Why are heartsinks so attracted to me?

Dear Career Mentor

I am attracting so many heartsink patients I feel utterly drained. It feels like my only option is to change career, but I don't know where to start. Please advise me.

Sorry to hear you sound so despondent. Firstly, of course you can change career. But well before you even think about tearing up your GMC certificate, there is some reflection and investigation needed.

Why one doctor 'attracts' a certain type of patient that others don't is an interesting phenomenon. It could be that your colleagues give them short shrift and thus they go to you by default. On the other hand, you may be actively doing some things that attract them.

I would want to have more information about what you specifically call a heartsink and exactly why you find them so demanding.

Patients often need help with boundaries and some may have little or no insight into their neediness or behaviour. Their health problems or feelings of helplessness often overwhelm them. There are several approaches that could help such as assertiveness training for you, educating patients, discussing with colleagues and developing new strategies for possibly

  1. not attracting heartsinks
  2. dealing with them differently
  3. changing how you react to those consultations

It may also be that you are suffering burnout for other reasons, and the heartsinks are the last straw.

So overall I would suggest a career audit and planning session (as in career guidance) and/or some career coaching (where you could email daily about any patient contact that day that has caused any concern and get some immediate feedback).

I do hope that gives you some hope that all is not lost and that there are some logical approaches to your concerns.

This article first appeared in the NASGP Newsletter April/May 2012

Sonia Hutton-Taylor

Dr Sonia Hutton-Taylor is the founder of Medical Forum Career Management and the author of an ebook Easy career change - good career choice.

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