Looking After You Too Case Study: Part-time GP Partner
Role and Context
The GP Partner works in a practice with ten Partners. The surgery serves twenty-six thousand patients across a small town and its surrounding villages. Having been a GP for over seventeen years, the Partner is heavily involved in the leadership of the practice and is the surgery’s lead for nursing. In the past they have been responsible for teaching trainee GPs in the area. The GP Partner currently works three days a week, with one of these usually at home.
In late 2019 they experienced a decline in their mental health and sought treatment from the Practitioner Health Programme. After realising they were suffering from burnout, the GP Partner took two months off work to focus on their treatment. The programme helped them to establish coping strategies (such as exercising) and helped them to set boundaries between their home and work life. The treatment also helped them to identify the negative impact their teaching responsibilities were having on their mental health, leading them to move away from their teaching role.
The GP Partner returned to work in March 2020, immediately prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. They found the challenging and fast paced work environment presented by the pandemic invigorating. Many of the ‘frustrating’ elements of their job (such as audits), that had previously been a source of stress, were lessened because of the pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, the GP Partner was responsible for driving new ways of working such as delivering remote consultations it was ‘a really exciting time to be a Partner in a practice’.
Challenge of Covid-19 on own wellbeing
Despite enjoying many of the changes made to Primary Care because of Covid-19, the pandemic did pose some challenges for the GP Partner. They were required to home-school their children, and as their partner also worked for the NHS, this became a challenge with the resulting increase in NHS staff workloads.
Managing colleagues at the practice also became increasingly difficult, as the shift to homeworking for most staff left those continuing to work in person within the practice feel that they were working harder than their colleagues and in riskier environments.
The GP Partner became aware of the coaching service through a Facebook group for GPs. Having had such a positive experience of the Practitioner Health Programme, they were motivated to discover how coaching many also benefit them.
“It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, but I'd had such a such a benefit from the therapy [via the practitioner health programme] and I just thought whatever they offer me, I'm going to take it… It did seem like it was more aimed at properly looking after us.”
How Looking After You Too coaching helped
The GP Partner found it easy to talk to their coach straight away. They were pleasantly surprised by how personal the coaching felt and was grateful for the genuine interest the coach showed in their wellbeing.
“It didn't feel like it had the aim to get me working more or harder or for longer. It really did feel like I was a person and not just a number on a rota – probably for the first time in my working career.”
Their coach helped them to understand how engaging with their emotions could help them to process some of the more difficult aspects of their work. The GP Partner’s coach helped them realise what the negative impact on their mental health could be if they did not take the time to process some of these challenges.
“I think a lot of what we talked about was just allowing emotions. Which is not something I'm terribly good at…we talked about allowing yourself to myself to be human I guess, and to be sad… and not to expect to just clamp it all down and get on with the job.”
Through the coaching sessions, the GP Partner realised how difficult they found it to relax when work pressures were high. The coach helped them understand how this was linked to their constant drive to be ‘productive’ and ‘achieving’. Having identified their tendency towards this, the coach and the GP Partner worked together to realise that relaxation is as important an accomplishment as their work, and that it also takes effort to achieve. Reframing relaxation in this way has helped the GP Partner to allow themselves to have time off and time away from work.
Impact of the coaching
Having developed relaxation techniques with her coach, the GP Partner is now able to ‘switch off’ during their non-working time and feels rested when they return to work. The coaching has also helped them to cope with the more frustrating aspects of working within an organisation as large as the NHS. By taking time away from work to relax and recuperate, and by acknowledging some of the challenges within their working situation, the GP Partner feels more comfortable at work.