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Leading in a pandemic: Flogging dead horses

Satpal Shekhawat is a GP partner in North Lincolnshire and Medical Director for North Lincolnshire CCG. He is on Twitter: @shekhawatgp

Each morning when you enter your practice building, you see colleagues, emotionally fragile and physically tired, trying to muster a smile as they wish good morning to you. Consubstantial to them, you make an extra effort to look and sound energetic as you smile and rush to your clinical room, bracing yourself for the long day ahead. I am sure this will resonate with many of you, working across the health sector, but have you even had time to sit and reflect on what our teams are enduring? How embedded is the psychological safety in our organisations, as it would impact on people feeling safe to share their feelings or fear that their burnout will be viewed as a failure.

As GPs we are trained in identifying non-verbal cues, but in last two years, how often have we noticed the distress signals emanating from our teams?

The internal war of bearing the responsibility to look after our patients, understanding their frustrations and tolerating their anger because of long delays in the care they receive versus making radical changes in how we work so that colleagues can be given manageable workload to minimize burnout is a daily occurrence. As GPs we are trained in identifying non-verbal cues, but in last two years, how often have we noticed the distress signals emanating from our teams?

In the last year, have you encountered or been aware of a member of your team crying or getting upset at a joke or remark made by another colleague? Have you wondered if you had said something to upset your colleague or have you felt that you are losing your compassion? We know that working relationships are adversely affected when a team is tired, yet we are in no position to reduce workload.

We know that working relationships are adversely affected when a team is tired, yet we are in no position to reduce workload.

The demand on primary care has been immense and, in my view, working hard is no longer the answer. It is time to recognize that productivity and quality of service is far better when the team is refreshed, motivated, and engaged. Team leaders need to consider what is realistic workload and what is deliverable and then work with their team members to implement change. Trying to flog dead horses is not going to bring a positive outcome, it is time to focus on wellbeing of our teams and working towards achievable goals rather than setting ourselves for failure. I strongly believe that the time has come to put our own oxygen mask first, before we help others and for primary care to practice what we preach, ‘quality over quantity’.

 

Featured image by Isaac Wendland on Unsplash

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