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My anti-burnout strategy for the next five years

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The realisation that I have now surpassed my First5 years as a GP has been rather more significant than I anticipated.

Concluding my first revalidation a few months ago seemed an anticlimax, with no ceremony, brownie points or free pens involved. Instead came the prospect of completing a new round of PSQs and MSFs, with the resetting of the revalidation clock. It didn’t feel the same as the other five-year milestones of a ‘typical’ GP career - qualifying MRCGP, and five years previous to that, qualifying in medicine.

But whether our logs evidence it or not, we GPs are a naturally reflective bunch, and I find myself looking back to look forward. Am I now a ‘wise one’, set to mobilise with a more confident walk and a look of experience; to be considered a ’master of these dark arts’?

Reassuringly, life has continued as normal, and I have been cajoling my professional life into enthusiasm for the next five years. The frustrations of compliance can be mediated by the freedom of ambition, and this is my anti-burnout strategy for the next five years.

And I am lucky to work in an environment where enthusiasm is easy to target.

Working in a rural area, the scope of my job extends beyond the fringes of MRCGP-defined GP practice on a fairly regular basis: from providing advanced emergency care to being intrinsically, unavoidably (and often rewardingly) involved in the community in which we also live. From this can result a relatively haphazard approach to constructive development.

It is easy to flit between projects: there are so many challenges that offer the opportunity of improvement, that it can be difficult to screen out distraction in order to achieve focussed, well-implemented progress. For me, this five-year milestone has acted as an impetus to be a bit wiser - more strategic - in these areas.

I have always thought that five years of high-density clinical practice would be a solid trunk from which offshoots of interest in research, teaching and more could sprout. The truth, of course, is that five years have flown by, and with more experience comes even more awareness of the multifactorial complexity of health and wellbeing. More occasions for textbook anticipation to be wiped aside by the realities of everyday life, and the many unique and inspiring ways that our patients approach their health amongst everything else.

Some things will never change, and that’s not a bad thing.

Dr David Hogg is a GP on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. You can follow him on Twitter @davidrhogg


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Readers' comments (6)

  • While it is good that being a GP is just survivable at present, it is completely wrong that being a GP is such an endurance challenge in its own right.
    I hearily recommend all I know never to go into Medicine as life it too short!

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  • 5 down only 30 to go or? Plenty of time to burn out mate. Enjoy GP whilst it lasts though. I think I can vaguely remember feeling like you obviously do. I hope it lasts for you, it didn't for me. Good luck.

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  • I love the enthusiasm - but avoiding burnout does seem to depend on balance.
    My hints & tips would include getting a voice in LMC, BMA, RCGP - i.e. political - arenas:establish your street cred even if you can't afford the time to stand for election.
    Have a NHS interest which doesn't depend on the approval of TPTB(who will *always* jump on you if it advances *their* agenda) : I had GP IT (join the PHCSG and your systems NUG ;-)- but this may no longer be good advice:in my day, the FPC supported me:CCGs and NHS England won't.
    Guard your future financial position.
    Have interests outside your practice, and especially outside the NHS.
    Learn that you are not superhuman - learn the first word most kids learn - say "No" - and stick to it!
    Things were bad when I entered general practice - 1979: I think they are equally bad now - but different.
    Good luck - take care of yourselves - no-one else will.
    "Life is a joke, and all things show it.
    I thought so once and now I know it"

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  • I will be approaching the end of my 5th year this August and have started to feel the creeping shadow of burnout. Didn't realise it was happening until my appraiser asked me 4 times in my appraisal if I was burning out and said no on each occasion. I came out the meeting realising that I was. It was the apathy to work rather than anything really obvious.
    So am applying for the Rural Fellowship Scotland, am feeling excited about work again!

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  • I may be reading this wrong, but I think having the heading "anti-burnout strategy" for this brief blog is stretching it a bit. Change the headline! Sorry.

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  • 38 years after becoming a GP, even worse 42 years after qualification, the best advice I would give is to change track every 8-10 years. It re-invigorates you. I have worked in 3 different practices in England, Wales & now |Scotland as well as 9 years disability work. I have just started police work & am now nearly finished. Also get 2 labradors & take up fly fishing!!

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