A registrar survival guide... managing interruptions

The speed and the volume of patient consultations during a routine day in general practice can make any interruptions very difficult to manage. By Dr Pipin Singh

Interruptions can include patient queries, patient reviews, drug queries, prescriptions to sign, results to action or queries from other allied health professionals.

You must be fully prepared for these. The outcome of a badly managed interruption could lead to a significant event.

Remember, interruptions are common and can be as important as a consultation.

Stay calm
You are likely to have to make quick clinical decisions. Being calm and composed will avoid mistakes happening. If you feel challenged, take a few minutes to compose yourself. You will work much more efficiently.

Do not feel pressurised
It is important not to feel pressurised into doing something that you are not capable of. For example, signing a prescription for a drug that you are not familiar with.

A lot of queries deemed urgent can often wait. A common sense approach along with experience will help you decide when to do things. It may be helpful to keep a list.

Document events as they happen
It is important to make a note of events as they happen. Be safe and remember that you have to be able to justify any decision made, whether under pressure or not.

Be polite
No matter how busy you are, try to deal with each interruption politely.

Essentials Checklist
  • A sense of calm.
  • A polite manner.
  • An ability to prioritise.
  • A to-do list.

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