Help your residents cope better with long shifts
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Night float, overnight calls and 28-hour days have become the norm for today's medical residents — they're a necessary evil in terms of the immersive learning young doctors need.
Yet the residents you supervise are human, and the easier they can get through a tough shift, the better their results, productivity, and safety of your patients will be.
Employ these research-proven tips to help your residents stay on their toes for the long haul.
Enforce strategic napping
Residents know that they should be grabbing as much sleep as they possibly can during down times in shifts, but they often use that time to catch up on computer work instead.
Be proactive about sending individual team members to the call room for a half-hour snooze on a regular rotation, and make sure they comply with those brief rest times.
Don't overload an already stressed-to-the-breaking-point doc
New research from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University shows that we tend to perceive others' stress levels as being similar to our own. This means if you think you're capable of taking responsibility for one more patient after 20 hours on your feet, you'll tend to think a resident can handle doing the same — this is how medical mistakes and burnout episodes occur.
Divide extra responsibilities equally, and let your group know that expressing you're at your limit in terms of the stress of a heavy workload. This doesn't mean you're weak, and doesn't mean you'll be penalized, either.
Make time for Candy Crush
Seriously! A University of Central Florida-affiliated study finds that workers in extremely high stress jobs refresh during short breaks best when they focus intensely on a fun activity like a video game. Sitting quietly actually made these workers focus too much on how tired they were, at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Allow a five-minute break of distractions, then watch your residents come back to work fueled up and ready to be even more efficient.
Emphasize the importance of individual scheduling
Call a meeting with your team and walk them through a review of good time management practices. Encourage your residents to slot five minutes before they start their hands-on work to schedule any and all tasks they can in writing — from patient record maintenance to a morning conference to lunch (and yes, residents should take their lunch breaks).
This kind of concrete reminder will give them some sense of control in terms of allocating their time. You should also encourage your residents to minimize distractions as much as possible by silencing nonessential calls and not replying to non-urgent emails.
A great study outlining time management priorities from the Association of American Medical Colleges can be found here.
Explain it's OK to say no
No doubt your residents want to be as accommodating as they possibly can be — say, by trying to impress their seniors by taking on the menial work no one else wants to do. That's not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, it's of course often expected.
However, if you see that a resident on your team is starting to do so much he or she is in danger of giving short shrift to his or her more important responsibilities, let him/her know that saying no to an insignificant task in order to cover work that's important demonstrates better judgment.
Once your residents see that you'll appreciate how they recognize the work that really matters, they'll feel comfortable saying no to true time-wasters — and grow more confident in their overall ability.
Frequently offer praise for a job well-done
If a patient lets you know that one of your residents' skill and kindness got them through a scary night, let the resident know how pleased you are. Compliment your residents for great work on procedures, too. A few words of appreciation will re-energize your residents for the remainder of a tough shift — and inspire them to do their best work every day.
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