All posts by Susan Kersley

Compassion fatigue in doctors?

Who heals the healers?
Who heals the healers?

I have a colleague who is writing a self-help book on burnout. She would be very interested in talking to any doctors or nurses who have experienced burnout or traumatic stress. If you, or anyone you know would be happy to share your experience, please email Sarah Kuipers on skuipers1@gmail.com and she will contact you to arrange a mutually convenient time to call you.

 

 

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‘The patient’s treatment begins with the doctor, so to speak. Only if the doctor knows how to cope with himself and his own problems will he be able to teach the patient to do the same.’  (C. G. Jung in Memories Dreams and Reflections)

Who do you turn to when you begin to wonder how you’ll get through the next few years? Do you believe  seeking help and support will be seen as a sign of weakness? Do you make it impossible or very difficult for people to connect with you? Can you make connections? Do you feel  vulnerable? Are you  frightened about seeking assistance for yourself? Do you believe you have to cope on your own? Do you have to know all the answers? Do you hate to admit  that you don’t know? Do  you consider that others will think less of you if you admit ignorance?

Do you put obstacles  between you and other people? Do you put up barriers to communication? Is it easy to enable a patient to tell you their most intimate thoughts and feelings but difficult for you to do the same to your Do you dread the phone ringing because you don’t want to speak to a patient? Are you going to wait until you are at crisis point? Who can support you now? Who can be there for you and accept who you are?

Is now is the moment to  make changes to improve the quality of your life so that  you can have time for family as well as patients, more time for your friends as well as your colleagues. You could have more time to  enjoy being away from work doing things you  haven’t done for years, such as going for a walk, a cycle ride, reading a book, painting, writing,  any other  almost forgotten hobby, whatever you’ve been saying to yourself ‘One day I’ll have time for such and such’ Now is the time to get more balance between your  medical work and the rest of your life, the part of you that may have been submerged for years.

Don’t wait until you’re ‘burnt out’. Re-discover who you are. Start to make small changes right now. Be clear about what you have to do against what you ‘should ‘do. Do what  you love to do. Teach others your skills so that you can   delegate more to them to do some or all of the boring things you are doing now.

Do you think that you are indispensable and no-one else can do what you do? Suppose you are unable to do your work for some reason or another, what then? Someone else will take over. They may not do it the same way you do. They may not even do it as efficiently as you did. But they will do it their way and hopefully it will get done.

It’s OK to  be ‘selfish.’ The word ‘selfish’ may have bad connotations. Start to look after yourself, physically and emotionally. Think about it meaning ‘self-care’ If you take more care of yourself and your own needs you will cope  more effortlessly with the needs of your patients. Don’t wait until you have to find solace in drink or drugs. Don’t wait until you reach crisis point. Start now. Find someone who will encourage and support you unconditionally. Someone who won’t have any expectations of you but will encourage you to achieve whatever you want.

Who can you talk to about your frustrations and difficulties of overwork as a doctor in an environment of being undervalued and endless demands? Do you have a mentor who understands?

When you experience the power of support and encouragement rather than demands and intimidation you will be able to coach your patients to do whatever they need to do, rather than reaching for the prescription pad again to write up yet more tablets destined to be put in the back of the bathroom cabinet with the others. When someone listens to your concerns and acknowledges them as legitimate, you will become a better listener to your patients and hear more of their underlying issues and so be able to give them the help they need. You will be able to convey to them that they can make a difference to their own lives when they take responsibility for it.

Every small change you as an individual make will eventually help to change the system. Take courage, start to care for yourself , much more. What will you do differently today?

“We deceive ourselves when we fancy that only weakness needs support. Strength needs it far more.”
-Madame Swetchine,

PS if you want to care for yourself  treat yourself to a few days away in April 2014 at Connect and Change (but hurry only limited places remain!)

 

 

 

Time for something different?

Have you ever wanted to do something different and know how much you want to do so, yet in spite of knowing what you want, the advantages, and exactly what you must do, yet you just don’t actually do it?

Time for something different?
Time for something different?

You may know what to do yet don’t have the confidence or the courage to take that step. It might be because someone else is trying unsuccessfully to encourage you because they are trying to persuade you to do something not your priority!

Yet with some non specific encouragement you can get to where you want to be more easily.

One way to gain the confidence to make changes is to do something creative. You don’t need any special skills except a willingness to try something new, something which will occupy your mind for a while. When you do this you not only feel energised and relaxed but also discover answers to challenges which have been bothering you.

Connect and Change offers an opportunity to experience some new things and get out of the box for a few days.
www.susankersley.co.uk/connectandchange

Meaning of medical and non-medical words

I remember many years ago asking a patient if she had experienced any abnormal bleeding. ‘No, no, doctor,’  she replied. ‘ No bleeding. But I have been haemorrhaging badly.’ !!

We used to avoid saying the word ‘cancer’ to patients. Instead we talked about them having a ‘lump’ or a ‘tumour’ or a ‘growth’ anything so long as the dreaded C word wasn’t said out loud. Nowadays it seems to be the fashion to say it even with little definite evidence. An elderly lady in her 90s told me she had bowel cancer, and she was desperately upset by this. She was told by her GP before any definitive investigations had taken place.

Words which confuse
Words which confuse

I’ve used a word recently – the word: ‘retreat’ which I realise might have very different meaning to some people who read it. I meant it as an opportunity to be away from your usual surroundings and by doing new and creative things you could experience being able to ‘sort things out’ come to conclusions about ways to improve your life, work life balance, self- care or decisions you need to make.

I didn’t mean a shutting away in silence as in ‘religious retreat’ Instead an opportunity to have a few days connecting and discovering new ways to change the way you think about a situation you may be stuck about.

Anyway from now on I will truly  make every attempt to use words without ambiguous meanings!

PS I was referring to Connect and Change for Doctors in Cornwall

 

Connecting with Nature is a great way for doctors to combat stress

Time spent in nature is the most cost-effective and powerful way to counteract the burnout and sort of depression that we feel when we sit in front of a computer all day. Richard Louv

What message you get from looking at nature?

SInce overwork, stress and burnout are now so common amongst doctors, it’s vital to learn techniques to prevent these overwhelming you so that you can cope with life as a doctor.
The quotation says it all:  spend  time in nature each day then you will feel bette.

But how can you do this when you live and work in a big city, in a massive busy hospital? You might need to have your own piece of nature on your windowsill, or in a vase, or take the chance to get outside to a local park or gardens when you have some time.  Discovering how to find that time is vitally important!

Notice how the changes in the different seasons affect you.  Become more aware as you look at  trees, plants, birds, ants and butterflies how you can, if you are open to the process, find  messages for you from the nature around you.

For example there are messages about renewal and growth; about new life emerging from the barrenness of winter; the determination and the motivation and perseverance of migrating birds travelling vast distances to reach their goals.

You can see that there is always change, nothing stays the same in nature, yet things end and new beginnings start.

Reflect for yourself  how nature can inform  something about your own life?

What messages  are you getting from nature?

Connect with Nature and feel refreshed

Another way to be refreshed, and rejuvenated is to get away from your busy environment for a few days and stay with a small group of medics (who may or may not be working in Medicine) in an area of outstanding natural beauty in West Cornwall near Land’s End.

CLICK  to find out more about the  Connect and Change a retreat for Doctors which I am facilitating in Cornwall  next April 2014.

By connecting with Nature and neglected parts of yourself you will change and return refreshed, relaxed and renewed to cope with life  again.

When you care for yourself much more and stop giving  all to others,  you will become so much more effective at caring for your patients.

Find out more about the Retreat HERE

 

 

 

 

Challenges around time for doctors

Time Management tips

One of the most common challenges that doctors face is managing their time effectively. When you aren’t time-aware the work seems to be endless and takes priority over the rest of your life.

This means that your work-life balance suffers. The less you manage your time the more the problem grows. This has an impact on your life in and out of work too. Not only does it affect your friends and family but also your relationship with your partner.

Most crucial of all is on your own health and well-being. Because when you fail to manage your time effectively your personal physical and emotional health will be affected too.

Is it an inevitable part of a doctor’s lifestyle?

Not necessarily, although many doctors say they are overworked and don’t have enough time, to do things they used to enjoy away from work. It seems as though this feeling of being overworked becomes part of the medical culture, as if it was necessary to  ‘forget the rest of your life’ from the day you start your house jobs, when you started to work as a doctor.

Some doctors work and do nothing else to the detriment of their health and well-being and the relationships with those close to them. They forget how important self-care is to being a ‘whole person.’

Some can only cope with the stress and overwork by drinking or eating too much. Some decide to pack it all in and leave the profession.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.  What I want is for you to have a more balanced life – to be able to work well and efficiently as a doctor and also enjoy your life after work too.

If you leave work late each day and also take work home with you every evening or weekend, remind yourself that you are not super human and are just like every other human being. It’s OK to leave some things to do tomorrow and have some time for rest and relaxation too.

You need some time away from work and time to enjoy sport and hobbies and being with your partner, friends and family and also time for yourself and your own self-care.  If you neglect any or all of these your health, both physical and emotional will suffer and have an impact on the way you care for your patients.

If you go into your Hospital or Practice to catch up at the weekend, even when you aren’t on call,  then you need to take some action sooner rather than later to stop this way of life.

Coaching can help.

Work Life ‘Balance’ Isn’t the answer

shutterstock_36977740Many doctors tell me that they want to have better work life balance, but they struggle to find a way to achieve it.

Working as a doctor can have it’s ups and downs. There ail be many days when you feel excited and exhilarated  yet others when you are exhausted and overwhelmed. Both of these states can affect your life and relationships outside of Medicine.

Yet if you don’t improve the balance in your life you may become more and more stressed and both your work and your personal life will suffer.

How do some doctors cope?

1. They realise that work and life outside work is a matter of finding ways to be effective in both though not necessarily in relation to time actually spent in each role. Stop trying to keep all aspects of your life in separate compartments. Sometimes your best ideas might come to you while playing with your children or engaging in sport.

2. Define for yourself what you want in your life and realise that your definition of success may be different from others. Decide to follow your own path in being successful in your various roles.

3. Set your own boundaries in relation to what you will or won’t do in all aspects of your life.When you do this you will be able to define what are your personal priorities  so that you designate time for friends and family and for your own self-care of body mind and spirit.

It’s your life: live it on your terms!

Coaching helps to get this sorted! 

Fed up? Want the system to change?

As a doctor who is  fed up with the system but as someone who hopes your life will change on its own, remember that the power is in your own hands to make the changes you really want.

If you believe that stress and overwork must always be part of working as a doctor and that those can’t change unless someone else does something or the system itself changes, then think again.

When you do things differently then other things around you change too and eventually the system itself will change as your lifestyle as a doctor changes too.

So, the best way to initiate change is for you to do something. Until you do something another way, your life will continue as before.

You have to take action, step out of your comfort zone, for your life experience to change. When you begin to do this, then others will react to what you do differently, because when you change, others change in their response to you.

Just like a spreadsheet, when one thing changes then everything else changes too. Without action on your part, your life will continue in the way it always has.

When you apply the simple strategies to your life you can live the life you truly want. So don’t delay any more. Start today to create the life you truly want: you can  have a more balanced life.

You can do it.

Coaching can enable you to succeed.

Call me!

More time for you now

Most days there is just far too much to get done. If only there were more hours in the day!!

You know you have to get started on some really boring tasks but once again the day goes by and they just don’t get done.

The art of procrastination is alive and well. The longer the task is put off the more it seems to resemble something like a load and the load seems to get heavier and heavier the more you think about making a start. Where is the load inside you?  Close your eyes for a moment and imagine being able to lift it out and hold it in your hand (or hands if it’s very big!) With this load in your hand, what does it look like? What colour is it? What is the texture? How big is it? Does it make any sound? Can you make it smaller, much smaller; softer; lighter colour; lighter in itself?

Can you make it small enough to blow it away?

OK now tell yourself it’s time to decide on the very first step of the task you are delaying.

Perhaps some tips to add to your time management skills could also be useful?

By the way if you haven’t got a kindle ‘More time for you now is available as a printed book too


No more procrastination to achieve your goals.

When I’ve written about setting goals, I’ve emphasized how important it is to break the big goal, into smaller do-able steps, because sometimes you can live with an intention about something and be daunted by the size of the task. By breaking it into manageable steps it becomes much easier to move forward step by step to achieve your goal. As you complete the steps it’s useful if they are written on a chart and ticked once completed.
But so many people when asked why they haven’t done what they said they would do, answer with ‘I’ve been too busy’ ‘I’ll get around to it, one of these days’ and so on. There are a hundred and one reasons and excuses for not actually doing something. If you’ve followed the suggestion about small steps and still haven’t taken the action, perhaps the step you chose was still too big. Break it down to something even smaller. Ask yourself, ‘what has to happen before I can this or that?’
Ask yourself too if your stated goal is the right goal. A common reason for procrastinating is that you aren’t passionate about achieving your stated goal! What are you passionate about and have you the same feelings about what you say you want to do?
If you are passionate about the vision you have, and about the goals you have set out to achieve, then you have to just do it. This is the tag line used by Nike and I love it. It’s simple and to the point. Too often in a culture of having to ‘get approval’ from someone else, we lose the impetus to ‘just do it’ If you want something done, if you feel strongly about something, if you notice something which needs doing, if you hear about a problem which you can solve then just do it.
Take the steps which need to be taken, contact the people who need to be contacted. Tell others that you are going to do what you are going to do, then just do it.
Sometimes this will involve you changing a long-term habit, and that might be difficult. You, like everyone, are a creature of habits. But these can be changed. Before you go for the big ones, try changing a habit or two unrelated to your goal. For example, eat something different for breakfast, take a different route to your destination, wear a different style of clothes, whatever you want, but change something each day!
Then you will find that when it comes to the first step it will be so much easier to make progress.

 

Work life balance for you

It’s not uncommon for doctors just like you to feel dissatisfied with their life.

You like them may think there is little you could do to improve the situation and may be blaming ‘the system’ for most of your frustrations at work.

Yet you are becoming increasingly aware of how these spill over into your home life and social life too.  You find that Medicine takes so much of your waking hours that you have little energy left for the few hours left each day when you are supposed to be living the rest of life.  The whole concept of work-life balance may seem an impossible dream.

You know you want something to be different but are not quite sure what you really want, when you would like the change to happen,  why you want to change, who might be able to help you or how to make the changes you want to make.

So there’s the challenge. Can you make the shift from thinking about how frustrated and unhappy you are to changing your life to be more in line with the way you want it to be.?

Is this just a  pipe-dream or could it actually be possible to make changes which would improve your life in some ways so at least some of the frustrating parts wouldn’t overwhelm you so much and more of your time could be spent following more enjoyable pursuits with people you want to spend the time of day with?

Having  a more balanced life and finding time to do more of what you want to do is possible.   When you start to examine what’s happening and the reasons for it you can begin to find that there are things that can be changed quite simply.

The easiest first step is to pick just one thing that annoys you.  Ask yourself  what could happen instead for things to improve for you. Then challenge your assumptions about the situation. Ask if it really has to be that way and what small thing has to change to make a difference to you.  Which of your  boundaries have to change? Who will you tell that you will no longer so such and such?

As you tease out the situation in this way you are very likely to find a very simple change  that would make a difference to your working practice.

You have to take courage in your hands and talk to the person involved. For example tell the person who makes the appointments you are not prepared to see any extra. Doing this will enable you to leave earlier, have time for a swim or meet your children from school or whatever else you want to  do if you went home earlier than you do now.