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Professor Peter Brennan’s top ten tips for Making Life Work Better

In today’s wellbeing feature as part of Making Life Work Better, Professor Brennan gives his ten top tips to improve wellbeing, team working and improved patient safety. Professor Brennan is an Honorary Fellow of the College and a Consultant Surgeon at Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth:

  1. Make sure you look after yourself as well as you can, and then you will look after your patients better. Don’t neglect taking regular breaks, eating and drinking (don’t miss lunch for example), and ensure you get enough sleep.
  2. Value everyone in the team, from the clerical support staff to the most senior colleague. That way, team members look out for each other and will go the extra mile for you when needed.
  3. Respect is earned and is not a given. While a professional position may carry a degree of respect in itself, personal respect from others can take a long time to build up and yet be lost in seconds by a disrespectful or rude comment.
  4. Don’t think that the way in which you see yourself is how other team members perceive you. They might be intimidated, scared or in awe. Always look for ways to reduce hierarchal gradients. Using first names, taking the team for coffee, regularly telling junior staff that they can and should speak up and stop you if they have any concerns whatsoever, without fear of retribution.
  5. In busy times or when rotas are bad with lots of on calls or shifts, always have something planned to look forward to. It’s a good idea to try and have the next holiday booked so you’ve always got something nice to think about when work seems to take over. A good work-life balance is really important.
  6. Remember your professional responsibilities. It is all too easy to make a flippant or other comment on social media or to be unprofessional with others which could be taken the wrong way or even land you in trouble.
  7. You bring your whole self to work. So relationship problems, or troubles in your personal life can impact on your work and/or working relationships. Learning how to manage emotions is essential. When emotionally labile, something small can trigger an outburst or anger which you might later regret. Ever seen someone lash out for no apparent reason? They probably had something else going on.
  8. Don’t look down or be dismissive to your junior staff, or indeed anyone. One day you might be a patient and they could be looking after you and remember your attitude towards them! I always try and ensure that my juniors are given every opportunity aiming for them to be better trained than I was.
  9. Always write down what you’ve told or discussed with patients. In legal terms, if it isn’t written down, it hasn’t happened or been said. This is a very useful thing to remember and safeguards you for the future especially in this increasingly litigious climate.
  10. Don’t forget the little things. Always say thank you to the team after a long day. And the power of a Christmas or birthday gift, chocolates and other goodies for the ward and theatre staff should not be forgotten and shows how much you value individual team members. All too often people even forget to say thanks to the team because they are too busy…
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