As a busy doctor working hard, not only at your day to day job but also trying to have more balance in your life, you must avoid a particular trap. It might be called ‘emotional blackmail’ because that’s what it seems to be. You have two opposing forces fighting inside you: that part of you which has planned to do something special when you get home that day and the other opposing force which doesn’t want to let colleagues down.
Here is a typical scenario: a colleague becomes ill and has to go home yet there is a clinic to finish a ward round to do and emergency patients to admit and you are the doctor who is there.
‘Can you just see these extra few patients?’ ‘It won’t take long, can you speak to someone on the phone?’ ‘Please will you check Mrs So and So, she’s not feeling too good?’; Whatever the request made of you, you know that responding to it will take much more than the few minutes promised and your plans for the evening will be gone again. What’s the answer? It’s a difficult one isn’t it? You know that by the nature of working as a doctor you must be willing to drop everything in the case of emergencies but are these emergencies? You will need to make a rapid assessment of each request and have the confidence to say ‘no’ to all except those which can be considered extremely urgent and important. For the others you must say an assertive ‘no’ I don’t have the time to do that.
A similar but slightly different situation is when perhaps that same colleague will be away from work for a few days and you are asked to do extra clinic sessions, for example, to cover the work not being done. You had planned to do things with your friends and family at those times yet so often you find yourself saying ‘yes I’ll be able to do that,’
because you don’t want to upset the person asking you. If you’ve done that recently contact them now and say ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you out this time.’
Doing this may seem to be a difficult thing to day. But do you know what the likely response will be? It is highly likely to be: ’ OK. That’s fine. I’ll ask someone else. It’s not a problem, don’t worry.’