A Registrar Survival Guide - Managing stress at work

We are all familiar with stressful situations. As GPs, we advise our patients about them and, at times, also experience them ourselves.

In acutely stressful situations, you may find your judgment is clouded (Photograph: SPL)
In acutely stressful situations, you may find your judgment is clouded (Photograph: SPL)

Recognising stress
Stress is a natural response to certain situations. Some may thrive on this, whereas others may find it detrimental. Personality type will dictate how an individual responds to stress.

To be able to manage stress, we need to be able to recognise it among ourselves and our colleagues. This can sometimes be difficult.

Stress can present in a number of ways, including:

  • Increased anger.
  • Becoming short-tempered with colleagues and patients.
  • Irritability.
  • Inefficiency within the workplace.
  • Regular clinical errors.
  • Increased number of patient complaints towards a clinician.
  • Increased use of substances.
  • Development of significant mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and panic.
Essentials checklist
  • Ability to recognise stress in yourself and colleagues.
  • Ability to prioritise.
  • Time set aside for yourself, your family and friends.

Identify problem areas
Identify the areas of stress at work that could be a problem. Is there anything you could do to try to improve them?

Questions to consider:

  • Do you feel that you are seeing too many patients in a session? Can you discuss this with your trainer?
  • Is there a colleague you do not get on with? Why is this and is there anything you could possibly do to resolve this?
  • Do you lack knowledge in a particular area which frustrates you when patients present with this problem? How could you develop this area?
  • Is there a system in place at the surgery that you feel needs modification? Could you discuss this at the next meeting?
  • Do you feel like you are taking on too many tasks? Can you delegate?

It may be worth thinking of your own experiences and seeing what you could possibly do to try to improve a certain situation.

As a registrar, your trainer will be available for support and if you feel things are becoming difficult to manage then relay your concerns to them and a simple solution may be available to the problems being experienced.



Dealing with acute stress
In acutely stressful situations, you may find your judgment is clouded and as a result clinical errors could ensue. You may find yourself experiencing panic and anxiety.

Combat this with:

  • Deep breathing exercises – take a breath in, hold for three seconds and then a slow breath out over three seconds. Taking a few minutes to do this will allow you to focus and concentrate better.
  • Muscle relaxation exercises maybe useful.
  • Write things down and prioritise what is important that particular day.

It is important to maintain a good work–life balance. Make time for regular exercise, holidays, and hobbies.

If despite these measures the problems remain then it maybe appropriate to seek help from a healthcare professional or undertake counseling.     

  • Contributed by Dr Pipin Singh, a GP in Northumberland


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