Caring for your self is part of professional practice

Planning and practising effective self-care strategies can enable you to continue to provide compassionate care and to support others, both personally and professionally.

Key points

Sometimes palliative care can be challenging. Issues that may be hard for GPs to deal with include:
  • Clinical anxieties; eg, if there is a perception that a diagnosis was missed or delayed
  • Difficulty in working out how and when to switch from a curative to palliative approach
  • Feelings of reluctance to take on complex problems because of time constraints in general practice
  • Difficulty dealing with clinical uncertainty
  • Feelings of clinical helplessness if unable to completely relieve the distress of a patient or family, or feeling that an outcome was unacceptable
  • Being involved in caring for a dying friend, colleague, or family member
  • Caring for a patient with whom one identifies in some way.
In a busy general practice setting it is common for GPs to 'soldier on' despite a level of distress. However, accumulating stressors can lead over time to burnout which:
  • Affects wellbeing and relationships
  • Impacts on workplace and colleagues
  • May reduce the quality of the care the GP is able to provide.
    Useful clinical strategies for professional self-care to reduce the risk of burnout include:
    • Recognising that all doctors will sometimes be troubled by difficult cases
    • Sharing care with others, or referring on, if there are 'boundary issues' or strong feelings involved
    • Accepting the limits of the care that can be provided within the constraints of a busy general practice, and not setting unrealistic expectations - sharing care may be helpful here
    • Discussing a difficult case with a trusted colleague or a member of the palliative care team - this can be very reassuring, even quite some time later.

      Last updated 24 August 2021