All posts by Susan Kersley

Life for doctors – don’t neglect the rest…

If you’ve been through years of medical training, passed your exams and become a doctor, ask yourself whether you are a doctor for life and discover for yourself how much of you is now wrapped up in your identity as a doctor?
It’s important to remember that you are more than your profession, that you are more than your training and you deserve to have a life both in and out of Medicine.

Yet so many doctors forget this and as a result they neglect the important parts of themselves that existed before they became doctors and will be there when they have retired from Medicine.

If this applies to you too then consider this: your life as a doctor is more than your medical practice. You are allowed to have other interests apart from medicine and to have the time to spend with friends, family and community too.

What’s stopping you having your life as a doctor combined with a life away from that identity?
Perhaps there are overwhelming pressures on you to pass examinations, to do more research and to fulfill the expectations of your seniors. Maybe you put so much pressure onto your juniors in their pursuit of medical excellence and success that they daren’t question you nor realise that a doctor needs balance in his or her life.

Yet when you do create space for something away from your medical work you will find that you become more able to deal with the stresses of your day to day working life as a doctor.

Remind yourself that you became a doctor to diagnose and treat sick people, but you didn’t necessarily agree to give up every other aspect of your life. Recall what used to make your heart sing before you became overwhelmed with the doctor’s life. You may find that just remembering what it was that gave you an internal buzz that you realise you would love to re-visit that hobby or activity once more.

Don’t only think it, make the decision now, today, that something has to change and do one thing differently that will be the first step to changing your life to include things away from Medicine for a regular time set side each week just for you. The step you take could be simple and might be for example to book a ticket to go to a concert, see a film, join a class, bang a drum or go for a walk in the park.

Coaching helps. More information HERE too.

A doctors life: what to be grateful for?

I experienced a doctor’s life for many years, in spite of the heavy work load the frustration and the exhaustion which went along with it, I am grateful for certain aspects of the life of doctors.

I know now that it was truly a privilege to be able to communicate with people from all sorts of backgrounds, education, and in various emotional and physical states. It is special whereby as a doctor you are trusted with information not shared with anyone else. The patient trusts you with what they want to unburden and it is something which a doctor has to learn to accept and deal with.

Being a doctor goes beyond the conversation and the exchange of words: it also involves the physical examination, during which the patient may reveal more information that is helpful towards the diagnosis and treatment; and then there is the intellectual stimulation for the doctor of deciding what might be the reason for the symptoms, and initiating further investigations and treatment.

I’m grateful for:

  • Being able to listen to what people tell the doctor. Doctors must listen twice as much as speak and not jump to conclusions immediately. This was not always easy in medical consultation when limited by too little time per patient.
  • Knowing there is always the question: what do you want? Patients approach with a long list of symptoms and your heart goes into your boots but what they want is for you to sign something not turn their whole life around.
  • Noticing what isn’t being said People may use an excuse such as ‘I’ve got a cold’ as acceptable when they really want to say ‘I think I’ve got cancer.’
  • Being interested in people. People are all interesting and a doctor must try not to make judgements. Realising that people will only do what they are willing to do.
  • Patients will only do what they will do however strongly you tell them to change their lifestyle there will always be excuses if they don’t want to follow your advice.

So a doctor’s life taught me many things now used during coaching.

  • Listening rather than talking is important because by listening you can enable another person to discover their own solutions.
  •  ‘What do you want?’ is a vital question to get people to set their goal in life and what they want to achieve with coaching. People are fixated on what they don’t want.
  • During coaching, asking challenging questions helps to find out what isn’t being said.
  • Being interested in people is vital for a coach.
  • Coaching works when it enables people to decide for themselves what they will do rather than being prescriptive as a doctor must be, because even when you tell people to do this or that they decide for themselves.

Doctor, remember to look after yourself too

Every time you are busy seeing patients in your clinic or surgery you have to recall a wealth of information about them, their condition and about what you can do to help to diagnose and treat their illness. You may have developed your own way to do this so that you follow a routine.

For example after finding out their presenting symptoms asking them in a routine way about each of their body systems in turn so that you get an all over picture of what might be the cause of their illness and what you need to do next to find out more about it.
Yes, as a busy doctor you may be concentrating most of the time on your patients and forgetting to do what you must also do for your personal health and well being.

So you could devise a similar strategy for yourself as you use for your patients. Could you think of a mnemonic to remind you what needs to be checked each day or each week? For example if you said SCREEL to yourself every day and knew this stood for: Spirituality, Community, Relaxation, Exercise, Eating, and Learning would you remember these various aspects of self care which are important to maintain your health and well being as a doctor and as a human.

Spirituality: Connecting with nature, smelling the roses, watching an insect, saying a prayer, meditating, breathing, or whatever you do to connect with something beyond yourself.

Community: it is said that no man is an island, so make sure you connect with others away from work and with those who share your interests.

Relaxation: practice letting go of tension for a few minutes each day.

Exercise: your body needs to move and stretch, your heart needs to beat faster and your limbs need to transport you, so walking, running, doing yoga, dancing or moving in whatever way you can to keep your body working efficiently.

Eating: More fruit and vegetables, olive oil, nuts and protein, less junk, sugar, salt and e-numbers. Eat healthily and become healthier.

Learning: something new each day. Looking up words, reading books, thinking, discovering, learning and keeping your brain functioning well.

If you can think of a more relevant mnemonic for you do so and say it to yourself every day to remind yourself to spend just a few minutes addressing the various parts of your life in this way and as a result your self care will improve enormously.

Coaching enables you to be a doctor and have a life.

Does Coaching Work For Doctors?

Does coaching work for doctors?Coaching can enable doctors to  find their own way forward to a more balanced and happier life. This is what coaching can do for you if you are a doctor who is wondering about coaching and feeling hesitant about hiring a coach because you don’t really understand how a coach might be useful:

A coach can:

  • Motivate you to move forward and do what you want to do by encouraging you to take the first step and then some more, especially for those things you have been procrastinating about for some time.
  • Listen to your concerns about possible courses of action  and then by asking you challenging questions make you think afresh about what’s happening in your life and make the decision that’s best for you at this time.
  • Challenge your beliefs about the way things are and the ways they could be, by helping you question long-held ideas which no longer serve you.
  • Be on your side, supporting you in whatever course of action you decide to take  without an agenda of their own. For example,  colleagues might be shocked to hear you say you might leave the medical profession, or would like to spend more time with your friends and family, whereas the coach will help you  consider alternatives you might not have thought about before and then motivate you to do what you need to do.
  • Be in contact with you on a regular basis either on the telephone, email or Skype thus avoiding lengthy journeys for face to face meetings.
  • Enable you to clarify your goals so that you can make decisions and take action  in relation to challenges old or new, so that you make a difference to your life.
  • Teach you skills you can use if you are faced with similar challenges in the future. For instance you could  learn ways to communicate more effectively and  use what you learn when faced with a similar situation in the future.

Thus coaching can be useful for doctors like you. But only you can take that first step of making contact, discussing what you hope to achieve and then making a commitment to the process.

When you take that first step, which means you may feel you are stepping out of your comfort zone. However  when you do this you are embarking on your personal journey and  you will quickly find your very own prescription  for change.

Find out more about Coaching here.

What can you do?

What to do to have a more balanced life as a doctor:

1. Stop taking physical documents, patient’s files and journals with you in order to catch up during the evening or weekend. Instead just leave the files, the work diary or the briefcase in your office at work. Leasve it there and also so something to tell yourself you are leaving it there until tomorrow and you will deal with it then. This could be saying something to yourself as you wash your hands: ‘I’m leaving all that stuff here until tomorrow.’

2. Stop taking thoughts with you so that you no longer find it difficult to ‘switch off’ and are able to  stop thinking about a particular patient and whether or not you might have missed something or prescribed the right treatment. Instead be aware that every time you take a  breath in you are breathing in relaxation and calmness and as you breathe out you are letting go of tension and stress.

3. Stop dealing with other people’s questions and expectations: even  if they have a medical problem and think you are willing to give your opinion whatever the time is and wherever you may be. Instead say ‘no’ assertively, calmly and firmly. Everyone including you is entitled to some leisure time and  tell them to make an appointment to see you professionally if they want your professional expertise.

Taking work home with you

A very common challenge amongst doctors who strive for a more balanced life is how to stop taking work home with them.

There are at least three  ways work  doesn’t stay in the hospital or clinic and ends up going home with you:

1. Taking physical documents, patient’s files and journals with you in order to catch up during the evening or weekend.

2. Taking thoughts with you so that you find it difficult to ‘switch off’ and continue  thinking about a particular patient and whether or not you might have missed something or prescribed the right treatment.

3. Dealing with other people’s questions and expectations: they have a medical problem and think you are willing to give your opinion whatever the time is and wherever you may be.

What do you do to make a clear division between work and leisure time?

Please comment in the box below.

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Leaving or staying in Medicine?

Not so much the patients themselves or even the mental challenge of taking their history, doing the examination, arranging appropriate investigations and deciding on the best treatment, but more the aggravation of too much to do in the day, the lack of co-operation from others, the demands made of you, all add up to make you wonder if you really want to carry on for years more.

The dilemma is this: do you really want to give it all up, pack it all in and if so for what? Do you really want to let go of all those years of specialised training and start again with something entirely different and new?

You will be a better doctor if you spend some time away from it

Everyone gets ‘stale’ when they don’t  have a break away from work. After a few days doing something entirely different you will come back with added energy and enthusiasm. That can only be beneficial for not only you but for your patients too.

You will develop other skills and interests for when you eventually retire

When the time comes to leave Medicine you will have lots of possibilities for what you can do instead.

Find out if Coaching could enable you to make the decison right for you.

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Gifts to give yourself

For the independent medical practitioner who appears to ‘have it all’ but knows that there is something missing here are some gifts to give yourself:  rewards for your dedication and hard work, for the personal sacrifices you’ve made while building your Private Practice to be successful.
Resolve that  you will not only be even more successful, (whatever your personal definition of success may be) and have a fulfilling and happy life too. Give yourself these precious gifts.

Time for living
Too much to do, too many demand made of you. Can you get away on time to see your private patients when your NHS demands are so overwhelming? You  some days feel as though you can never get it all done and arrive somewhat tired before you even start to see your patients at the private hospital. You keep them waiting on occasions and know this is not ideal but somehow can’t do things differently.
What can you do differently?

  1. Notice how you actually spend your days
  2. Become more aware of how you waste time
  3. Decide what you can teach others and then delegate to them more
  4. Design more efficient systems  for everything you do
  5. Say no more often to what you don’t want to do any more.

Health and well-being:
You advise your patients about their habits, remind them to stop smoking, drink alcohol in moderation and lose weight but perhaps forget these in relation to your own life.

  1. Give yourself the gift of improved self-care:
  2. Be more aware of what  you  eat and make healthier choices.
  3. Keep positive and  lead a healthy lifestyle in spite of the pressures of Medicine.
  4. Resolve to eliminate most processed foods and instead eat more fruits and vegetables.
  5. Be aware of the power of your mind rather to change your perception of the world.
  6. Walk more
  7. Keep your body and mind flexible with exercise and life long learning.

Balance between work and the rest of your life:

Private Practice, especially if you work for the NHS too, can take over much of your personal time. Perhaps you tend to  say  yes to whatever your patients demand of you in respect of when they can have their consultation whether face to face or on the telephone.  Instead you could:

  1. Clearly define your availability when you are available for appointments and when patients can telephone you.
  2. At other times have someone else or your telephone take messages
  3. Acknowledge that your out of work commitments are important

Your comments below please.

Coaching can enable you to achieve these and more. Contact me!

How will proposed reforms of legal aid impact on doctors?

I don’t usually write about political subjects. However I received an email from ‘soundof justice’ from the Law Society campaign  today and would like to bring your attention to the following:

There is a campaign with the Law Society called Sound Off Justice:
(http://soundoffforjustice.org), a campaign that’s focused on getting the public to place pressure on the government to reconsider the proposed reforms to Legal Aid, which are ill-conceived and unfair.
I was contacted   because my blog is aimed at the medical community and SoundOffJustice pointed out that under the new government proposals, victims of medical negligence will have no legal protection and  wondered how this might impact doctors.

This set me thinking about medical negligence and the possible impact of patients not having legal aid. I think that victims of medical negligence would clearly be disadvantaged by the proposed reforms for legal aid but not sure that it would impact on doctors (though some might not have to face legal action for negligence if the patient depended on legal aid), so there might be more  doctors who were performing badly.

If sued for negligence, doctors would continue to be able to defend themselves without legal aid, because hopefully all doctors have indemnity against claims from patients.

What do you think could be the impact of this proposed reform, on doctors?
Please post your comments  and on twitter account:
Facebook/Twitter/Vimeo: @soundoffjustice.

Many thanks.

Delegate more to improve your work life balance

As a doctor who wants to have better work life balance you will find that asking for help is a vital part of having more time for yourself. Getting other people to do some of those tasks which have to be done by somebody but not necessarily by you.
Being able to delegate more effectively is an important talent to have in order to give yourself more time to do either those things which require your specialised medical skills and also to have more time for your hobbies and other leisure activities.
1. Choose the right tasks to delegate. They should be things you can describe easily to someone else so they do exactly what is required.

2. When you delegate you are ultimately responsible for the result so it’s important to set up the work appropriately.

3. Be very clear about exactly what you want to other person to do. Problems with delegation arise if you haven’t specified what you expect from the other person.

4. Teach the person you are delegating to how you want the job done or if they say they already know how to do it ask them to show you. When you watch the way someone approaches a task you may find that you learn something from them especially if they achieve the same result in a different way from you.

5. Watch how the person you have delegated to manages the task and give constructive feedback if necessary. Notice what they find difficult to do or what they are not doing and encourage them to improve their skills if necessary.

6. Let them get on with the task once you have told them what you want and taught them how to do it. People don’t like being watched all the time. You have to trust that they will get on with the task and put into practice what’s needed.

7. Make sure you have regular checks of what they are doing, especially initially, so that both you and they know they are doing what you want them to do.

8. Enjoy the extra time you now have and make sure you fill it with something useful and not use it with time wasters unless these are how you relax because relaxation is too.