Tag Archives: stress

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!)

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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! 

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.

 

 

Doctors and holidays another article.

I wrote previously about doctors and holidays and have just read an article from Software Advice about the same subject you might find interesting. I wonder whether you think the same rules apply to those of you who have their medical practice in the UK?

What struck me is the stories of so many doctors who never take holidays at all.  This can only lead to increased stress and an effect on general health and well-being.

Time for a holiday?

Here is the article: (Click the heading to read the whole article )

5 Rules for Taking a Vacation as a Solo-Practice Doctor – Software

medzip911.com11/13/12

5 Rules for Taking a Vacation as a Solo-Practice Doctor Software Advice (blog) It’s hard enough for any of us to consider taking a vacation in the current economic climate, let alone those of us responsible for the health of

 

 

Doctors and Holidays?

Holidays are supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable time, even if you are a doctor. It should be a time  to let go of the overwhelm of your medical practice and reconnect not only with family and friends but also with yourself.

But your experience may not be the idyllic time of fun and relaxation portrayed in the travel brochures. Your holiday  may equal your expectation of  what ought to happen when you take time away from work.
Instead of feeling refreshed and relaxed you come back to your patients feeling worse than they look,  exhausted, frustrated  and wondering what happened to your dreams of rest and relaxation.

While away you found it was almost impossible to forget about work- related worries and however much you tried to leave technology at home you found yourself checking and answering emails and discussing work issues with colleagues via email or Skype in spite of the irritation and annoyance of your family or friends.

You’ve been left wondering if it always has to be like that: whether as a doctor you can ever ‘get away from it all’, and enjoy a holiday.
But it doesn’t have to be like this! There is an alternative if you can do just three simple things:

  1. set boundaries
  2. look after yourself
  3. relax

Setting  boundaries: decide before you go away what you will accept  in relation to emails, telephone calls and dealing with emergencies: by making sure you have arranged adequate cover for your routine work, told those who need to be told what you do not want to be contacted about and who will deal with any urgent problems.

Looking after yourself: remember to address your needs in relation to:  body, mind and spirit so exercise regularly, by walking swimming or whatever opportunities your holiday destination offers, eat and drink well but not excessively; and enjoy the moment whether it’s a wonderful sunset a magnificent view from the top of a mountain or across the sea or whatever inspires you in your holiday environment.

Relax: Be aware of areas of tension in your body then consciously take a deep slow breathe in and as you breathe out let go of that tension. Repeat this exercise during the day whenever you think about work or things you have to do when you return.

There are of course many other things you could do when on holiday to let go of the work stress and return refreshed and face the challenges again.

However if you make a start with these three and please put a comment below this post with your thoughts about more  ways which help doctors enjoy their holidays more and leave work stress behind them for a while so that they, and you, can  come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle problems.

 

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.