Are you a Doctor who needs CPR?(Confidential Personal Readjustment)
Life as a doctor can be very stressful. Sometimes both you and others may wonder how you keep going with so much to do and so little time to do it. How many of the following challenge you?
lack of work-life balance
keeping up to date
excessive demands on your time
insufficient funding to get the work done
unreasonable demands made of you
too little time with family or friends
unable to ‘switch off’ when on holiday
taking work home
lack of self-care
If any or all of the above resonate with you then you are not alone.
Doctors who have too much to do in too little time – organise your time more effectively
Doctors who worry about whether they have made the correct diagnosis and prescribed the right treatment – let go of the need for perfection.
Doctors who wonder if they made the right career choice – step back and consider all of your options.
Doctors who don’t feel valued as no-one seems to care for them – start to care more about yourself others value you more.
Doctors who don’t look after their own needs – define what these are and make time to address them each week.
Doctors who self-medicate or turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the day-to-day stress – recognise when you need support and ask for it.
If you are demoralised, overwhelmed, tired, stressed, undervalued and wonder if this is the way life as a doctor has to be, and wonder how you might be able to change things for the better, read on, Consider what you could do now to start to have the life you really want, before it all gets too much. It IS possible to have a life and be a doctor.A recent client wrote: Susan helped me look for the inside me. The person who wonders and enjoys rather than the one who is worried and stressed. She taught me about the journey of life, of taking control over my own journey, and recognising the choices that are there. It was most helpful that she had worked as a doctor, because she understood how ingrained we are. When I signed on for life coaching I was ready to take the enormous step of giving up my job as a GP. That is what I wanted to do but didn’t know how it could be possible. Susan helped me realise that this was just the first step of an exciting journey. I cannot know where it will take me, but I am now looking forward to it!Susan’s warm and straightforward approach was just what I needed from a life coach. She manages to balance professionalism with humour and good sense. She has masses of insight and is refreshingly optimistic. I wonder if my life would have turned out differently if I had found out about Susan and her telephone coaching sooner.FR General Practitioner What can YOU do? If you want tools, ways to change, and questions to make you think, you will find the following resources useful.
Don’t delay your life until you reach a certain point in your career: to remain a whole person make sure you look after yourself body, mind and spirit. When you do that you will be a whole person who also can cope much better with the stress of working as a doctor.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
What do you do if you feel that you can’t cope with a situation? Perhaps other people are making suggestions to help you but you don’t listen because you don’t like the idea of asking for help from someone else.
You may be someone who believes that you have to deal with everything on your own without any help from others. It’s true there seems to be a culture amongst doctors of the idea that they have to deal with whatever happens in the course of their work or personal life on their own and without any support form others.
If this applies to you ask yourself , why? Is it because you believe it’s a sign of weakness to admit you find it difficult to cope with the situation?
It can be difficult to admit that you don’t know all the answers, especially if you believe others will think less of you if you admit ignorance. Yet if you can get over this obstacle, which may be to a large extent in your own mind rather than having much basis in reality, you can then begin to experience how wonderful to have someone to talk to about what’s going on for you.
It’s a remarkable process that happens when you allow yourself to talk openly and truthfully to another person about the stress or challenges you are experiencing. The actual telling is in itself very powerful and in so doing you become of all sorts of answers to your dilemma and may decide quite quickly what to do next. This is all without much interception form the other person except for the listening skills they’ve used and perhaps the occasional question they’ve asked of you. The latter will have made you think of exactly what your desired outcome for the situation is and
So, stop putting obstacles between you and other people and don’t put up barriers to communication either, nor hold back from jumping to conclusions.
You may have people such as colleagues or friends or family who would be willing to listen to your dilemmas and guide you towards finding a solution for yourself. A coach will have been trained to do this effectively. One of the most important attributes a a good coach is starting on time, listening intently, asking pertinent questions and helping you explore some options you hadn’t thought of before.
Then you can take the leap you know you must take and make good choices for your life change.