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by Our manager in practice
18 January 2010

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Why getting the work/life balance right is no easy task in general practice

The latest blog from our undercover practice manager/partner of two surgeries …

Happy New Year to one and all!

I hope you managed a decent Christmas break and enjoyed New Year celebrations. I had a great time but then I was away and able to forget all about the practices, swine flu vaccinations etc.

As a manager/partner I had my first “sabbatical”, so have just returned after five weeks’ leave. Coming back has been something of a shock – both in temperature change and working instead of playing (last week I enjoyed the snow immensely when I was “playing” in it; negotiating with it to get to work is not so funny).

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? I made one, quietly to myself: to enjoy weekends and stop feeling obliged to work/guilty when I don’t work. But looking at the mountain of work awaiting my attention, I’m not sure how long this will last …

I think many of us push ourselves harder and harder to achieve the never-reachable target of keeping up-to-date and on top of all the work. This is certainly true of the GPs I work with, who continually stay later and later (or come in earlier). We really do need to consider quality of life more.

Of course, talking about reducing workload and improving our quality of life is easy – actually achieving it is something else. We have had many discussions on the subject. Inevitably these focus on employing more GPs/nurses/staff to cope with the workload, which of course will lead to a reduction in profit and partners’ shares.

Consequently, in the past this has meant that everyone squirms and decides to work a little bit harder and perhaps not employ anyone else just yet. Earning money is one thing, but if you’re working all the time to get it, when do you have time to enjoy it?

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Just before I took off on extended leave, we had the opportunity to employ a nurse practitioner, which we jumped at (surprisingly!). I then left them to it to devise how this new role in the practice would work.

Everyone is very positive about the effect of the new role – and now very concerned about the cost and how we are going to manage to continue to afford this person. So a key task now is to present the budget for next year – and reduction in profit – in a positive light.

However, I am determined that we all need to preserve some home life and I shall be pushing hard to achieve my goal, even if this means a few less pennies towards that next holiday. There have to be some ways of working smarter rather then harder/longer.

How about you? Do you feel you, and your GPs, achieve a good work/life balance? Do you have any recommendations you can share with us all? Or do we just have to bite the bullet and earn a bit less?

Of course, it may be all change come the election … but that’s another story.

Do you achieve a good work/life balance? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“As a managing partner in three practices, my work/life balance is a constant struggle and I find myself working well over 50 hours each week, not including the work I do from home. I agree with the comment about GPs working later and deciding to do more instead of further clinical employment, however we too have just taken on a nurse practitioner and I am pinning all my hopes on this for a reduced GP workload! The practice management role is changing rapidly and becoming more unachievable” – Jay, location withheld

“Work/life balance is something we all struggle with, apparently am part-time (supposedly working 25 hours a week), however with the ever-increasing demands of practice management this is never achievable. When I am at work I feel guilty I am not with my two-year-old little boy and vice versa. Within this job I sometimes feel work/life balance is a dream rather than a reality” – Amanda Lloyd, Telford

“Given the forthcoming changes in the tax and pension relief schemes it actually makes sense to earn slightly less for many GPs as any income above a certain level will be taxed at 100%, and it has to be said the number of those who go to their death  beds thinking ‘I wish I had spent more time in work’ is almost certainly outnumbered by those who wish they had spent more time with their loved ones!” – Name and address withheld

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