Looking After You Too Case Study: Fiona – Former GP, now working as a GP Mentor

Role and Context

Fiona was a senior partner in a GP Practice in the Southeast of England where she had worked for 23 years. Alongside her clinical duties she held additional roles as a GP trainer and a GP Programme Director. In April 2021 she retired, two years ahead of her planned retirement. In the years prior to Fiona’s retirement, several longstanding GP colleagues had retired from the practice and Fiona found herself the most senior amongst a team of less experienced GPs who held differing views on how best to run the practice. 

Challenge of Covid-19 on own wellbeing

Covid-19 arrived at a difficult time for Fiona, personally and professionally. In the months prior to the pandemic she was diagnosed with a chronic lung condition which later proved to be the result of an immune condition. At the same time Fiona's husband was diagnosed with a complex heart condition that required major surgery and made him vulnerable to the virus. In accordance with Government guidelines and to protect her and her husband’s health, Fiona decided to work from home throughout the pandemic, a decision her GP partners were not happy with. As the practice’s lead on responding to Covid-19, her already busy workload increased. Fiona felt enormous pressure during the pandemic and found herself working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week alongside her caring responsibilities for her husband. Managing this workload alongside increasingly challenging relationships with colleagues was ‘emotionally and physically exhausting’ and in retrospect Fiona feels she was suffering with burnout. 

After a fall resulting in facial and arm injuries, Fiona felt completely overwhelmed and decided to access the coaching service on the recommendation of a friend. During her first coaching session, Fiona and her coach agreed that she was not well enough to be at work, and subsequently she was signed off. She went on to receive eight coaching sessions delivered by two different coaches. 

“Coaching was an empowering experience…It wasn’t some helping me, instead they helped me to help myself

 

How Looking After You Too coaching helped

For Fiona, the coaching provided a space where she could talk about her experiences of work openly and be met with empathy and support. The coaches that she worked with provided her with a wide range of resources including books and podcasts to help support her in connecting with her emotions. They gave her techniques to manage specific challenges she was facing regarding work, which included connecting with GP colleagues outside of her own practice with similar life experiences which helped her cope with her feelings of guilt and vulnerability. Fiona's coaches helped her overcome the anxiety she was struggling with when interacting with colleagues by providing her with breathing techniques and communication strategies to take into difficult meetings with partners. These helped her to face challenging conversations towards the end of her work as a GP. 

The coaching also had a significant impact on Fiona’s life outside of work. The improvements in her mental health helped her to feel better in her personal relationships. 

“I now think in a completely different way.  I go into social relationships and interact with my children and husband in a different way.  It’s just been a complete revolution in the way that I live my life.” 

After several difficult meetings with partners at her practice, Fiona decided to hand in her notice and did not return to work as a GP. Her coach helped her cope with this difficult transition and provided career advice and support, leading her to become a mentor at the Royal College of GPs. She is now also training to become a coach herself, having been inspired by her experience through the Looking After You Too service.

Impact of the coaching

Coaching has had an ‘enormous’ positive impact on Fiona's life. Her coaches helped her to support herself through an incredibly difficult period of her life and career. Having had some experience of mentoring prior to engaging with coaching, Fiona feels that the coaching has also helped her to become a better mentor.

“I’m less directive than I used to be, I tend to try and empower the doctors to help themselves…I think it’s the coaching that has changed me to be more empathic, to listen better, to try and see things from the doctor’s perspective.”

Fiona does not feel she would be able to do her current work had it not been for her experience with the coaching service. She describes herself as being ‘blown away by the quality of the service… the empathy, the humanity of the people… they were incredibly skilled and competent’.

“I feel so fortunate that I was able to access it completely free, exactly when I needed it…it was a life changing experience for me.”