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Being Alert to Stress

Being Alert to Stress 

Every day it seems that the media is awash with stories about the impact of 'stress' in our society, particularly among professionals. NHS Professionals are no more immune to succumbing to the pressures of stress in the workplace and the dangers of allowing it to creep up. The LMC is experiencing an increasing number of calls for support from GPs and practice staff for whom the pressures of the current environment are taking a toll on them as individuals or as teams.

Doctors are well versed in identifying symptoms of stress in their patients and providing the appropriate support as necessary (if the services are available in their location - otherwise that is another area of work that adds to the stress of the GP!). However, experience has shown us that GPs often refute their own or colleagues' symptoms of overwork or anxiety, denying them the kind of care or support they would seek for their patients.

There are many contributory factors - challenging patients the effects of budget cuts the new demands posed by changes in pensions criteria insufficient availability of workforce and locums to name just a few. Behaviours within a practice team which have previously been 'accepted' or 'managed' are becoming intolerably challenging to colleagues perceived as preventing a practice from adapting to the changing functions expected of General Practice.

Be mindful of your own behaviour and how that affects those around you (both at work and at home) and to be observant of your colleagues. There are a number of warning signs to look out for, including: decreased productivity, difficulty coping with change, reacting out of proportion to a situation, an increase in significant events and a rise in an individual's use of alcohol or medication. 

There is a myriad of information about stress and GPs how the indications of stress can be compounded by doctors' personality traits and the common belief culture of clinicians that they should be flawless and make everyone else 'better'. We need to look after ourselves and each other in ways with which you will all be familiar.

The ways of doing that are easier to address once an issue has been admitted to:

  • Register with a GP (not one in your own practice if you can avoid it) and seek their help not as a 'doctor' but as a 'patient'.

  • Share problems with family, friends and colleagues - it is OK to admit to feeling vulnerable, you are human- just like everyone else.

  • Create some 'me time': space for yourself pursue other interests and protect that time.

  • Establish boundaries - you do not always have to say 'Yes', learn to say 'NO'.

  • Seek help early if you begin to recognise you are displaying some of the symptoms you look for in your patients.

  • Consider all options of support.

There is a tendency to feel that we are admitting to being a 'failure' if we ask for support. Quite the opposite is true the earlier you seek help or advice, the greater the opportunity to minimise the situation and maximise the recovery. There are a number of routes available:

Devon LMCs Pastoral Support Network

A team of colleagues based around Devon who are available to provide professional and personal support to GPs facing challenging times. Email: 

hannah.baxter@devonlmc.org

Sick Doctors Trust

For help and advice regarding addiction. The Trust was established in 1996 by a group of doctors who were themselves recovering from addictions and provides a confidential helpline service 24 hours a day.
www.sick-doctors-trust.co.uk Tel: 0370 444 5163 (24 hours)

Support4doctors

Online portal of information for UK doctors and a project of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund (registered charity 207275).
www.support4doctors.org Tel: 0208 545 8443

GP Coach

Providing support in a variety of areas, including Practice Issues, Managing own and others behaviours, Personal Insight and Reflection. Visit www.gpcoach.com or view the flyer for more information.