Five steps to better working under pressure
You know the season of goodwill is well and truly over when you are faced with a packed waiting room of patients, a spike in cases of flu and norovirus with extra requests for home visits, and the deadline for submitting the practice’s tax return is looming.
If you or the other GP partners in your practice are struggling to keep up with the demand on access this month, Dr Sarah Coope recommends five steps to staying afloat.
1. Reduce personal stress
In my experience of appraising GPs, many struggle with time management. Think about how you can be creative with the time you have in order to be more efficient. For example, can you start your afternoon surgery a little earlier and have a couple of catch up slots in order to have greater chance of finishing on time? Are you getting distracted by the arrival of new emails constantly – would it help to only log-in at set times during the day?
2. Experiment with ways to improve access
If your appointments system is under strain, think about holding an open surgery mornings at times of high demand or when short-staffed, when patients sit-and-wait to see the first available GP. Other practices may temporarily reduce the number of pre-bookable appointments in order to free up more on-the-day slots. Do you have a system of triage for home visits, offering telephone consultations instead where appropriate? Use newsletters to inform patients about your practice appointment system and provide advice on management of self-limiting illnesses to hopefully reduce request for URTI consultations.
These are just a few ways to deal with strain on access; it’s worth asking for advice from colleagues either face-to-face or online about what works for them.
3.Catch up with your partners regularly
Regular practice meetings are so important but take time for informal meetings with practice colleagues. It’s very easy for GPs to develop a silo mentality but working in your room all day can leave you feeling isolated. Aim to develop the habit of getting together with other partners for a coffee at least once a day. It’s so valuable to be able to share concerns and difficult consultations with each other.
4. Build resilient relationships with colleagues
Disputes between GP partners or among other practice staff are time-consuming and stressful. Rather than avoiding the issue, which can lead to resentment and frustration, master the art of constructive confrontation. Describe the problem to the person concerned, empathise with their position, explain how you feel about it, and then make a suggestion for improving the situation positively.
5. Allocate key business areas to individuals
Agree that each partner will take responsibility for a department of the practice such as nursing, dispensary, finance, reception, etc. They go to the departmental meetings (and communicate back relevant information) and are the designated point of contact for those staff.
Discuss with partners how you can all delegate more effectively. For example, is there a receptionist or secretary who is able to identify and contact suitable patients for medical student teaching sessions? Or maybe another member of staff has the time and expertise to obtain the audit data you need for your appraisal.
Dr Sarah Coope is a GP partner in East Yorkshire and carries out GP appraisals. She is also an associate with professional development specialists, Healthcare Performance.