Working as a GP has always been stressful, but in the current climate, GPs are under a lot of pressure. They have to deal with difficult decisions while facing a lack of resources and intense time pressures. All this can test your resolve; it’s unsurprising that more and more GPs are reporting signs of burnout. We have written a quick guide to help you spot it and offer some tips to prevent it.
What is burnout?
Burnout is the phrase used to describe the state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have to take on a physically or emotionally draining role for a long period of time. Burnout is not something that will go away on its own with a good night’s sleep, the underlying issues need to be addressed properly to avoid the symptoms worsening. If you ignore the signs of burnout, then it can cause serious harm to your physical and mental health in the future. There is the possibility that you could lose any energy and ability to meet the demands of your job or role, creating a knock-on effect in other areas of your life.
What causes burnout?
There are several different factors that can contribute to work burnout, and it is important that these are highlighted in order to make people aware of the risks:
- Increasing workload – the average person now sees their GP over five times a year, and with the end of the pandemic creating a work backlog and an ageing population this is only going to increase
- Shorter appointments – because of the increase in workload, GPs are having to book shorter appointments to fit everyone in. This means that the quality of care delivered to patients has dropped, adding additional pressure to doctors and GPs
- Negative media portrayal – news articles claiming that GPs are overpaid and not performing well enough have cast a negative light, as well as adding pressure.
- Many GPs are reporting that patients are becoming more dependent on them rather than using other traditional support networks such as pharmacies.
- An increase in patient expectations and demands has led to an increase in complaints, which adds to GPs stress and workload.
General Practice has always been a demanding job, but with the pandemic adding to waiting lists, reducing the amount of people that can be seen in person and a rise in abusive patient behaviour the situation has become much more serious for GPs and practice staff alike. While this is a very general list, and you may find that there are other factors that are contributing to your burnout – it is a good place to start. If you understand the reasons why you have burnout, then you can help to treat the underlying causes.
What are the signs of burnout?
Recognising the early warning signs can help to take the correct steps to prevent burnout. The symptoms will include:
- Poor concentration and memory
- Fatigue, tiredness or insomnia
- Increased mistakes or indecisiveness
- Frustration or irritability
- Isolation or alienation
- Unenthusiastic behaviour
- Avoidance of phone calls and delegation
Burnout manifests itself as a range of physical and emotionally symptoms, and the combination of these can lead to serious behavioural changes including:
- Low work rate – you will find that you are slower in checking patients, carrying out procedures and making decisions. You may find that you are arriving at work earlier and leaving later, but increasing your workload
- Disappearing – many people with burnout detach themselves from their job and you will find yourself disappearing more often, for example not answering calls, unexplained absences in the day, arriving late and frequently taking sick leave.
- Rage – you may find that you are quicker to lose your temper and may experience bouts of rage, shouting and reacting poorly to certain events / circumstances
- You may develop an inability to compromise with those that you work with
As every doctor knows, prevention is better than cure and if these signs are spotted early enough (whether that be yourself or someone you work with) more people can be helped before they end up leaving the profession or becoming seriously ill.
What are the signs of burnout?
There are things that you can do for yourself to help prevent burnout, but there are also things that your practice can enforce to benefit and support all their staff.
Personal Prevention Tips
Learn to say no
An important step in managing your workload is to recognize your own limits and learn to say no. There may have been days where no matter how late you stay or how many times you work through your lunch you still cannot keep on top of your workload and miss requests. You need to remember to manage people’s expectations and take care of your own well-being – you are not a robot! It may be difficult at first and you may feel like you are letting people down, but it is not healthy to struggle on your own. More often than not, many managers do not realise that you are experiencing problems until you let them know, and the solutions are often easy to implement.
Find a healthy way to unwind
It is important that you make the most of your free time and think about something other than work. You want your free time to make you feel relaxed and rejuvenated, not watching a movie doing paperwork as this is not a proper break. Whether it is taking up a new sport, reading a book or meditation, make sure you find the balance between home life and work to give yourself the right head space required to recharge your batteries.
Value your time
If you are starting to feel burnt out then it is important to recognize your own limits and review all aspects of your lifestyle. Are you working too many sessions? Is that management poorly delegating? Are you taking on too much responsibility? All these things can impact your time off work without realising it and will make it hard to fully relax when you are away from work. Your time is important, and you need to input boundaries that will allow you to relax and recharge.
Find your passion
Being a doctor is a vocation career, and you need to remember the passion that you had when you first started. Once you find the reason and passion behind why you want to work again, it will help you to redress the balance, so you don’t take on too much stress from your work.
Be kind to yourself
You need to remember that you are only human – every day you get up and do your best. You are working in a profession where you make a difference to people’s lives every single day to those who need it the most, and you need to make sure that you are offering yourself the same service.
How Key Medical Services can help
We understand that GP burnout is a reality and mental health is under exceptional strain at this time. Our consultants will help to support you in any way they can. If you are experiencing difficulty, check out the NHS’s supportive portal: Our NHS People where you can find lots of online resources to support you at this time.
Our team of specialist consultants would be happy to get to know your goals, and help source the best opportunities that suit you.
Find your next GP position with Key Medical Services
If you are about to qualify as a new GP and enter the world of work in healthcare, our team of specialist consultants would be happy to guide you in this time. From offering career advice to providing support with sourcing assignments, they’ll be sure to help you find the best opportunities to suit you and align with your long-term goals. They will also help you to get your compliance levels up to 100% so that you never miss an opportunity.