Starting as a GP partner: Working with the practice team and your CPD

In the third part of this three-part guide, Dr Tillmann Jacobi looks at working with the practice team and professional development as a new GP partner.

Your main focus is to initially adapt to routines and build rapport with co-workers (Photo: iStock)
Your main focus is to initially adapt to routines and build rapport with co-workers (Photo: iStock)

The first two parts of this guide discussed the challenges faced by GPs starting work in a GP partnership, including the local setting, and dealing with clinical staff and patients, and working with the other GP partners to make the partnership a success.

The information in this guide is best used as a template or a checklist that can be adapted and then revisited on a regular basis to check how you are getting on and help you identify possible areas to work on as you go forwards.

This part of the guide looks at working with the practice team and understanding your role as a partner, plus provides some advice on CPD and personal wellbeing.

The practice team

Getting to know the team

  • Your main focus is to initially adapt to routines and build relationships and rapport with co-workers, and basically assimilate their ways of working. Blend in quickly, break the ice and reduce potential anxieties or apprehensions.
  • Introduce yourself to everybody at an early stage, possibly with an introductory email giving a basic outline or profile about yourself. You could even consider a brief video clip of yourself if the practice is large or has multiple branches - 30 seconds is plenty of time. It’s generally best to avoid social media for this.
  • Try learning names and a few personal facts about everybody first hand. Consider taking a few brief notes as appropriate, but not in a way that is intrusive to others.
  • Work out the dynamics through your own observation and asking or exploring, not by listening to gossip.
  • Spend time in reception, for example to sign prescriptions (but do not get in the way). This will enable you to see the image that the practice displays to the community and show that you are present and available for the team.
  • Where you can, use face-to-face communication with colleagues rather than email, because it often is much better and even quicker.

Managing and employing staff

  • As a partner you are now an employer. Display your awareness of team spirit and show your appreciation and respect that everyone is doing their bit. Ensure that individual or team achievements are recognised, praised and possibly rewarded.
  • Never flirt, charm or intimidate within the practice team; all of these can, and possibly will backfire somehow some time.
  • Be cautious about the risk of trying to be the 'good guy' if you enter situations of old tensions within the organisation.
  • Remember that you are a change for the organisation, which can be a challenge for some people. Reactions to you will rarely be truly personal.
  • Generally an 'open door policy' works well; if you find, you need to structure this to prevent getting landed with lots of interruptions, then do so, gently, clearly and fairly – perhaps bring it up at a partner's meeting.
  • Be respectful of everybody, regardless of their position. Ask questions and reflect on answers. Make sure you show your appreciation.
  • Show and maintain (if you can) your enthusiasm and creativity, with an element of humour and a relaxed, constructive attitude.
  • Learn the subtle unspoken rules of the team's dynamics by discreet observation.
  • Don't be available all the time in an attempt to please. Work to a structure and have boundaries, so colleagues get to know your routines and needs.
  • Avoid cliques, discourage gossip, stay neutral and objective whenever possible, and promote organisational values, goals and ethos. Being a partner is really a bit like ‘running’ a large family, if you want it or not.
  • If the practice employs salaried GPs, then value and help develop them, rather than falling into the trap of a hierarchy attitude.

Your place in the team

  • Not everybody is equally welcoming, but this does not mean personal likes or dislikes.
  • Don't assume that patients and colleagues will automatically respect you. You need to earn their respect, and maintain this.
  • Periodically check the quality of your delivery of administration tasks (for example, style, speed of letter dictation) with the respective team members. Adjust anything you can improve to make everybody's job easier.
  • Avoid causing chaos for anybody, be it in terms of tasks or actions, that could cause extra work or hassle for anybody else (this may include the tidiness of your desk or room).
  • Don't dump parts of your work on others. Ever. If you feel you need to, for example because of heavy workload discuss this proactively.
  • Don't overdo things, because this may be perceived as a kind of threat and put pressure on others.
  • Be friendly and polite, but do not reveal too much about yourself - this is your workplace, not your family or circle of friends.

Your professional development

Developing professionally

  • Find yourself a mentor/buddy within the practice or, perhaps even better, outside the practice (study group etc.); provide feedback about your induction experiences to the other partners and/or practice manager.
  • Ideally, you will be able to keep yourself interested, curious, motivated and stimulated in clinical and non-clinical aspects of work, to be able to effectively review routines and explore possible new options to grow on.
  • Consider reading some literature on leadership, management, self-development etc. from time to time.
  • You are likely to survive better and for longer in a GP partnership role, if you develop additional interests, skills, roles within the practice – or beyond (for example, teaching, mentoring, advising, voluntary work etc.).
  • Prepare early for what will happen after your trial period is over (if you have one).
  • Reflect consciously on yourself - your appearance, clothing, body language, communication, speech (tone, loudness, speed, clarity), habits and routines etc.
  • Mentally (not vocally) challenge everything, including yourself. Be mindful of assumptions or premature judgements.
  • Set your own priorities and to-do lists and share them as needed with your partners (perhaps not all at once).
  • Monitor how you are spending your time at the practice, and how other people spend their time.

Looking after yourself

  • Stay balanced in yourself and don't try to pretend to be a different personality from the one you really are.
  • Prepare mentally how you want to be in your new role (attitude, image, communication skills) and review this in intervals. Be kind and positive to yourself while you are adapting.
  • If you notice any signs for growing anxieties, stress, pre-occupation with work, difficulties switching off or letting go etc. consider some discussion and/or independent help, for example from your own GP or other resources such as the GP Health Service, your GP appraiser.
  • Don't compare your previous job with this one, positively or negatively - both can go wrong.
  • Be aware of your life situation, relationships and strengths, weaknesses or challenges. Are you single, do you have a young family, are you new to the area and at risk of social isolation?
  • Book your first holidays early (aim for one week off within the first couple of months of joining). Also understand possible bottlenecks for booking other holidays in the future (school holidays, Christmas).

Conclusion

Your main initial and continuing goal is to work effectively with other people in the practice in your new position and possibly to lead some of them at some point in the future.

Your behaviour from the day you start as a partner will ultimately determine how successful you will be at your workplace.

The ability to set and achieve personal goals on a continued basis is a key skill for career development at any level, and particularly useful in your first few weeks and months in a new job.

One goal could be to really personalise and extend the list in these articles and review it at regular intervals.

Read more: Starting as a GP partner
>
Getting to know your practice
> Ensuring the new partnership is a success

  • Dr Jacobi is a GP in York.

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