No matter how tough we think we are, there are times when all of us will suffer physical or emotional issues, or both.
While many thought that 2021 would close the door on the dramas of 2020, as we have seen, it’s not that simple.
As practitioners we’ve been intimately involved in the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to try and avoid it and control the spread. All while providing essential patient care.
We encourage colleagues to keep an eye on each other… At some stage however, some of us need to seek professional help or counselling
The ups and downs of COVID-19 have been astonishing and our work continues.
While many people reported that working from home reduced stress, eye care practitioners did not have such luxury. They toiled under tough conditions; masked all day with fogged up spectacles, in an atmosphere rich in alcohol/ disinfectant fumes and dermatitis from too much handwashing.
Some lost their jobs, or worked reduced hours then later were swamped with work. Practice owners experienced the initial shock of massive turnover reductions followed by cash flow improvements due to JobKeeper and increased patient numbers in the second half of the year.
Many have had to deal with noncompliant, rebellious conspiracy freaks.
One colleague told me, “I had to deny service to a patient who refused to wear gloves or a mask or use hand sanitiser. My staff were not feeling adequately safe and protected. The patient sprouted various conspiracy theories and explained to me how viruses work (because she had a PhD in unrelated sciences). Apparently, the coronavirus is all about good versus evil. I was also infringing her ‘sovereign rights’ by asking her to wear a mask. I regretfully declined to look after her. She may show up on your doorstep. Her name was not Karen.”
Alongside the pressures of work, there have been incidences of family, friends, colleagues, staff and patients contracting the disease. Some seem to have fully recovered, while others remain incapacitated after weeks in intensive care, requiring ongoing remedial therapy. The inability to travel to see loved ones has been heart breaking.
Not to mention death.
LIFE GOES ON
Of course there are many other stresses in our everyday lives that can play on our health and emotions. Work-life balance, relationships, financial stress, chronic illness and more take their toll.
In practice, compliance with continued professional development (CPD), ethics, registration and clinical standards also have an impact. The threat of potential complaints and medico-legal issues are often back-of-mind.
PEARLS OF WISDOM
With all this in mind, I asked long-time colleague, now life-coach, Sonja Cronjé to share a few insights into stress and burnout. As a former optometrist, Sonja has intimate knowledge of our situation. She has also worked in a variety of settings, including University of New South Wales, the International Association of Contact Lens Educators, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology and as a senior executive and chief executive officer of medical not-for-profit associations.
We encourage colleagues to keep an eye on each other, offer a shoulder to cry on or someone to speak to
Sonja told me, “Burnout does not always lead to a diagnosable mental disorder1 requiring psychiatric or psychological support, yet it can significantly impact quality of life and affect patient care. Just as business executives employ professional coaches to support them in achieving work-life balance and other goals, some health care providers may benefit from partnering with a coach.
“Coaching has been shown to be effective in preventing burnout and improving the wellbeing of medical professionals.2 It may be especially beneficial during times of transition, such as preparing for exams, taking on non-clinical or leadership roles, buying or selling a practice and approaching retirement,” she said.
With recent changes to optometry CPD in mind, it was interesting to hear Sonja say, “The Medical Board of Australia recognises the value of coaching, having included ‘Executive coaching and mentoring’ as an option under individual learning activities in its proposal for a revised CPD standard for medical practitioners”.3
We encourage colleagues to keep an eye on each other, offer a shoulder to cry on or someone to speak to. At some stage however, some of us need to seek professional help or counselling.
If in need of crisis support, please contact:
- Lifeline Australia (24/7) – Call 13 11 14
- Lifeline Aotearoa (24/7) – Call 0800 LIFELINE (0800 54 33 54) or free text HELP (4357)
- Beyond Blue – Call 1300 22 4636
- Baigent M & Baigent R. Burnout in the medical profession: not a rite of passage. MJA 208 (11) j 18 June 2018. doi.org/10.5694/mja17.00891
- Dyrbye LN, Shanafelt TD, Gill PR, Satele DV & West CP. Effect of a Professional Coaching Intervention on the Well-being and Distress of Physicians: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med 2019; 179(10):1408- 1414. jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/ fullarticle/2740206
- Draft revised Registration standard2019, www.medicalboard.gov.au/documents/default.aspx?recor d=WD19%2f29290&dbid=AP&chksum=G16XLxTLUhuUR %2ba5ensmAg%3d%3d