A registrar survival guide... managing your emotions

GPs have a special relationship with their patients.

We see patients not as mere cases, but in the contexts of their environments and social backgrounds.

As a result, we take on a role that encompasses advocate, trusted confidante and physician. Although this can be immensely satisfying, it can also be emotionally demanding.

  • Talk to someone

It helps to share your thoughts with someone you know and trust. Having someone empathise with your experiences may help you overcome your anxiety. Seeing events from a different perspective may help you to rationalise and manage your emotions.

  • Utilise formal resources

There are several organisations dedicated to helping doctors during emotionally stressful times.

The BMA has a helpline for doctors who may need help or counselling, and runs a 'doctors for doctors' initiative. Trainee bodies, such as the RCGP associates in training committee and deanery trainee committees may also be able to help.

  • Have a life outside work

Take your mind off work and regularly spend time doing something completely unrelated to general practice and medicine.

Learning from your emotional reactions is important, but so is forgetting them and moving on.

  • Reflect and learn from events

Reflect on events that you have found emotionally demanding and consider ways of responding that are less stressful.

You could record these as reflective entries in your ePortfolio.

  • Consider taking time off

Taking time off should not be the first response to difficulties, as it could set a harmful precedent. However, time off may be worth considering if you feel 'burnt-out'.

Always talk to your trainer and deanery before considering any such move, and consider the implications for your training.

Contributed by Dr Hamed Khan, a GP registrar in south London

Essentials Checklist
  • Someone to talk to.
  • An ability to reflect and learn from your experiences.
  • A life outside general practice and medicine.
  • A knowledge of the formal support resources available.

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