Making the transition from a GP trainee to an independent practitioner can be daunting. The day after completion of training, all of a sudden new GPs are let free into the working world and have lost that support of their GP trainer and the program directors from their vocational training scheme.
This article hopes to provide doctors with some practical tips and tools to ensure their wellbeing during this often-unstable phase.
The concept of wellbeing describes feeling good and functioning well. In essence this includes experiencing happiness, enjoyment and satisfaction, but also sharing good relationships as well as having a sense of control and purpose in life.
Completion of training can often coincide with significant life events, some people may get married, have children or move house. You may also be making decisions about your future career path so it is a usually a busy time, and one of potential stress.
Tips to promote wellbeing
Simple steps to maintain and improve daily lifestyle choices should not be forgotten (just like we advise our patients). Specifics such as eating healthily, exercising, having a good routine in the evening and sleeping on time are a few examples.
Allowing time within a day to reflect on personal feelings and behaviours are important. Thinking about Dr Roger Neighbour’s ‘housekeeping’ reminds us to look after ourselves. We need to be in good physical, mental and emotional shape in order to give patients the best care possible but also to give our loved ones our best.
Having one or several hobbies allows a change of environment away from work, whether it is sport, playing music or spending more time outdoors. This encourages interaction with others or concentration and immersion on something other than medicine.
By the end of ST3, trainees will have a fair idea of workload and demands within general practice. It is important to have an idea of how many clinical sessions you want to take on so they you don’t feel overwhelmed. It is useful to leave sessions within the week either to catch up on administrative tasks or indulge in other non-clinical portfolio opportunities, or even find the time for extra-curricular activities
The importance of networks
Solidifying a social network is really important. This should be done within work (to ensure that people who work around each other are supportive) and out of work (having a good friendship circle can offer support when most needed).
Setting up a local meeting to discuss difficult cases (almost like Balint groups) or creating a WhatsApp group between like-mind professionals for similar purposes can be beneficial.
Many new GPs set up a ‘young GP group’ with others who have recently completed training. These meet on a regular basis and, as well as providing ongoing learning opportunities, they can offer valuable support as you make the transition to independent practice.
Finding a mentor can be highly valuable. This will probably be someone who you admire or look up to - they might be an experienced GP and therefore have wisdom of experience. They can challenge you and your ideas and suggest ways of improving your practice in a directive but supportive manner.
Joining a local RCGP faculty is a great way to meet local GPs. It also offers an opportunity to get involved with any local conversations that are contributing to the future of the profession. The faculties are made up of aspirational people and most people would agree that they provide a ‘family’ atmosphere.
Find time to rest
Due to the pressures and stress of general practice, it is also important to find some way to rest the mind and body. There are different ways of achieving this like yoga and meditation classes or by using phone apps that promote mindfulness, some popular apps are ‘Headspace’ or ‘Calm’.
There are also various organisations that can help should you find that you are struggling to cope and this is beginning to have a negative impact on your work and home life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you find yourself in this position. Support organisations may vary between the devolved nations, but there is a comprehensive list here.
Due to the increasing pressures on general practice and the often overwhelming transition period from GP training to qualified GP, ensuring continual GP wellbeing and maintaining a good work-life balance is paramount.
- Dr Kotecha is a GP in Gwent, South Wales