Being a Consultant

Bio PicA colleague recently asked me, because he’d been asked to give a talk, what my top five tips would be regarding being a consultant.  I thought that crowd-sourcing your talk was a bit cheeky, until I realised that I could spin off a blog post about it.

Just to clarify for readers elsewhere, a consultant is the equivalent of an attending in the US.

So, here were my top five:

  1. Learn how to switch off.  Much of your training is done in binary on or off mode.  Consultant practice is much more sinusoidal.  I dislike the term work/life balance, but you have to ensure that you are not available from time to time.
  2. Work out how spot when you’re procrastinating.  This will be very person specific.  For me it will be a set of notes or email which I’ll keep thinking about in 30 second to 2 minute bursts, before putting it to one side to deal with later.   I still make this mistake after 13 years; on average it takes me about a week to spot.  If you want to read one thing about procrastination, make it this by Oliver Burkeman
  3. Work out ways of doing things efficiently.  For example, for me, if I’m about to work through some results, do I have a pen, dictation gear, other results programs to hand?  If I  haven’t, I don’t start – I’ll do something else instead.    
  4. Always, always, always dictate the letter after every patient in clinic.  Seriously.  Get this sorted – however stressed you feel about it at the time – and you will kiss my feet in five years’ time.
  5. Work out what refreshes you at work, and make sure you include it in your routine.  I’m refreshed by:  Change (making sure I have a balance of routine patient contact, new clinical and non-clinical challenges, a bit of office time), music and tea.   After a tough clinical day, I can do an hour of admin and it _almost_ feels refreshing if I have music and tea.

There’s an extra, sixth one.  Work at your work relationships; be generous with your time with your colleagues and remember that if they can’t be mates, then they at least need to be good acquaintances.  After all, some weeks you’ll see them more than the people you love.


Those are mine.  What would  yours be?

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