Looking After You Too Case Study: GP Locum

Role and Context

The GP locum currently works half days at a practice in the South of England that covers approximately 16,000 patients. At the time of their coaching the GP locum was a part-time salaried GP (at the same practice they are currently working as a locum in) and was also a clinical director for the Primary Care Network (PCN).  Before becoming a locum, they were employed for five sessions at the practice, which ‘was taken up with squashing far more work into what I would call an average GP day’ and then mentioned they spent a weekend a month catching up on administrative paperwork and medication reviews.  In their PCN work, they described their workload as ‘just being on my emails or in meetings all of the time.’ 

As a GP locum they now still do a lot of telephone triage, and they see patients face-to-face when needed.  Alongside this they also have a GP educator role, which they enjoy.

Challenge of Covid-19 on own wellbeing

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, they admitted to being ‘petrified at the very start’, and for the first three months they ran the Covid-19 hot hub for the PCN, which involved checking updated guidelines, monitoring PPE, and providing clinical backup.  The hub was not very busy, so they returned to clinical practice.  More recently the vaccine role out has been ‘the next big stress’ but someone else in the PCN was recruited to lead that.

The pandemic did have an impact on their wellbeing because of having less socialisation with practice colleagues, spending more time on the phone, and the reduction of patient clinical contact.  They commented that patient demand has increased which also led to increased stress.

“Patient access is now too good on-line, and we are accessible and available for trivial matters…Our demand has now substantially increased compares to pre-Covid.”

The GP locum discussed ‘becoming increasingly stressed over the last few years’ and had some weeks of unpaid leave for burnout.  This was not solely because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the general pressures and workload that being a GP entails.

“General practice has been under huge pressure, and this has been increasing for years…I’m OK except when I think about work”

How Looking After You Too coaching helped

The GP locum had experienced coaching previously for leadership development purposes but not for their own wellbeing.  They recognised that coaching was a helpful tool and wanted expert advice about what would help them best in this situation, reflect on what their priorities should be, and to discuss how to manage clear handover of roles and to appropriately delegate roles.

“I recognise coaching as being a very useful way of stepping back and remembering why you are doing what you are doing and doing it in a way that suits you in the best possible way.” 

They found that in the coaching sessions, they were able to discuss a range of strategies about how they could get the support that they needed, and how to be assertive in situations when conversations were not progressing as expected.  The coach aided them in articulating what the main issues were, and where there may be key areas for change that could help improve wellbeing.  Importantly, the coach reminded the GP locum, that in meetings and in patient consultations, it was important to keep asking themselves, ‘what am I trying to do in this situation?’  and this question was now a ‘sticky note’ on their computer as a memory aid. 

“The coach was a really good sounding board.  It was enforced reflection which was very useful…The listening that the coach provides validates your musings and your thoughts and this then able to give them some structure.”

Impact of the coaching

At the time of the conversation, the GP locum had received 4 coaching sessions, and as a result had changed their working practices, which they felt has helped their wellbeing.

“The coaching has been a significant factor on the way to changing my working arrangements which has left me with slightly better wellbeing as it has removed some of the stress I was experiencing.”

The GP locum feels that the coaching has reminded them of the need to have clarity about what they want to be doing in their role, and the steps that are needed to achieve that.  It provided the space to ‘reflect and regroup’ after a particularly stressful period and they would participate in more coaching in the future to clarify future career decisions.

“I’ve not really used professionally provided wellbeing services in the past.  I think that it is brilliant that this is there.  It’s a very constructive way to deal with stress and I really appreciated it being available.”