a new area of interest to keep yourself interested in your career. As a locum doctor, signing up for an online recruitment platform like BookAMed is a great way to reduce the amount of time you spend doing admin.
It sounds obvious, but simple things like taking a lunch break each day make a huge difference to your state of mind, promoting feelings of wellbeing that help you provide better care to yourself as well as your patients. If you can get away from your consulting room at lunchtime, even better. Getting a good night’s sleep also provides enormous health and wellbeing benefits, helping you to function more efficiently and reducing the risk of poor decision-making, anxiety and more. Small changes can make a big impact on your sleep quality, such as not drinking caffeine in the evening or looking at the bright screen of a phone or tablet within an hour of going to bed.
Achieving calm by practising mindfulness
Learning to practise mindfulness may also help you improve your own wellbeing, and for doctors it can be especially helpful for navigating the emotional ups and downs that inevitably come with caring for patients. Mindfulness involves concentrating, non-judgmentally, on the present moment, observing and accepting your feelings as a way of achieving calmness. It’s been shown to have a range of health and wellbeing benefits, and it has positive repercussions for concentration and productivity.