By Dr Surina Chibber


 Self Care Week 2013 - 800

Self Care Week takes place from 14th – 20th November and has the theme “Understanding Self Care for Life.” As GPs we spend our entire career looking after our patients. Our own health and wellbeing usually is the last consideration we make. Burnout can occur in a range of occupations, but most frequently it occurs in the caring professions.

Working as a doctor in the current climate represents a variety of stressors. Not only are we faced with making difficult, often life changing decisions on a daily basis but the intense time pressures and lack of resources really test our resolve.

Factors contributing to burnout include excessive workloads, patient pressures, lack of control, poor support, front line practice, perceived threats of complaints and dysfunctional workplaces. The BMA has a useful questionnaire to gauge if you are at risk of burnout

I asked a group of inner city GPs how they protected themselves from burnout. Here are their 5 top tips for self care.


Learn to say no

Do you ever have those days where no matter how hard you work or how many lunch breaks you miss the requests just keep coming? An important step in managing your workload is to recognise your own limits and learning to say no. Part of this relates to managing expectations and setting realistic timelines for completing scheduled work. You are not a machine! This can often be hard to incorporate in practice but by critically evaluating your work environment and finding workable solutions, it is an achievable benchmark. Dr Fiona from North London states “Our practice has invested in highly trained reception staff and we have a strict policy regards repeat prescriptions and non-NHS admin requests. We work to set boundries with patient requests. The on-call is done as a buddy system so one doctor is not dumped on during the day. Most importantly we have a great team spirit of support. We have a weekly running club and baking competitions. These little things make those tornado days bearable.” 


Value your time

If you are starting to feel burnt out it is important to recognise your limits and review your lifestyle. Are you working too many sessions? Is there poor management and delegation in your workplace? Can the team dynamic be improved? Are you taking on too much responsibility? Dr Rajesh from London states “My practice have 15 minute appointments which allows tthe staff to work safely, cope with the demands of work. In my opinion a 10 minute consultations model is no longer viable”. 


Find a healthy way to unwind 

It is important to make the most of your free time and ring-fence an activity that helps you to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Whether it is reading, hiking, a competitive sport, regular excerise or meditation, make sure you keep some time aside to enjoy yourself….and alcohol certainly should not feature heavily here! Be careful not to let your admin and paperwork spill into your home life. It is a fine balance but everyone needs to have head space away from work. 


Find your passion

We know that being a doctor is a vocation however it is still important to feel passionate about your work. One doctor stated “I had lost my love of general practice after 10 years as a GP partner. After battling with stress and depression I resigned from partnership and entered a 4 session salaried post. I spend the rest of my time teaching medical students. I love my teaching role and it has reignited my passion for work. The 4 clinical sessions allow me to maintain my practice but I feel cutting back from what had become an extremely stressful work environment has really helped me to readdress the balance. The financial impact has meant I have had to for go a few luxuries but overall my health and happiness has improved.”


Be kind - to yourself

Remember to be kind to yourself. Every day you get up and you do your best. Congratulate yourself on your daily achievements no matter how small. Acknowledge that no matter what the Daily Mail says or the negativity you may encounter from patients, you entered this profession to make a difference and every day whether on a small scale you do something worthwhile that makes a difference in the lives of those that need it the most. The charity Mind have a great leaflet on looking after yourself and protecting against burnt out.


Self care week is not just about patients recognising they are responsible for their health. It is also about doctors recognising the value of their well being and taking steps to ensure they are kind, empathetic and supportive of themselves as well as the people they look after.