Billy Boland: Understanding resilience in the workplace

billy_bolandWith work and the NHS the way that it is these days, it is really easy to take your eye off things like continuing professional development (CPD). As our roles evolve and become more complex, spinning the plates of CPD becomes an increasingly demanding task. I got myself into a corner a few years ago when I realised months had flown by and the time left to complete my CPD was fast running out. I got there in the end, but it was needlessly stressful and left me with food for thought.

Now I try to take more care of my learning, and find the annual planning cycle helpful. One of the many joys of being a generalist is that your scope of practice (and potential interest) is broad, but then the challenges for managing growth are obvious. To tackle this I like to do some online studying when I can to help get it all done.

I did some e-learning via BMJ Learning recently on resilience (the irony!). One of the things it recommended doing was noting three things you are grateful for each day. A kind of affirmation if you like of what you find good in life, to sustain you through the pressures of the everyday. I knew I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t make some kind of commitment to share it with someone, so I decided to do it on twitter. 21 days was what was recommended.

I thought broadcasting it every day would keep me to task (which it did), and might stimulate some conversation (which bar a few comments it didn’t). I created a hashtag #21daysresilient to keep a note of it, and then just put it out there, aiming to mention each thing I valued only once over the three weeks. Looking back, here is how I did:

Number of days completed: 21

Number of days missed: 1 (I would have SWORN I didn’t miss any. Something seems slightly wonky in my timings towards the end)

Number of tweets a day late: 1 (give me a break – it was the weekend)

Number to do with work and being a doctor: 3

Number to do with music: 4

Number to do with relationships: 13

Number to do with values and personal qualities: 11

The only thing that despite myself, I mentioned more than once: Love

Is it daft to extrapolate much from this exercise? What might I say? The obvious: I love being a doctor, but I’m much more than that. Values and a perspective on living are on my mind a lot. I cherish relationships of all kinds, and I love love.

All this reminds me of a quote my mate put on Facebook, attributed to Bertrand Russell ‘”one of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” Though the language is out of touch, it is a reminder that indeed we are more than our careers. Perhaps if we reminded ourselves of that more, we would be better prepared for them?

Billy Boland is a consultant psychiatrist and associate medical director for quality and safety at Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. You can follow him on Twitter @originalbboland.

Competing interests: I am vice chair of the general adult psychiatry faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.