Jason Searle, our experienced, locum optometrist shares his experiences of stress and lists his top 5 tips for combating the main causes of stress for optometrists in the workplace.
I’ve not kept it to myself in many of these blog posts that I sometimes find optometry stressful. There have been occasions where I have left a clinic quite tense and wondering if optometry really was the right choice for me. That said, there are other days where the job is the best job in the world. It is perfectly natural for us to go through moments of stress in the workplace, but stress all day every day is not ideal.
The Association of Optometrists Health and Wellbeing Survey1 found that over half of respondents found moderate and above levels of stress, with the stress found mainly in areas where high number of eye examinations are to be conducted in a tight-deadline environment with a pressure to have a high conversion rate. With all these factors coupled with the physical and repetitive demands required to perform eye examinations, it is not surprising there are days we wonder what we have let ourselves in for. I have spoken to a few other colleagues about this issue and I have compiled a brief list on how to reduce your stress levels and to be comfortable within your role.
We do this every night. Or at least we try to. Developing a good sleeping pattern has the potential to improve your quality of life significantly and keep you alert and performing to your full potential. Remember, a lack of sleep can make you feel tired, lacklustre and impact on your memory and judgement. Get a good eight hours per night and at a regular time and this should help reduce stress levels significantly.
I’m pretty bad at this one, but exercise really does make a difference to your stress levels. It offers you a chance to focus on you and your body, which is a million miles away from the 16-20 times you are focusing completely on somebody else and their body (well, their eyes…but you get what I mean!). Take some time to exercise and the endorphins that kick in from a decent work out will make you feel much better.
I didn’t really know much about mindfulness until my line manager from my hospital role talked to me about it during my one to one. As well as a great manager, she also specialised in meditation and mindfulness. She could see some clinics I managed had the potential to cause stress (many a missed lunchbreak due to post-operative complications usually the cause!) and guided me through a mindfulness session. These ten or twenty-minute sessions helped ground me, remove a lot of stress and even made me feel more prepared for my next clinic. It is worth researching, especially if you find busy clinics are the cause of your stress.
4) Talk It Out
It can be to anyone. I usually have a small vent when I get home to my family or discuss with colleagues any particularly stressful situation that arises at work. Talking it out can do two things; the first allows you to put the issue in a different context and you can then have a better understanding of how it is affecting you (and how you can resolve it), the second allows for another point of view that may also help you solve the situation appropriately.
Additionally, talking it out to people who can enact the change can also benefit you. In some practices where I work, visual field pre-testing is conducted. If the patient has fields done at the start of their 30-minute appointment and struggles, I may be left with 15 minutes to perform the sight test and solve any problems that may arise, which makes me stressed as I don’t want to run late for my next patient. I discussed this issue with the practice owners and a solution was put in place that now prevents this from happening – so the likelihood of that stressful situation occurring again has been minimised.
5) Evaluate Your Options
The AOP study also revealed that stress was experienced less in part-time workers and in those who worked in the independent sector. If you are highly stressed out working full-time in a multiple, it might be worth evaluating your options. Can you go part-time? Can you see if you can change how your breaks are configured throughout the day? Would a different practice (either a different branch or in a new company) suit you better?
As a locum, I have experienced a range of different work conditions and practices and I know some suit me better than others. There are places that I would feel happy being a resident in, with others I have been glad not have to go back to as the way their practice works doesn’t suit my style of work.
Weighing up all your options, talking to your colleagues and managers as well as performing some of the other suggestions on this list should really help reduce any workplace stress you may be experiencing and make you feel more comfortable (or just handle your work day better) in your demanding role. Do you have any other tips on managing workplace stress? If so I would love to read your comments below.
Thinking of a change of scene? Don’t forget, Prospect Health have a range of optometry jobs, dispensing optician jobs and optical jobs available. Why not search with them today?
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