We all feel stress from time to time. When it’s within our comfort zone, a little stress is healthy and can motivate us to perform at our best. However, needing to manage an overwhelming level of stress on a regular basis can have serious health effects—like anxiety and depression, sleep disorders, cardiovascular disease, relationship issues, and more.
For physicians, NPs and PAs, locum tenens can provide a solution to job-related burnout. Short-term locum tenens assignments offer flexibility and greater control, helping providers decrease stress levels, increase compassion for patients and improve overall well-being.
But even with the many benefits of locum tenens, stress is still part of life! The trick to dealing with stress as a clinician is not to ignore it, but to practice managing it—so you can stay effective on the job, supportive of your team, and in touch with what you need, physically and emotionally.
Be Clear and Open
Job-related stress is often a result of a lack of direction. If you’re just beginning a new locum tenens assignment, make sure you understand what’s expected of you from your immediate team, leadership, as well as the facility as a whole. That means understanding expectations for your job performance in any setting—emergency or routine. When situations get tense, it’s healthy to discuss the experience, talking through, and reviewing the medicine, actions, and outcomes of tough cases to look for valuable feedback and work better as a team.
The best approach to avoid workplace conflict, performance issues, and other job-related stress is to establish open lines of communication from the start and commit to keeping them open throughout your assignment.
Plan Space Into Your Schedule
Keeping a jam-packed schedule is a common but unhealthy habit that’s difficult to break. Deadlines and long to-do lists can make it feel impossible or unrealistic to purposely block off time to decompress, but doing so is an investment in your personal health.
Make time for short breaks throughout the day, and plan longer vacations in advance to give yourself something to look forward to. When we can accept that we only have so much time and energy, we can have days that don’t push us over our limits and leave us stretched too thin.
In situations when you’re confronted with difficult emotions or intense stress, mindfulness techniques can offer considerable support. One practice to help foster conscious reactions to our environments is RAIN—an acronym for a four-step mindfulness process:
- Recognition: Notice what’s happening—in both your body and your mind.
- Acceptance: Rather than resist the stress response, acknowledge and accept it. You may not like the situation, but by dropping your mental resistance, you can start to get through it.
- Investigation: Ask yourself what thoughts and emotions are present in this moment. What stories you are telling yourself? What do you need right now?
- Non-identification: Realize that although you are experiencing these thoughts and emotions, you are separate from them—they do not define you.
A shift in perspective can be what clinicians need in certain settings to be able to proceed in a calm, rational manner. By learning to reconnect to inner resources during high-stress situations, clinicians can help themselves reduce the potential negative effects of stress on performance and overall health.
Being a locum tenens healthcare provider is rewarding, but it comes with some pressure. Know that you can’t possibly foresee every challenge, solve every problem or change every outcome. Remind yourself that you are only human. The more present and focused you can stay on the job, the better care and expertise you can provide. Practicing clear communication, mindfulness, self-compassion, and other healthy habits are powerful steps to better stress management.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on January 23, 2017, and has been updated for accuracy and timeliness.