The Art of Mastering High-Stress Environments as a Locum
Ask any new medical school graduate why they entered the field, and you’ll often hear about the desire to heal and alleviate suffering. These noble aspirations fuel their rigorous journey through years of education and training. While these motivations are commendable, they may not fully prepare individuals for an aspect that lies beyond textbooks — the inherent stress of the profession.
Beyond coursework and clinical examinations are the demands of unpredictable schedules, emotionally charged interactions, weighty decision-making, and the inevitable stress of shouldering immense responsibilities.
And if you’re a locum tenens physician or an Advanced Practice Provider (APP), this stress is further accentuated as you continuously transition between hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities. As such, you need a robust framework to cope and thrive in these high-pressure situations.
Keep reading to learn valuable insights about how to can thrive in this exciting environment by developing resilience. All while maintaining professional effectiveness and personal well-being.
1. Tailor your assignments
Beginning work as a locum tenens clinician is an exciting experience. Although you’re likely keen to find an assignment, it’s essential to remember that not all options will align with your unique skill set, experiences, and aspirations.
So, how can you pinpoint the perfect assignment that optimizes your abilities and minimizes your specific stress triggers? There are a couple of factors to consider.
First, you should evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, and the areas where you feel most competent. Understanding your clinical proficiency helps guide your choices and prevent potential mismatches.
Second, know your preferences. Whether it’s the type of facility, patient demographic, geographical location, or even workplace culture, carefully define what you seek in a position. It is essential to not just fit clinically, but also find cultural and personal alignment with the environment.
Finally, after each assignment, reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and discuss it with your Integrity Locums consultant. This feedback will allow your consultant to continue finding locums assignments that are the best fit for you and help you refine your assignment choices in the future and ensure continuous professional growth.
2. Work with your team
In healthcare, there will be times when patient numbers surge or exceptionally complex cases emerge. In these pivotal moments, drawing on your fellow team members’ collective strength and synergy is critical.
Good teamwork relies on fostering a culture of open dialogue. Ensuring everyone is informed about evolving scenarios makes the team better equipped mentally and efficiently allocates necessary resources.
Flexibility within the team is also critical. There might be moments when colleagues need to shift roles to distribute the workload momentarily, making it more manageable and diffusing potential stress.
Navigating through difficult periods or cases can be challenging, but reflecting on them afterwards is crucial. This process allows you to celebrate successes, identify areas for improvement and share insights that strengthen the team’s proficiency. It’s also a cathartic experience where everyone can come together as one unit to process shared experiences.
Despite meticulous planning, however, the unpredictable nature of healthcare occasionally demands external support. That’s why it is crucial to establish mechanisms for getting support when necessary — whether through the Integrity Locums team behind you, consultation with experienced colleagues, or emotional and mental wellness channels. These measures ensure optimal patient outcomes during unexpected circumstances.
3. Prioritize self-care
As dedicated doctors and APPs, it’s all too easy to become so engrossed in caring for others that you neglect your own well-being. To consistently deliver exceptional patient care, physicians and APPs must recognize the importance of self-care and mindfulness.
Mindfulness is more than just a buzzword — it’s a practice that centers on being present and fully engaged in the current moment. It has been shown to help effectively manage stress levels while improving focus and enhancing emotional well-being. Simple techniques like deep breathing exercises and short meditative breaks can make a significant impact on how you navigate difficult clinical situations. Don’t underestimate the power of these simple yet effective tools!
Here are some other strategies that can help:
- Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining optimal health in all areas of life — including the workplace. Whether you prefer yoga, cardio, weightlifting, or other activities, find something enjoyable to do every day that elevates your heart rate.
- Adequate rest is crucial when working long hours in high stress environments. Prioritize getting enough sleep so that fatigue doesn’t interfere with decision making or reaction times on shift.
- Nutrition also plays an important role, so make sure you’re fueling your body with nutrient dense foods that provide sustained energy throughout shifts. This will keep you focused and alert, even during the most demanding workdays.
- Setting boundaries between personal time and work responsibilities helps prevent burnout by allowing ample opportunities for self-care outside of work. Remember to not overcommit yourself — prioritizing what matters most keeps things manageable.
- Seek support from professionals like therapists or counselors who specialize in helping people navigate difficult situations. It may be exactly what you need to gain clarity and relief.
Remember that, while your dedication to patients is commendable, you can best serve others when you’re in optimal health, both mentally and physically. Investing time in self-care isn’t selfishness — it’s a crucial component of your professional success.