What I would tell my younger self?

Our local newspaper runs a regular column where it asks minor celebrities what they would now, with hindsight, tell their younger selves about the meaning of life and other big questions.  It started me thinking about what I have learned during my recent three year stint as a Practice Manager that I wish I had known or realised when I returned from retirement to help out for a ‘few weeks’.

During the first month back at the helm after eight years away, payroll and accounts were a blessed relief in the face of a host of baffling acronyms – QOF, QP, LES, DES, CHP and the rest. I didn’t know whether to cry or plead insanity to get me out of my promise to cover this brief maternity leave.  My brain was hurting, my memory over-flowing, my stomach knotted and my shoulders tensed.

Today, after three very quick years, I feel just about ready to pass on the baton, now with confidence in my knowledge and systems.

So what would I say to that person I was then, which might help other newcomers to the job?

  1. Don’t take the job if you can’t multi-task and be flexible.  You may have a plan when you come in in the morning, but you’ll end up doing a hundred and one things you hadn’t planned to do.

  2. Be prepared to deal with a never ending torrent of information, much of which initially will frighten you because you won’t know if it’s important or not.

  3. Find a way that suits the way your mind works and would makes some logical sense to others, to manage that information. Even if only to put it to one side (where you can find it of course) till you ask someone else what it’s all about.  Or else your in-box will grow like Topsy, and you’ll never find anything among the many sheets of paper which still arrive in a paperless practice. Before you know it you’ll be gasping for breath.

  4. Meet regularly with the key people in your organisation so that you are clear about their and your responsibilities, deadlines, and progress. That might mean separate meetings with the practice nurses, the data co-ordinator and the GPs as I do.  We have regular meeting time built in to our practice diary to facilitate this process, and use agendas and minutes to manage the business.

  5. Keep a task list. Use facilities within Vision or Outlook to record what you have to do, and when to be reminded. You can then avoid trying to carry too much information around in your already full memory.  It also provides a very interesting and useful history!

  6. Acquire some admin help if you can.  Otherwise, in a small practice, you are ‘it’.  In year three, the crease lines on my forehead began to need less polyfilla than usual, when I negotiated some extra hours for an admin member of staff who now files my papers, photocopies, performs asset and fire checks, manages notice boards, co-ordinates the production and updating of reception procedures, and a host of small tasks which used to drain my energy and keep me from the more critical aspects of the job. Best of all she thins out my inbox when I’m on holiday.

  7. Develop and test all your management procedures so that if you have to leave in a hurry, or fall under that proverbial bus, someone else could make a reasonable stab at what you do. (Knowing me, I’d still feel responsible even lying in ICU).

  8. Build and sustain good relationships with Practice Manager colleagues. We’re all in it together and all otherwise quite alone at times in this post.

  9. Try to keep one foot in and one foot out of the practice. It’s tempting and easy to begin to fall in with the prevailing negativity if it exists, but someone has to keep the wider issues and principles in mind as well as encouraging commitment and recognising achievement.

  10. Model the behaviour you hope to see in others. You get back what you give out.

  11. And to quote from others more learned than I am:
  • I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody. (Herbert B Swope)
  • Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have. (John C Maxwell)

And if this all sounds very obvious, then great! We don’t get our time again, but we do get the chance to help the ones who come after us.


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