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As a senior doctor you will have experienced changes in the past two years to the way you lead your teams and care for your patients, and not all of these changes are good.

The disruptions caused by COVID-19 continue and the impacts will be felt for a long time. The ramifications of managing teams with the threat of COVID-19 hanging over everyone’s head and political pressure to continually put yourself at risk by caring for patients with the virus take a heavy toll.

Mental health and wellbeing involving stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and burnout continue to be challenging for many.

It serves as a reminder that leaders need to look after their own health first, mentally and physically. If a leader is not coping well, then how can they effectively support their teams? We need to remember that everyone’s mental health is important, no matter their role.

As leadership continues to be a critical skill, it must evolve and adapt to circumstances and external influences, post pandemic. In this month’s article, we discuss how leadership has changed in medicine for senior clinicians and what it means to you and your teams.

Impact of remote teams and patient care

Before the pandemic, leadership was quite straightforward. During the pandemic, a whole plethora of unknowns meant that you had to be flexible, compassionate and more understanding of what your teams and patients were going through. You also had to deal with the unknowns about COVID-19 itself.

Post-pandemic, the challenges are not as extreme but there are still areas that may not be as clear-cut. Do you have staff who work remotely in a hybrid situation (some days at home, some days in the office)? Here are some aspects that need clear processes, communication and consideration:

·      Supporting your staff – do you have regular meetings where team members can raise questions and concerns related to their personal situation and to patient care?

·      Assessing their performance – how do you measure the KPIs for remotely-performed tasks?

·      Work hours – do you allow flexible start/finish times? Are staff permitted to take time off during the day for family matters and make up that time later?

·      Trusting your staff – do you feel the need to micro manage or do you trust your staff to do their job?

·      Leave allowances – has your company implemented changes to leave allowances as a consequence of COVID? Do you and your staff know what those changes are?

Looking after patients remotely was traumatic for many doctors because they felt there was an impact on their ability to provide adequate quality care. And while there can be some benefits, such as non-urgent consultations provided via video conference, many patients still needed a face-to-face consult.

Do you have remote patients? Here are some questions to consider:

–       How does it impact your workload?

–       What processes have changed?

–       How do you support staff who provide remote patient care?

Being a role model for teams dealing with change

As a senior leader, your teams will be looking to you for guidance and direction. Your empathy and listening skills will go a long way to helping your staff deal with stressful issues, both personal and work related.

Your teams will be watching how you respond to different situations. Directives from government, hospital executives, and other external bodies impact how you do your job. And while it can be stressful and depressing, especially when you cannot change the lack of resources, management support and workplace safety, your responses to those directives will impact your teams.

How do you present as a role model for your teams? There are a few things you can do, so that you do not bear the weight of healthcare issues:

·      Transparency – be open and honest with your teams about issues that you are dealing with in the workplace. Let them know what can and cannot being done to solve those issues

·      Fun – laughter (when it is appropriate) is known to reduce stress. Encourage your teams to have some fun at work, and make sure you join in

·      Meditation – also known to help reduce stress and anxiety. Everyone, including you, can find five minutes a day to do this using one of the many meditation apps available

·      Regular team meetings – while it may be difficult to get everyone together at the same time, it is achievable. Face-to-face is best for that human contact people need in a team environment

What else can you do as a role model to help your team?

Supporting teams by enabling communications

Those ‘hallway conversations’ were important for connections, and still are. However, when we communicate online, we lose that status of confidentiality and ad hoc expression. Staff need other ways to feel safe and comfortable about opening up (which may or may not be to you).

Technology is your ally – video conferencing, online messaging, phone, emails. No matter where your staff are working, make sure they know how they can contact you, and you them. If you prefer to be contacted via online messaging, make sure your staff know that. Find out their preferred communication method as well – it may be different to yours.

When your teams know how they can contact you and how they will hear from you, it reduces the risk of miscommunication and missed requests for urgent support and information.

If you would like to find out how career coaching can help you adapt in your leadership role, contact Anita at [email protected]

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