Are you having a bad day? Or has the day just begun and you are struggling to face it – you know the ward is full but you have 8 admissions and no one knows where to put them. Perhaps you have 6 meetings lined up and you know that all will be challenging with little achieved. Or maybe you have a ward round then a clinic and you already have 50 unopened emails and no prospect of time to deal with them except when you get home later tonight. And on top of this your Dad is sick, or maybe your partner has just lost their job or your child is struggling in school. Sound familiar?
Very few of us come to work with absolutely no worries and even less of us find our days work problem free. We all react and behave differently to these stressors. Some thrive on them and perform even better than expected. Others struggle and this often becomes apparent from day to day. I know I struggle and often I don’t quite realise it but I do have a few ‘barometers’ that tell me things are getting bad. People say things like:
“You’re sighing a lot Ken”
“I heard you sighing from the end of the corridor”
“You’ve just arrived and you are sighing already!” (Sighing features quite a lot)
I saw you walking down the corridor and your head was low and your face was miserable. What’s up?”
“Ken, you were a bit short with them.”
And, probably most telling of all…
“Daddy, why are you so grumpy?” Sadly, sometimes said through tears.
Its when I hear phrases like these that I realise its time to take stock and focus on what really matters to me: my family, my friends and doing the job well, not rushing things and upsetting people.
I recently read a bit of advice from a psychologist. She holds a glass of water and asks her students how heavy it is. There is a range of answers but the point isn’t the absolute weight, its the fact that as she holds it longer and longer her arm begins to ache as the glass feels heavier. Ultimately her arm is almost paralysed in pain. Anxiety and stress are a bit like this. The longer you think about something the heavier it becomes until eventually you are paralysed. You need to put the glass down every now and again.
The reality is that working in the NHS is tough. We are short on doctors, nurses, beds and the patients keep on coming. Paperwork changes or the number of forms increase, new IT that seems to hamper rather than help, wards are shut due to norovirus or flu. GP numbers are so low that practices are covering ever increasing areas and more patients. The list goes on but it affects almost all of us.
So why this blog? Well it’s to ask us all to remember that it may not just be you having the bad day. It may be your colleague on the other end of the phone, or the other side of the bed or the other side of the table. They may in fact be having a worse day than you. If we remember this, are kind and considerate to each other and consider that we are actually all on the same team then it might make our day a little better. Random acts of kindness, however small, can make a difference: saying thank you, making a cup of tea, a smile.
At the end of the day it’s not just you or your colleagues who lose out. It’s also the patient and, chances are, they are having a significantly harder day than you!
Ken Donaldson is a Consultant Nephrologist and Associate Medical Director at NHS Dumfries and Galooway.