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.
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.
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 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.
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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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?
- Notice how you actually spend your days
- Become more aware of how you waste time
- Decide what you can teach others and then delegate to them more
- Design more efficient systems for everything you do
- 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.
- Give yourself the gift of improved self-care:
- Be more aware of what you eat and make healthier choices.
- Keep positive and lead a healthy lifestyle in spite of the pressures of Medicine.
- Resolve to eliminate most processed foods and instead eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Be aware of the power of your mind rather to change your perception of the world.
- Walk more
- 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:
- Clearly define your availability when you are available for appointments and when patients can telephone you.
- At other times have someone else or your telephone take messages
- Acknowledge that your out of work commitments are important
Your comments below please.
Coaching can enable you to achieve these and more. Contact me!
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:
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.
- Goal setting: Setting goals: Vital to set SMART goals so you can be very clear about what you want.
- Work life Balance: Balancing work and life – there is more to life than work.
- Managing time – essential for making space for a new life to happen.
- Self care: Deciding what you have forgotten to do lately and make a commitment to improve your self care
- Environment and behaviour: Noticing how small changes in your environment and or your behaviour result big positive effect
- Capability: you may be needing to learn some new skills and or teaching some skills to people around you.
- Beliefs and Values: recognising that some beliefs are powerful enough to stop your change, yet beliefs can be changed.
- Identity: You are not your job or profession. Noticing how your ideas about who you are, may be stopping you doing what you want.
- Purpose: Discovering why you are here and by doing this being motivated to achieve your purpose.
- Communication skills: Being able to communicate what you want to do when it affects others and learning how to do this more effectively
- Stress management: Learning techniques to reduce or get rid of stress.
- Creativity: getting in touch with your creative side which may have been dormant if your job has encouraged you to follow rigid procedures.
Comments and additions ….please add yours.