It’s nearing the end of March. You take your first, blinking steps outside in what feels like weeks – pale and dazed. It isn’t drizzling. There’s a…. tulip? This is your first natural dose of Vitamin D in months. Instantly, you seem to have more energy. It’s the spring effect. How can you harness this same vitality to metaphorically ‘spring clean’ your GP surgery?
With several storms and often bleak weather, this winter has been gruelling. Winter is always a difficult time for the health service as more people suffer with respiratory illnesses, conditions like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the dreaded norovirus. General practice is in high demand as the rain pours and the gales blow. We know you’re in need of some hard-earned respite more than ever.
We have reached March; Easter is round the corner to raise the spirits and the weather is taking a welcome turn towards moderateness – now is the time your practice could do with a little ‘spring cleaning’ to make the most of new beginnings and, hopefully, a slightly less frenetic waiting room.
Here are our top four tips to renew your energy as practice manager and to revitalise your practice come spring.
Flowers in the waiting room
Nothing says spring like flowers, and they shouldn’t just be for the outdoors. Although easy to dismiss as cosmetic and unimportant, numerous studies have shown how plants can transform mood. GP surgery waiting areas are high-stress zones for many patients and colleagues. Doing something small to change the clinical feel of the space can work wonders in changing how people perceive your practice. If you need another reason to invest in practice greenery, plants can improve air quality. A NASA study found that spider plants, Gerbera daisies and aloe vera help filter volatile organic compounds from the air.
Music makes good medicine
If the clatter of equipment and the sound of other people coughing is pervading your practice, making a small change such as switching on the radio, creating a peaceful playlist, or playing other relaxing, ambient sounds in your waiting room can make a huge difference to patients and employees. Does the thought of the sound of crashing waves playing in your waiting room fill you with dread? Give it a try and you might be pleasantly surprised! It cuts through the tense silence of waiting for an appointment and can help to soothe the slight anxiety waiting payients might well be experiencing. It’s cheap, easy, effective – and very easy to rectify if patients object. Just remember to switch your playlist up periodically so your colleagues don’t slowly go insane to the oft-repeated backing-track of whale song.
An improvements box
This is a way to metaphorically ‘spring-clean’ or put a positive spin on practice feedback. Setting up an ‘improvements box’, where patients can write and post suggestions for the practice, helps you improve professionally, gives patients agency and ensures them their care comes first – it may even encourage patients with complaints to act rationally instead of rashly. Of course, there must have a robust complaints procedure which patients can follow in the event of genuine neglect or misconduct, but giving patients an anonymous, easy method of seeking the changes they’d like to see in their surgery may just be the medicine your practice needs for reputation, business and overall satisfaction.
Investing in yourself
Maybe there’s an area of practice management that you feel less sure about, something that gnaws at your self esteem just enough to make every day a bit more difficult. Come spring, its time to identify that ‘thing’ and make some changes. This may come in the form of brainstorming ideas with your practice team, seeking advice from other practice managers offline or online, or attending a training day ran by AMSPAR.
Your job satisfaction is vital to a healthy practice – so don’t feel guilty about putting time and energy into your own development.