Resilience productivity, wellbeing training and coaching for people in high stress jobs
Can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your current role?
I’m Rachel Morris, I’m a GP turned executive team coach. I host the You Are Not A Frog podcast, and I also run an organisation called Wild Monday. We specialise in resilience productivity, wellbeing training and coaching for people in high stress jobs.
Can you tell us more about your podcast?
I started the podcast in September 2019. It was a way to share ideas and things I was reading about. I had become very interested in resilience and how we can be happy at work. How we can make good choices , are we really stuck in a job forever? Is it possible to change your job? Or to make a jobs better?
I called it You Are Not A Frog, based on the concept but if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and heat it gradually it won’t notice the heat and will boil alive. But if you put frog in a pan of hot water it would immediately jump out. GPs and doctors have been compared to frogs in boiling water. The job has got very difficult, it has got very stressful, a lot of people are burning out. But this has come upon them very insidiously. So, there is a massive pandemic of burnout in the medical profession.
You could take a very hopeless vision of that and think that there is nothing that you can do and you just have to put up with it, or you can say there are actually things I can do. It’s all about exploring what you can do yourself to make a change. This is where the whole concept came from. There are things you can do, but we don’t necessarily do them.
It can be that we don’t know what to do, we’re too frightened to do it, or we don’t have the tools or resources. So, I wanted to share that with people, and the podcast has grown massively. There is not a week that goes by without having somebody emailing me saying how helpful it has been when they have been going through a particularly difficult. At work and it has given them some hope and some strategies. So that’s really nice when I hear that.
I have all sorts of people on the podcast. Including doctors who have been through difficult things themselves, people who have written books about this topic that aren’t necessarily doctors, and people who I think have just got interesting ideas. We have done a series on complaints in partnership with Medical Protection. It’s fun as it allows me to talk to all sorts of interesting people and people seem to like it and really value it.
How do people recognise when things are getting on top of them?
I think they need to look at how they are spending their time at home. Are they spending time doing admin for work? Do they ever really switch off from their work? Are they dreading going to work on a Monday? Do they feel trapped, do they feel they have got no choice, do they feel that they used to enjoy their job but they’re not enjoying it anymore?
All of these are tell-tale signs of stress. How much time are they spending moaning about work?! How much energy do they put into moaning? Are they constantly exhausted? Are they taking time off work and still feeling exhausted? All of these are signs that things have probably crept up on you.
What inspired you to start your own podcast?
I have always enjoyed listening to podcasts myself. I wanted a way of sharing the things that I was reading, because I am part of the Red Whale Lead, Manage Thrive team. We did a lot of courses for GP’s and other professionals within primary care. I was coming across some amazing concepts that I hadn’t come across whilst I was a doctor but had come across in my reading.
I thought what is the best way of helping people quickly to come across these ideas that they might not otherwise come across? And I thought a podcast was a great way of sharing that. I also wanted to share a bit about the tools and resources that I was using. So, I decided to try it out and see if there was an appetite for it, it was a bit of an experiment but it’s been more popular than I thought it would be!
Can you tell us more about the shapes toolkit?
This is a series of tools that I use all the time. When I trained as an executive coach and when I trained as team coach, I suddenly came across these new concepts and principles that I had never heard of before. Things such as the drama triangle, zone of power and the circles of control. This included coaching models and neuroscience about how we reacted to things.
I was with a team who asked me to put together a package. After speaking to them I realised it wasn’t just productivity or conversations, it was a whole conglomerate of things. I found that there were seven very core principles we used time and time again, when I was working with teams, people would come back to these and it would be really helpful. So, I put them all together to form a whole toolkit. it’s all part of being able to work well and be productive and happy at work. We use this now to help individuals to be more productive. But also, the shapes are very tangible ways to have conversations. Managers can use them with their teams, they can use them in appraisals and conversation, they are very adaptable to a lot of different situations.
Can you tell us about the leadership training you do?
After training as a coach, I got involved with Red Whale. Helping them to develop, and presenting on their Lead, Manage, Thrive course. That’s all online now so you can view this online. I also do sessions based on aspects of the shapes. And I have recently done a Women in Leadership forum, I have been asked to run sessions on conflict and how you manage yourself in conflict with other people. I also do as session on ‘influencing without hierarchy’ which I think is really important, and something we struggle with, in medicine.
As well as the shapes toolkit and the resilience training, I also do sessions with other professionals looking at aspects of leadership where it intersects with those personal skills.
Why is this so crucial for people working in primary care?
Primary care is the backbone of the healthcare in this country. Without primary care we would be shafted! Without GPs and GP practices the NHS would not function, it would not work. The NHS has been chronically underfunded, under resourced, and undervalued. There is now an epidemic of burnout in Primary Care. We desperately need to look after our people and our teams, so that they can carry on doing the amazing job that they have been doing.
I think it is an incredibly difficult job. I think it’s an incredibly stressful job, as you are basically managing unlimited demand. You’re dealing with people who are ill and anxious; and who could often take out frustrations with their life or the healthcare service, on the primary care staff.
I think it is important in helping people to realise that they do have a choice, that there are things that they can do to make things better. It is not a case of having to ‘suck it up’ and doing what everyone else says you should do. If you carry on like that, and you are not looking after yourself, not taking time off and not saying no to things; you are going to burnout eventually because you do not have unlimited capacity. I think often doctors do think that they have unlimited capacity, that they can just keep going and they don’t need to take a break or refuel. But if they carry on like that, they will burnout, and it then affects their work, their family, their patients and their practices.
To have a really resilient and sustainable primary healthcare system, you need really resilient people. There is an awful lot that needs to change within the system as well. I think that’s also really important that we don’t go in and say that it’s all about resilient people and we forget about the system they are working in. Sometimes if we only focus on changing the system, that can be disempowering, because it takes a long time to change a system! You need to look at yourself, as well as the system. You need to be prepared to say I’m not going to do this like this, and this is how I’m going to do instead. It’s empowering people to make the changes that they need to make for themselves.
What inspired you to become a GP?
My father was a GP, so it was what I had grown up with. I worked every summer during medical school at my dad’s practice, to earn some money as a receptionist. So, I knew how it all worked and was very comfortable in that environment.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do as a doctor, so I thought that if I do GP training, if there was something that I preferred I could stop off on the way! And actually, there wasn’t something I preferred more, so ended up in GP and really enjoyed it at my GP training practice. I then got into medical education whilst doing that and really enjoyed the teaching and training aspect of it.
How has General Practice changed over the time you have been working?
It has got a lot busier. There is a lot more patient demand. Patients generally expect GP’s to be able to do anything and everything, and be there 24/7 for them. The roles within GP have changed from when I first started. When I started, I would see all the coughs, colds, earaches and pill checks. Nowadays, GPs don’t go anywhere near the pill checks. It’s now much more complex, you see much more complex patients. Patients with multi-morbidities, and there are more targets to achieve. You now no longer just have to worry about the patient in front of you, but also thinking about ‘have they got a recent HPA1C? Have we recorded their blood pressure? And we have all these targets to hit.
During the pandemic I was working with the COVID Clinical Assessment 111 service and so was not seeing patients face to face; but I know a lot of colleagues that are. Now, a lot of their work is online, with virtual consultations and telephone triage – so that’s massively different. When I first started as a GP, we didn’t even do telephone triage.
What are your hopes for, for the future of General Practice?
I hope it gets the funding it deserves. I hope that GPs are given the time that they need to deal with the increasingly complex patients that they see; and I hope that there is a recognition of that. I hope that the new roles are really understood by the general public, well integrated, and used well by GP’s.
I really hope that general practice continues to provide frontline service in the way that it always has, but also using everything that is now available, like the new technology. Also looking at work flows and actually making things easier for people working in primary care, so that they can continue to do the thing that they do best, which is looking after people.
What advice would you give to GPs and others working within Primary Care at the moment, who might be struggling with their mental health?
Firstly, admit that you are struggling and don’t think that just because everyone else is struggling, that it’s normal. Don’t think that if everyone else is burning out, you’ll burnout and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s better to get help sooner rather than later. This doesn’t mean that you would necessarily go off sick; you might get some coaching, or get therapy or you go to see your own GP, contact Practitioner Health or even just going to the pub with a friend and having a chat. It’s really important to say when you’re not OK. Recognising it means that you can then start to do something about it. If you carry on until you are on your last legs and you have to take a year off, is bad stewardship of what you’ve got.
I also want to emphasise the importance of community. A lot of GP’s feel very isolated, because they are they are sitting in one room all day! Where you are able to get together with colleagues and friends, where you can share issues.
Find out more from Rachel
twitter @DrRachelMorris https://twitter.com/DrRachelMorris
How can we help you find your next GP or Partner GP role?
At Menlo Park, we specialise in Primary Care roles across the UK. If you would like to find out how we can help find you the perfect GP or Partner GP role, contact us today!
You can speak to our friendly team by calling 0113 350 1308 or email [email protected]
Follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date with our news and articles!