Remembering the little things

Source: Practice Index By Robyn Clark

I don’t know about you, but December felt really tough in good old GP Land. Winter bugs were everywhere – and they still are! – impacting on our staff, and there were many more patients coming through our doors. People were trying to get excited about Christmas whilst also worrying about the cost of it. Now 2024 has arrived and people are still feeling under the weather but they’re also broke.

For me, though, the biggest downer has been the increase in patient abuse / aggression / microaggression. Is it just me? I had one week in December when I sent out five warning letters. I’ve only sent a total of 32 warning letters (including these) in the three years I’ve been at my practice! It’s had a real negative effect on my team as they’re only doing their best to help, in really difficult circumstances.

I’ve read many posts by fellow staff on the Practice Index forum, in the PMs’ Facebook group and in our IGPM WhatsApp groups about feeling under-appreciated, and some people are even thinking of jacking it all in. It’s got me thinking – why do we do the job that we do, day in and day out, knowing how difficult it can be? So I made a little list for myself:

  • We’re helping the majority of people who need help – even if a small minority think we aren’t
  • We support our teams, which has a direct impact on the quality of patient care that they provide
  • The job provides lots of challenges! But sometimes this is good – it keeps us interested, motivated and even at times excited
  • There’s a genuine sense of community in GP surgeries – each one is like a little family, which is amazing to be part of
  • We’re also a real part of our local community – and we know our patients would miss us if we weren’t there
  • It’s such a varied role that there’s always something new to learn, so I’m always developing my skills and knowledge
  • The team members appreciate me – they understand my job and how hard it can be

I then sat and thought about five positive things that have happened in the last few weeks, as a way to mentally counterbalance the warning letters I’d sent out:

  • It was my birthday on 20th December and my team decorated my desk and office with birthday paraphernalia so I had a really nice welcome that morning when I came into work (it certainly made working on my birthday more bearable!)
  • We had a lovely comment on Facebook from a patient who said how helpful we’d been for them all year and that we were the best surgery around
  • We were given an absolute mountain of chocolates / biscuits / gifts from patients over the course of the month (no HbA1c’s for the staff until the end of January!)
  • My Reception Manager organised her usual amazing Christmas activities – Secret Santa, charity raffle, Christmas jumpers – that really cheered everyone up and got them in the spirit
  • I let most of the staff finish early on 22nd December, and the Reception Manager and I stayed behind to cover. The look on the team’s faces when I told them they could go home early was wonderful.

On reflection, every single one of those positives had a much bigger impact on how I was feeling than the incidents that led to the warning letters. And I think that’s what my message for this blog is – make sure you take time to appreciate the positive things, no matter how small they might be, as they really are more important than the negatives.

Here’s hoping that 2024 has many more positives – and fewer warning letters!

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