Kill Stress By Working Out of Hours

The recent junior doctors’ strikes have once again highlighted the difficulties experienced by doctors and nurses as the result of increased pressure on our NHS. Extended hours and understaffed areas are some of the factors which are causing the work to be more stressful, adding to the existing pressures of an already demanding job. As stress, depression and anxiety continue amongst doctors of all experience levels, for now it is up to individuals to make choices that best suit their needs. One of the ways to reduce stress as a doctor is by switching to out of hours work, an area regarded by many as a satisfying and rewarding job, as well as offering a much needed change of pace.

About out of hours working

With pressure on the NHS to meet government demands for 7-day healthcare, more and more patients are taking advantage of the health services available during evenings and weekends. Often seen as riskier with a greater chance of patient dissatisfaction, there is a shortage of doctors willing to take on out of hours work. However, the benefits to out of hours working can make it worthwhile, as well as open up a new avenue for doctors and medical professionals.

Benefits of out of hours working

There are a number of benefits to out of hours working which can reduce the stress typically associated with the role, including:

  • Varied, often-urgent cases: Out of hours work mainly involves dealing with patients who require immediate attention, whether this be for an accident or a sudden illness rather than dealing with ongoing, chronic cases. Dealing with different patients therefore comes without the stress which can be caused by dealing with the same cases. This is particularly true where little or no progress is being made. Patient frustrations are shorter-lived in comparison to working regular GP hours with the same patients day in, day out.
  • Work stays at work: For out of hours medical professionals, work very rarely comes home. When working regular hours, there’s the temptation to stay late or bring work home to clear paperwork and other tasks, but this NEVER happens with out of hours work.
  • Greater flexibility: Those who work regular hours can often be pulled into working later and extended shifts, impeding on work-life balance and threatening other commitments outside of work. Those who work out of hours however are less likely to be called to work during regular hours, and therefore have more control over their hours outside of the workplace. Some people may find out of hours work more suitable – preferring to take time off during quieter periods as well as benefitting from less crowded facilities, lighter traffic and better parking availability.
  • More focus on triage-based work: A large part of out of hours work is dedicated to triage, and in particular, assessing patients over the phone to determine the type of care needed and the urgency of the type of care they require. Many medical professionals miss this element of the job, and is a great way to develop communication skills which may not be part part of other areas of medicine. For those looking to gain more experience in triage, out of hours working provides a regular and beneficial opportunity.

For many, out of hours working provides a different environment with different challenges which can be less stressful than regular hours. Out of hours teams have strong bonds and can be very sociable because of the shared experience involved. If you are considering taking on out of hours work, even if it’s just in the short term, the BMA has provided a useful guide to getting it right – a great read for anyone thinking about making the move.