Question: I’ve been a GP for 10 years and have always enjoyed serving the local community but recently I’ve been starting to feel burnt out by long hours and unnecessary paperwork. Is this just how it is everywhere or can I get a better work/life balance whilst offering great patient care?
Andrew Dean says...
I think the obvious answer is, not necessarily… Before you start the process of looking for a new position, it is really important to look at the factors influencing your potential decision to move on. Where does the boredom stem from? If you feel that you are not getting the opportunity to develop clinically, or to progress within the surgery – are these things that you have discussed with the team? Have you given your current employers the opportunity to make the necessary changes that will rectify the situation?
However, if you are experiencing long hours, an unmanageable number of patients per session and unnecessary amounts of paperwork, this is certainly not the case at every GP surgery. Every practice is tackling the challenges affecting primary care in a different way. If you do start the process of considering different options, and these are the factors that are negatively impacting how you feel about work; you need to understand how prospective practices are tackling these things.
Some of the key things to look out for:
A well-staffed surgery
- This is pretty obvious, but you want to make sure that there is a good ratio of clinicians versus the list size
- How does this translate into the number of sessions that the practice runs per week and how many patients will you see per session?
Diverse clinical team
- This can be very important, especially within larger surgeries and most GP surgeries have had to employ a diverse skill mix because of the shortage of GPs
- Nurse practitioners can be a massive boon to a GP surgery, focusing on areas like minor ailments and contraception; meaning that the GP’s time is freed up to focus on more complex patients
- Nurse practitioners, paramedic practitioners, physician associates (and equivalent) are often used in a triage led system; filtering patients appropriately, before they see a GP, which again can have a massive positive impact on workload and the relevance of patients
- Employing pharmacists will reduce the amount of paperwork that a GP sees, and massively improves prescribing knowledge and information at the surgery.
Efficient admin team
- When you a visit a surgery, the admin team are perhaps the first people you encounter; do you get a good first impression?
- Other things to look out for might include the use of read code scanners, or other team members that are focused on reducing the amount of paperwork that GPs receive
- How long has the practice manager been there? Do you get a good impression of them? If a surgery has a good practice manager at the helm, it makes a huge difference to the running of the practice.
These are just some of the key things to look out for when choosing a surgery that is going to provide a better work/life balance. Ultimately, your expectations and drives are unique; so identify the factors influencing the move and the variables that are important to you, and use them to find your perfect role!