Practice Managers have an incredibly difficult, multi-faceted role where you can be expected to turn from counsellor to body guard at the drop of the hat. Most of us have a tool belt and box of tissues to hand at all times and an inner sense that leads you to reception to deal with Mr. Irate just before he starts his meltdown!
Resilience gives us the capacity to turn adversity into a possibility. It’s not just about the way we deal with life but the time and effort it takes to get over any stress or anxiety we are experiencing.
Even the toughest of characters can have their resilience challenged at times, and it has never been more important for us to have a cache of hints and tips to refer to when we need a little boost.
Looking after your own health
This is where it all begins. Nobody is able to fire on all four cylinders when they are tired or stressed so it really important to take good care of yourself. This may be healthy eating, getting a good night’s sleep or some exercise.
Most PMs I know, are workaholics – phone on, laptops at home, lunch at your desk, clocking up lots of extra hours – does any of this sound familiar? If it does then STOP!!! It’s vital that you take breaks regularly, book and take your annual leave, keep your laptop at work and switch off email notifications on your phone. We aren’t built to do these things, but a short hiatus from your practice can be just what is needed to re-charge your resilience battery.
Knowing your support network
Good mental health is equally as important as physical health. There are lots of ways of accessing mental health support – reaching out to professional organisations, speaking to friends and family, joining self-help groups/forums*, using applications for mindfulness and stress* or speaking to your GP.
*Examples – Calm, Headspace (who have a special offer for the NHS until the end of the year), Mind – Side by Side and mentalhealthforum.net. You can find many others by searching in your App store.
In our roles as PMs, we also have our “go to people” – usually fellow PMs, line managers, contacts that we have made at conferences and meetings and also people within our wider scope.
The NHS are beginning to recognise the need for additional PM support and there are now a range of courses and workshops to take advantage of such Coaching and Mentoring for PM’s, NHS General Practice Development Programme and offerings from groups such as the Practice Manager Association. The NHS programmes usually run on an annual basis and invites for expressions of interest are sent out a few months before launch. However, you can sometimes register to be notified when they are being released. You can also explore other options by searching HEE and the NHS Leadership Academy pages.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to be able to recognise that you need some support and seek it out.
It’s easy, when your resilience is being tested, to become quiet and insular, when in actual fact doing the opposite can be more beneficial. Finding the courage to admit you are struggling and talk to somebody about how you are feeling will allow you to gain some perspective and provide a safe environment to ask for help. What help looks like will differ for every person as each situation will be unique to them. This could be learning to say no, adapting a more flexible working pattern, delegating or taking time out.
As leaders, we also need to be able to identify when our colleagues or peers may be struggling and make sure they know we are there for them if they need us. We are fortunate to be able to access pastoral support from our LMC. This could be an informal peer coaching discussion, a confidential conversation with one of the committee members or subject to demand, a bespoke session created to cover a specific subject. Feel free to contact the LMC for guidance.
Positive Mental Attitude
When we are feeling a little challenged, it can be really hard to be positive. So, make sure you celebrate good things – positive feedback and thanks, successes – exam results, awards etc. or even just the weather!
Whatever you are facing, remember how fantastic you are at your job, know where and how to seek out support and remember that resilience is like a rubber ball – it soon bounces back!