GPs on a mission for satisfaction

Has your practice got a mission statement? It should have, because it may help your mental well-being.

There are two types of mission statement. The first is little more than an advert: 'We aim to be the world leaders in widgets.' Statements like this are usually pompous and complacent and best consigned to the waste bin. They convince no one.

The second type of mission statement isn't for publication, but for the internal direction of the unit that adopts it. 'We aim to be the best designers and manufacturers of widgets in the UK, leaving others to promote their use.' This firm now has a mission statement against which they can test all new proposals: any clash implies that the project is probably not appropriate for them.

Used like this, a mission statement concentrates the managers of a business on its ultimate goals, preventing the organisation from being sidetracked.

We have a mission statement in our practice, acquired from elsewhere and then amended. The original talked ponderously about 'delivering primary healthcare to high standards while maximising profits' to which we added '... and to enjoy our work and fulfil ourselves personally and professionally'.

Thus we have at the centre of our practice the concept that, as professionals, we practise medicine in part for personal fulfilment and professional satisfaction. Our clinicians will want to develop interests and specialisms within medicine, as well as living a fulfilling life outside it. We have families, hobbies and friends, and need time for all of these.

If we find we no longer enjoy our work, we remind ourselves of the pre-eminence of our mission statement. This forces us to take stock, adopt different emphases and perhaps take on fewer duties, even if these might have improved the health of our patients or assisted the wider NHS. Our health and emotional well-being are more important.

A mission statement like this is the perfect antidote to being asked constantly to immolate ourselves on the insatiable altar of the NHS.

So when an ignorant do-gooder from the DoH or the primary care organisation devises unnecessary projects which encroach on our time, our direction or our dedication, we say firmly to ourselves - and to them -'We're not getting involved: it contravenes our mission statement.' This way we stay sane.

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