What do you do when you feel discouraged in practice?

All practitioners experience times when they feel discouraged and there can be multiple causes. Maybe patients are not responding to treatment as expected, perhaps you have had a number of difficult cases, maybe you are bored or lacking enthusiasm. I am sure you can add many other reasons….

A difficult time can be as a new graduate starting out in practice. You have worked extremely hard for four years, passed all your exams, received your degree and you are now a registered practitioner. You are excited about starting your career and ready to work a full list of patients. In each cohort of new graduates there will be a great mix of experiences – some will be very fortunate to get a job immediately in a very busy clinic (these are few and far between), some will get a job but only see a few patients at first, others will take a few months to be offered a position. These can be trying times. It is easy to become despondent.

Practitioners who have been in practice for some time can also experience discouragement and despondency. Over 50% of practitioners work in isolation, it can be a lonely job. Even in a group practice there may be little time to speak to colleagues. The demands of clinic life are wide ranging, from patients to colleagues, legislation and practicalities, effectiveness and support.

This article was stimulated by reading a facebook post by a physiotherapist – ‘It is with great regret that I announce I feel physiotherapy was a poor career choice for me.’ It reminded me of the feelings I had as a new graduate struggling to build a clinic list, lacking support in clinic, I was determined to stick at it for as long as I had studied and by that time I knew it was a job I loved and there was no looking back.

What can be done?

Here are three actions that can be taken to help overcome periods of discouragement:

  1. Seek out peers

New graduates could approach more experienced colleagues and ask them to be a mentor, or speak to college friends to share experiences. All practitioners should have access to colleagues with whom they can discuss clinical issues, learning and self-development. This may be a friend or ex-colleague or perhaps through local learning groups etc. It will greatly benefit practitioners to have someone to speak to and to hear other practitioner’s experiences.

2. Attend a course

If you are having difficulties with a particular patient group then use the experience as a stimulus to focus your CPD. Maybe there are some new techniques or knowledge that would evoke renewed enthusiasm in the clinic. Meeting with colleagues and acquiring knowledge can be a fantastic spark to re-kindle your professional fire. If you want to gain even more benefit from your learning take the time to teach another person and secondly use the knowledge as soon as possible in clinic. ‘While we teach, we learn’

3. Take a break

Fatigue can gradually creep up imperceptibly as the weeks pass by. Sometimes if you are feeling discouraged or despondent in your clinical work it may simply be time to take a break and be refreshed in body and mind. Clinical work is both physically and emotionally demanding so all practitioners need to take time for recreation.

I hope you find these few tips helpful and that if you are experiencing discouragement you will soon be encouraged to go on helping people and enjoying the challenges and rewards of clinic work.

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