As the saying goes; ‘You cannot pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first’. However, it is often easier said than done. For many of us, our lives are busier than ever, with the emotional, physical and financial stressors and strains of our roles and responsibilities pushing us beyond comfortable limits. And this is before we take into account the additional expectations we often place on ourselves too.
These words are never truer than in the medical profession. General Practice in particular is a high pressure, high expectation environment. The hours are long, the burdens unrelenting and the remit of responsibilities ever changing with the expectations challenging every ounce of GPs’ physical, emotional and intellectual being. It is no surprise then that so many GPs are exhibiting signs of ‘burnout’ (as characterised by the Maslach Burnout Inventory), with symptoms including lack of empathy towards patients, detachment, anxiety and depression.
To demonstrate this increasing level of GP Burnout and the effects it is having on the Healthcare system, evidence shows than 10,000 GPs left the profession in the last 10 years and more than half of the remaining GPs plan on leaving General Practice altogether in the near future! The result of this is that 2 in 5 GPs have experienced mental health problems and a study from the University of Manchester and Keele University found that Doctors with burnout are twice as likely to make mistakes, such as incorrect diagnoses or wrong prescriptions.
So with the impacts of burnout having a major impact on both GPs and, by association, their patients, what does this mean for the Healthcare System as a whole? The simple answer is that if things continue as they are, the situation will become both unsustainable and unsafe! This is because GPs will continue to leave the profession in vast numbers and those that stay will have increasing amounts of time off through ill-health, which in turn will mean fewer patients can be catered for and the treatment delivered will inevitably be at a lower standard as the pressure to do more with less continues.
So what’s the answer? We believe the answer comes from coaching. More specifically Medical Coaching, which is coaching specifically tailored for medical and healthcare staff such as GPs, Practice Managers and Nurses. Medical coaching is about having powerful conversations, asking important questions, reflecting on the responses and offering observation and feedback to support medical and healthcare professionals to find their own solutions to challenges.
Medical Coaching is about empowering GPs and allowing them the time and space to stand back, take stock, reflect, crystallise their thinking and work through challenges, in order to understand themselves better. In doing so, it helps unpick any unhelpful thinking patterns and self-limiting beliefs and instead adopt a more positive psychology. The result is that it helps GPs build resilience, self-esteem and self-confidence while reducing stress and anxiety.
No doubt you’re thinking that this all seems too good to be true, but over the past few years we have worked with over 900 GPs delivering more than 2,400 one-to-one coaching sessions and the feedback the GPs have provided confirms the improvement coaching has made not only to GPs but their patients too. In addtion to this great feedback, we also measure everything and have seen that after coaching, GPs report a 28% reduction in wanting to leave general practice, a 39% increase in job satisfaction and 42% said they had a better work-life balance, which all significantly reduce their risk of burnout.
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By receiving Medical Coaching, it supports not only the GP in regaining a sense of clarity and rediscovering their passion for their vocation, but has a positive impact within the practice dynamics, the establishment and sustainment of work-life balance, and importantly, the patients themselves. As well as the significant personal improvements achieved as a result of being coached, many of the GPs we work with also identify that the consultation process with their patients has dramatically improved too, which surely provides a win:win for everyone involved?