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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Tips on making the most of your consulting room

You don't need

feng shui to improve your working environment, says Dr Jason Twinn

ake a look around. What do you see? Is your consulting room the picture of tranquillity and organisation, is it warm and inviting, or does look more like chaos theory meets Brownian motion?

It never ceases to amaze me how we can spend so little time, money and effort on our own consulting areas, when we arguably spend more time in that one room than we do in our (painstakingly decorated) home sitting room. Failure to pay attention to our working environment may increase stress and decrease pleasure and reward from our jobs. I don't want to sell myself as a TV makeover guru, but I can't help think we could do so much more to make our working environment pleasant.

Questions to ask yourself

Take, for instance, your desk and computer workstation. Is it comfortable, or do you have to contort yourself to type and consult at the same time? When you spend a lot of time in front of your computer do you feel your back and neck ache? It is worth investing in a decent desk and chair, or even bringing in an ergonomics expert to appraise your whole practice to see what improvements can be made not just for you, but for all your staff.

One way of creating a much bigger desk without actually buying one is to invest in a flat screen monitor. You can now pick up a decent

15-inch screen for little over £200. It might sound like a lot but it is unlikely to be an expenditure you will regret.

Your workstation is more than just a nice armchair and somewhere to rest your coffee. There is, of course, the business side. Is there a place for everything? Is it tidy? Are phone numbers, reference books and all the forms you need close to hand and well stocked? Not only does it make you look better, it can cut down your consulting time if you are well organised.

Creating the ambience

Think of spending some time on the ambience of your room. Are there plants? Is the decor in good condition or is there a desperate need for a new coat of magnolia? What about lighting? You might need or want a glaring fluorescent light for consulting, but that doesn't mean you can't have something softer for reading by.

It might not seem necessary right now, but having some sort of temperature control, even a portable air conditioning unit during the summer months, should leave you feeling dry, cool and calm when the weather gets steamy, while all about you lose their heads.

Eliminating noise pollution

Noise is one of the biggest curses. You can eliminate some but not all.

If there is a 'do not disturb' button, use it ­ whether at lunchtime when you are not on call, during surgery, or when you have stay behind to catch up on paperwork.

If you tend not to go home at lunchtime when all your partners do, you will find phone calls put through to you just because you are there. It is amazing how calls disappear if you make yourself unavailable.

Each interruption might only be minor, but they can add up after weeks and months to become a major irritation. If you can't cut noise out, you could shut it out with music.

Consider getting a radio, or using the NHSnet to its full potential and listening to the radio online, or using the CD player on your computer to play music.

One GP I know has recordings of water and bird sounds that he plays to help relax.

Environmental awareness is

not just new-age claptrap

I think it is important to emphasise that I am no feng shui expert, neither am I meticulously tidy, in fact the opposite. But if the advice we dispense is good enough for our patients it is good enough for us.

Likewise we should not consider ourselves immune to any benefits gained from improving our environment or harm from ignoring it, even if it does sound like a load of new-age claptrap.

Okay it isn't going to transform general practice from a high-stress job to a low-stress one, but any improvement, however small, is a step in the right direction.

Is your consulting room warm and inviting, or does it resemble chaos theory?~

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