How To Prepare For Holiday Time In Private Practice

We all need to take time off to have a holiday from Private Practice. It’s an important time to rest, recuperate, and reflect. But taking time off from your Private Practice can be stressful, because patients still need looking after, and time not working is also unpaid time.

Here are my suggestions for a stress-free time away from your Private Practice:

Plan, in advance, how you will manage your clinic and theatre lists up until you leave.

Have you ever had the experience of bolting out of clinic, jumping on the Heathrow Express or into a taxi, still pounding away on the keyboard of your laptop, because you still need to finish that patient admin before you get on the plane?

Have you ever let the clinic late because that final last post-op patient just ‘had to be seen’?

It’s not a great way to start your holiday.

Patient demands going into a holiday time are surprisingly predictable, in that, there will always be patients who need to be seen. So how do we manage patient load, so that it doesn’t become a stress, last-minute, cram-fest?

Let’s imagine you were going on holiday on a Friday afternoon. I’d recommend that in the that final week you set a few rules in place with your medsec.

  • Firstly, that there would only be follow up patients seen in your last two clinic days.
  • Secondly, if urgent new patients were being seen earlier in the week, and your medsec thought there was a high likelihood that the patient might need urgent investigation and review that same week, he or she could earmark a follow up appointment slot later in the week, and perhaps try to get an imaging slot reserved for MRI etc.
  • Thirdly, any patients asking to be seen at the beginning of the week would have expectations firmly set about when you might be able to see them as a follow up patient.
  • Fourthly, (and hopefully this is obvious), avoid listing patients for complex or large procedures who could have potential problems, post-op (whilst you’re in Tuscany).
  • Finally, always that the afternoon off of the day you are going away, or better still, try to book a buffer day if at all possible. It’s so much better for your physically and mentally if you have time to pack, decompress, and tidy up the admin before you leave.   I’d also recommend putting a little ‘we’ll be going on holidays soon, so get anything you need doing now, done’ type message in your email signature.

Plan in advance, how you’ll manage things whilst you’re away.

I think it’s impossible to completely, and utterly detach from your Private Practice whilst you’re away, but you can get somewhere close to it feeling like that. If you decide to cut off all email and phone, you’ll probably spend emotional energy worrying about what perfect storm awaits you upon your return.

When I’m away, I’ve chosen to do the following:

  • Set up an out of office message that reads ‘Hello, Sportdoc London is taking a much-need break to rest and recharge. During this time, I’ll not be responding to emails, but if you have an urgent request or problem, please do get in contact with my secretary at blah blah blah’.
  • Once a day for just 15 minutes, I check in with my emails- not to action them, but to make sure nothing urgent is brewing. I pull all the emails I’ll need to respond to when I’m back, into a ‘holiday- to respond’ folder I set up in my Office 365. If there is something urgent that my secretary absolutely needs me to do, she knows I’ll be checking in once a day, and the 4pm timing means that if I need to ask her to action something off the back of what she’s sent me, there will still be time that clinical day.
  • I switch off all alerts about emails on my mobile phone, and for the first two days my secretary knows that I won’t be answering anything unless it’s absolute emergency, because it’s so important to give yourself the opportunity to switch off and get into holiday mode.

Plan, in advance, how you are going to run your clinic and theatre lists upon your return.

  • If at all possible, try to start your first clinic day a couple of hours later, so you can plough through the emails, action them, and get back up to speed. I used to really resent the Sunday evening prep-time before work again on Monday, and now it’s so much better because I save it all ‘till I get back.
  • Don’t book in a really onerous clinic or theatre list in your first week back. When you’re away, everyone’s chomping at the bit ‘till your back, so that they can ask you do things which have been set on hold. When you’re away for a while, it can take a few days to get back into your stride, so don’t be tempted to ruin all that good R &R by running yourself ragged in the first seven days.
  • Look through your theatre or procedure list for the post-holiday week. Can you make it easier on yourself by prepping for that well in advance, so there are no last minute ‘special kit’ orders that could be pre-empted (having a row with the theatre manager because you didn’t get what you didn’t ask for, is not the best way to ease back in to work).
  • Try to shift your mindset about returning to clinic. If you’re someone who likes to have a good old moan about the first day back, plan to do something nice that first evening, or have a cheeky after-work pint with a colleague. Say a big thank you to whoever has been manning the fort whilst you’ve been away, and make sure you have your next break planned (and ideally booked), so you know it won’t be long before you can chill out again.

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