As part of our new series on wellbeing, reporter Isabel Shaw asks Yorkshire practice manager Tracy Dell how she relaxes outside of work
To mark the launch of our wellbeing in practice initiative, which aims to shine a light on how practice managers can achieve a better work-life balance, we’ve been speaking to practice managers around the country to see how they do it.
Tracy Dell, a practice manager at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax, talks to Management in Practice about the changing landscape of primary care, the added stresses that come with that and how hard it is to switch off.
‘I do worry a lot about the retention and recruitment of clinicians,’ explains Ms Dell.
Her fears are warranted. A recent survey conducted by RCGP found that nearly a third of surveyed GP’s were planning on leaving their job post within the next five years due to stress and retirement.
‘I don’t think that’s just GPs, I think we’re also seeing that with the nursing team as well and the practitioners,’ she says. ‘GPs are retiring early, all while primary care is being stretched to meet the expectations and needs of patients. This includes including evening and weekend shifts and more resources, which we sadly don’t have.’
‘It’s difficult to stop working’
After 16 years in primary care, Ms Dell adds that the newly added pressures and stress of the role in recent years make it very hard for her to switch-off.
‘It is very, very difficult as a practice manager to stop working and switch off,’ she says. ‘We have to be constantly available, even during out of hours. And we often work through lunch and Sundays off are virtually non-existent.
‘It’s also hard because of social media if you’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, work-related stuff slips into your feed and you can’t help but look.’
One of her most successful methods of switching off and relaxing, says Ms Dell, is to have a ‘Nana Day’.
‘This is when I pick up my granddaughter from nursery,’ she explains. ‘I have to be there at a certain time to pick her up, which forces me away from my work. I love that time where I’m being Elsa from Frozen one minute, and I’m someone else the next all while bouncing around and dancing with her. That definitely helps me to switch off.’
Take a break
Ms Dell also stresses the importance of long holidays: ‘Having one week off isn’t often enough to unwind because your head is still busy with work. I definitely feel the benefit of a two- week holiday, I can actually start to relax during them.’
‘Getting a supportive network of colleagues is vital to a practice managers wellbeing’ adds Ms Dell. ‘I have a lot of friends who are also practice managers who are all very supportive and understanding.’
There’s also a shared responsibility of care in the practice between the medical and the management staff she explains ‘The GPs monitor our wellbeing because we’re always monitoring theirs, as well as everyone else’s in the practice.’
Ms Dell also highlights new building developments in the practice, which will prioritise mental health and wellness. ‘We’re creating a whole new space where staff members can go and get away from work. This is something we’ve never had before. The staff room was never big enough to house everyone as it was filled with clinical notes, which we’ve started to digitalise. Hopefully, the extra space will encourage people to go into the staff room more and use it as somewhere to relax.
‘Space is so precious for us and is normally used to provide medical services. It’s always [about putting] the patients first, but perhaps it’s a really good idea to put us, the staff, first sometimes. If we look after ourselves, we can look after the patients even better.’
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