All posts by Susan Kersley

A Doctor’s Dilemma

Life is full of decision-making and there are many times in a doctor’s life when you have to stop and ask yourself: ‘Which direction shall I take now?’  in relation to your career path or to issues in your personal life. This is the doctor’s dilemma.
It may seem difficult to make that necessary decision because you are so engulfed in the ‘what will people think of me if I do this rather than that?’ mindset.  There may be well-meaning senior colleagues who talk as if they know what sort of life is best for you and as they describe how they see your future you inwardly cringe and wonder how they could possibly believe that they know what you really want.

Stop finding reasons and take the action you want to take….

No-one can foretell what the future will bring for you, that is why making some decisions about your life is such a dilemma for many doctors: however when you find yourself saying or thinking along the lines of:  ‘if I had my time over again I would definitely have made a different choice,’ then you have a strong clue about what you could or even should be doing with your life now.  So think back to a time when you took a leap into the unknown or decided to do something a bit scary and recall what it was that gave you the push to do it. Maybe you took a deep breath and jumped or maybe you wanted to prove someone’s judgement about you as wrong, whatever it took you took that apprehension and just did it.
Since you have started to think about alternatives and other possibilities about your life, you have already started on a journey of change and even with your dilemma about which path to take it’s important to make a choice without endlessly procrastinating.  Even if you decide to stay where you are things will be different because you have been considering other possibilities. That means that something will have changed in your present situation too. You may have discovered a way to improve it or may become more determined than ever to explore new ways. Project your thoughts into the future perhaps a year or several years ahead and imagine your life if you continue as you are or if you make the changes you are considering.
Can you imagine how the future you would look back to the today you and remember how great you felt afterwards and how pleased you were with yourself for being courageous enough to take that first step?

Confidential, one to one, on the telephone…. Can I help?

What makes a doctor stressed and what can they do about it?

Doctor, you may feel stressed because of what you perceive as an  excessive workload, so you work very long hours.

You’ve noticed how this pattern affects your  home life, especially your relationships with your family and friends.

You’ve experienced the stress of keeping to government targets, especially when this means you have to persuade patients  of the importance of  having screening tests or examinations.  Although this could result in discovering pathology it also means an increase in time  spent with each patient, investigations and subsequent treatment.

Unrealistic demands from patients raise your level of stress too. These means time taken to explain why what the patient is requesting is not indicated. Sometimes you may give in and then feel the stress of doing something which may not be in the patient’s best interests.

There is, too, the ‘gremlin’ sitting on your shoulder, nudging you about possible  litigation and asking you whether you’ve done the right thing, in case  the patient decides to sue you.

When you feel well and unstressed  you can deal with all of these things in a relaxed and professional way, but what can you do to move from stress to confidence and calmness?

Ways to reduce your stress levels are simple. The strategies listed below may
seem like common sense and some of them are just that. They are probably things you know already and may even be advising your stressed patients to do these already.

  • Stop caffeine: this has a huge effect on stress levels. Limit caffeine to one cup or less a day and notice how your  stress decreases.
  • Learn to relax. Do this at least once a day. Arrange to have a gap, a 5- 10 minutes each day, when you can sit quietly. This could be when you take a break in the middle of the day, or  in your office between patients.  It’s fine to do this sitting in a comfortable chair.  Close your eyes and start with your feet, think about each area of your body, and  consciously tense the muscles and then relax them.Take relaxing breaths whenever you feel the stress rising. Take a slow breath in, to a count of five,  as you think about breathing in relaxation, then a slow breath out as you think about breathing out any tension in your body.
  • Do some regular exercise: walking for 20-30 minutes each day either from your car, bus or train, to your place of work, or by going outside  in your lunch hour  not only to have something to eat away from your desk and patients but also to have a walk. 
  • Eat more healthy foods, which means eating more complex carbohydrates and cutting down on sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Eat a Mediterranean type diet, with more fish and less saturated fats

However simple as they seem to be, they work. So take yourself in hand and resolve to try the  five strategies until they become new automatic habits for you. To become automatic you may have to repeat something new for 21 days. So make a chart with these five habits listed and tick them each day  you succeed in doing them.. You could also log your level of stress each day on a scale of 1 to 10 and notice the improvement.

Want some support while you change?  Find out about coaching.


Making changes: you have to take action and stop procrastinating!

So many doctors would like to have a different sort of life. Do you sometimes dream of a life, yes, as a doctor, but with the time to do the sort of work that inspires you and has a huge benefit for your patients? Yet instead you have to deal with the reality of busy clinics, demanding patients with not much wrong with them while others who you would dearly love to have the time and energy to treat and give the benefit of your expertise to, are side-tracked because you have to keep going to get the work done each day.

Take your first step!

Perhaps at first you were so thrilled to have qualified after all those long years of study as a medical student, that you were even glad to suffer the lack of sleep and heavy work load of the time you spent as a junior doctor, yet always dreaming of when you would become a consultant and then at least you would have the life you dreamed of.

Yet perhaps it hasn’t quite worked out the way you hoped. You are the victim of your own success. Even though you are highly intelligent you just don’t seem to be able to make the changes you know you want to make. You succumb to the ‘emotional blackmail’ of colleagues asking you to do extra work, or the opportunity to do extra private work, because you know you can genuinely help people with your expertise and you hate the idea of letting people down by saying ‘no’.

You are juggling too many plates in the air and are becoming more and more stressed as a result.

There is an alternative: you could:

  • discover how to free up more time
  • start to put yourself first for a change
  • do the work you love, yet on your terms
  • change something in yourself
  • actually take the actions you know you have to take
  • stop procrastinating
  • become highly motivated

How can you achieve all of these?
Be highly self-motivated, make your plans and take action. You already know what you want to do so ‘just do it.’ But you’ve been like that for years so what would give you that push you need to actually make that difference and initiate the changes you want?

Find someone who is ‘on your side’, supporting your ideas, motivating you to take action, acting as a sounding board, challenging you to think through what you plan so you so you develop the strategy best for you.

Find out more about COACHING

Time, Doctors and Work-Life Balance

How will you get your time management sorted?

Doctors contact me saying that one of their aims is to improve their work -life balance. They know what happens when this is too heavily weighted to their work activities, seeing patients, or doing the admin tasks of a busy medical practice and too little towards the rest of life, but feel they are unable to change anything.

This article  has 17 useful tips:

I’ve written a couple of Kindle books (Critical Time management mistakes and More than 80 ways)  on the subject too.

Also there’s the article I wrote which  recently published in the Independent Practitioner: CLICK HERE

If you want to have a quick chat call me here,

or find out about personal coaching here.

Tips to get things done and have more time

1. Don’t put off the important things in your life until some mythical time when you’re not so busy.

2. However small the first step, decide what it is, and do it.

3. Start a task because it’s easier to continue after the first step.

4. Recognise that there are things you may prefer to do in big chunks of time so plan ahead for these.

5. There are usually some small steps you can take in preparation for the big chunk.

6. Clear some physical space – throw away everything you no longer need.

7. Clear some emotional space by relaxing.

8. Keep up to date with opening your letters and emails.

9. Pay your bills on time

10. Fill in any forms waiting such as tax returns, as you go through the year.

11. Have a decent filing system for whatever you need to keep

12. Clear your surfaces

13. Sort and clear cupboards and drawers.

14. Just do it even if you think others might be offended.

15. Be clear about what obstacles are in your path

16. Decide what action you need to take to get rid of them.

17. Imagine the ‘you’ who wants to do this goal talking to whoever wants the other goal and
decide the way forward which is best for you.

18. Clarify the reasons for a particular course of action.

19. Decide for you and for the person who wants something different.

20. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes – look after yourself above all else.

Louise Hay in her well known book: You can heal your Life calls it being SELF-ish, and suggests that doing things for you, is not only useful but actually essential. I agree with her. It’s part of the concept of looking after yourself. Do things to nurture your own body, mind and spirit. And the rest of what you want will follow.




Time management: is it something you struggle with?

Attention doctors, physicians, registrars, junior doctors, private medical practitioners:

Time Management mistakes nearly every doctor makes.

Do you struggle to get things done through the day? Do you wonder what’s happened to the time and feel upset at how little you get done?

Do you notice that some of your colleagues seem to cope much better than you do with the amount of work there is to do each day?

What might happen if you carry on like this?

  • You are less and less efficient in relation to your medical work.
  • You forget about the life you had before you worked as a doctor.
  • Your friends and family complain that they never see you.
  • You take most of your holiday to unwind.
  • You regret becoming a doctor….


But it doesn’t have to be like that. There are simple strategies you can adopt to take you to a place when you can:

  • leave work at a reasonable time
  • be able to relax and enjoy life away from work more
  • feel happier at work and get things done more efficiently and effectively
  • learn simple ways to make a difference in your life.

Here are the strategies you’ve been waiting for :

    • 3 reasons why doctors struggle with time management
    • 7 mistakes doctors make in relation to time
    • Simple ways to ways to overcome these
    • Benefits of managing your time more effectively


Time Management Mistakes nearly every doctor makes

Get it now for less than the price of a cup of coffee!!


What is your way to leave work behind you when you go home?

One of the challenges of being a doctor is worrying so much about what’s happened during the day that you may find it very difficult to ‘let go’ when you go home.

Do you worry about whether you’ve made the correct diagnosis, arranged the appropriate investigations and explained the procedures in a clear and unambiguous way to your patient?

Is there a little ‘gremlin sitting on your shoulder nagging you about whether you’ve been a proficient  doctor and done everything you have to do for that patient?

Don’t worry you are not alone! There are hundreds of other doctors who experience a similar sense of anxiety when they leave work and start to go over in their minds what happened during the day. And it’s not only worrying about one patient: those feelings you may have of not doing as much as you could do may be multiplied many times.

As a result you may begin to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. So what could you do?

You could develop a simple ritual to do before you go home so that you tell yourself that you are washing all that ‘stuff’ away.

You can do this simply by washing your hands and telling yourself that all your worries and anxieties are going down the drain with the dirty water. I used to do this and found it very effective.

When you do this or something which is relevant to you, then you will be better able to relax and enjoy your hours away from the patients and return next day feeling fully refreshed and ready to face up to the new challenges the new day will bring you.

Work Life Balance

I have referred to Medicine being like a monster that eats into your life and the following blog post compares working as a physician as being like having a gorilla in your life! The advice this author gives is congruent with what I’ve written about making your out of work committments as important as those at work: saying no more often to extra work and yes more to things you do which nurture your own health and well-being. Click the link below to read the article.

Work Life Balance for Doctors means saying No with power and grace


Work life balance for doctors means being able to say no to defend your larger life from the 800 pound gorilla that is your career.

Doctor, improve your coaching skills

Coaching is a way of enabling people to find their own solutions to their challenges and so it’s always useful  improve your coaching skills and use them as much as possible.
As a doctor you may need to be prescriptive at certain times, yet there are instances when  you could use coaching skills rather than just telling the patient what to do.  When someone is involved in the decision-making process then there is likely to be greater compliance with the part of the procedure or treatment about which they have less choice. Here is a reminder of ways to use coaching within the medical consulation:

Ask the patient for their suggestions:
Rather than telling the patient with  heart condition ‘ Lose weight and stop smoking,’ ask:
‘ what will you alter in your life in order to increase  your chances of recovery from this illness?’
When they (hopefully) say they need to lose weight you could ask how they intend to do that, or what help they would like from you or the practice in order to achieve their goals.’

Encourage them to set achievable and specific goals:
If, for example,  they have come up with their needed lifestyle change would involve weight loss find out how they intend t achieve this rather than plunging a diet sheet in their hand and saying: ‘just do what it says in the leaflet.‘
When the patient knows the goals they are working towards they are being forward thinking and outcome focussed and that in itself can be beneficial to someone who is feeling awful in the present time. It’s about encouraging them to think positively, take each step as it comes while keeping  a desired outcome in their mind do they can move as close to it as they can do.

If you have useful information to share in the discussion then always ask:
‘ May I tell you what happened when other patients tried to do that?’ or ‘Can I tell you the options you have to cure this illness or to relieve your symptoms?’

When the patient asks for more information about their illness, ask first what they already know about it or if they have known someone with something similar and what they might be worried about in relation to that illness.  In this way you can focus in on their worries and anxieties and discuss their options further, allaying fears and reassuring them about what they can do to help themselves in addition to what you can do too to help them.

You may find coaching can help you too! Click here to find out more.