A good work-life balance remains elusive for around half of all GPs, with 70% saying it remains their main challenge, according to an RACGP survey.
The General Practice: Health of the Nation 2018 report paints a mixed picture for GPs, showing that just 52% reckon they have the balance right.
So, what are the driving forces affecting GPs’ work-life balance, and how can you improve your situation? Here are 5 tips to cope with the stressors.
1. Keep your hours down
The Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey from the University of Melbourne found that, on average, GPs work about 37 hours a week, well below the 50-hour threshold deemed “unsafe” by the AMA’s National Code of Practice. However, according to the RACGP, 46% of GPs work 40 hours or more a week, and 7% work more than 60 hours.
It’s not surprising to find that those who worked more than 50 hours a week were half as likely to agree that “the balance between my personal and professional commitments is about right” than those who worked less than 50 hours, according to the MABEL survey.
2. Set aside time to accomplish critical tasks
Although the vast majority (73%) of a GP’s working life is spent seeing patients, according to the RACGP report, indirect patient care, management and administration also impinge on work time.
Set aside blocks of time each day for the things only you can do, and that you need to do. By scheduling these tasks, you’ll reduce the stress associated with trying to “fit them in” to your day.
3. Delegate non-medical work to others
Is your medical degree being put to waste because, rather than practising medicine, you’re doing jobs that others could do on your behalf?
At work, ask administrative staff or practice nurses to step in where they can; at home, get a cleaner, gardener or child-minder to ease the load.
4. Stop adding “one more thing” to your to-do list
Daily patient care, administration, financial reporting, steering committees, advisory panels, CPD programs; not to mention partners, kids, and home and social life... the list of demands on a GP’s time can be endless.
Learn to say “no” to extra tasks that could overload your diary and add extra stress. Schedule your day’s and week’s tasks and stick to the schedule.
5. Watch your own health
Although doctors have higher rates of mental health problems and suicide than the general population, they take very few days off work.
The MABEL survey revealed that doctors took only 2.7 sick days a year, on average – despite the fact that more than 7% reported only “fair” or “poor” health in 2015. Only a third felt they had “excellent” health.
Schedule “me time” to practise what you preach to patients: diarise exercise, meditation and social activities you enjoy so that you will actually do them – even if it’s for only a short time each day.