Steps to managing stress

April 1, 2007

In addition to learning to say 'no' to extra commitments, Dr. Woodall also recommends exercising routinely, eating right and not indulging in drugs, alcohol and other unhealthy habits.

Rock Hill, S.C. - Physicians and staff can take many steps to alleviate stress in the office and create a more enjoyable experience for all involved, according to Timothy G. Woodall, M.D., a dermatologist in private practice in Rock Hill, S.C.

"It is important for physicians to learn how to create a positive culture in their offices. This means conducting a critical evaluation of the employees and weeding out people that cause too many problems," says Dr. Woodall, who also instructs at the Carolina Medical Center, Charlotte, S.C., in the department of family medicine.

For example, a person with a dominant personality may seem to "run" the office. But, he or she actually could be more of a troublemaker behind the scenes. Also, "sliders" may seem to the physician like they are doing a good job, but the office manager knows they shirk some of their responsibilities.

"That makes your good employees work harder and it gets rid of bad employees," Dr. Woodall tells Dermatology Times.

Managing office management

Physicians should be wary of overloading themselves with added responsibilities.

"All too often, physicians try to be their own accountant, attorney and investment manager. However, most of us are only trained to do medicine. It is best to pay the professionals to do what they do, and you will save money in the long run," he says.

Making sure that all employees are up to date on training, such as CPR and OSHA-related issues, also goes a long way toward reducing stress.

"The better-trained your office is, the fewer problems you will have from various kinds of regulators," he says.

Realistic scheduling is crucial.

Physicians "should analyze their schedule, and then build in extra time. I usually build in twice as much time as I think I will need," Dr. Woodall explains. "This allows me to work at an easier pace and my surgeries - unless there is a major complication - never run over," he says.

He also suggests placing a sign in the room to explain delays. The sign in his office reads: "Our physicians make it our #1 priority to provide the best possible healthcare to our patients. At times, due to unforeseen circumstances, emergencies do arise. If we are running behind schedule, please excuse the brief delay. We will make every effort to have each patient seen in a timely manner. If you feel you are unable to wait to see the physician, we will be happy to reschedule your appointment."

Dr. Woodall says, "Ever since we put that sign up in our office it has made a tremendous difference. We don't get as many complaints about running behind. I think all too often people can get caught up in the fast food mentality in which they do not want to wait. People may need to be reminded every now and then that we are not in Burger King and some people are sick. We don't just rush out of the room because it is the next patient's turn."

Rx for stress

There are many ways a doctor can personally de-stress.

In addition to learning to say "no" to extra commitments, Dr. Woodall also recommends exercising routinely, eating right and not indulging in drugs, alcohol and other unhealthy habits.

A relaxed, friendly atmosphere also can help destress the office. Dr. Woodall points out physicians set the tone of the visit from the moment they enter the room.

"I believe physicians should walk in the room, shake the patient's hand, and give a big 'Hello.' This immediately disarms the patient if he has been waiting or had a bad front desk experience. At this point, it is difficult for the patient to be discourteous," he says.