I once read a report that stated it takes at least a day to de-stress in order to enjoy a vacation and another day to sufficiently recover from a vacation to be ready to go back to work. That's two days that really aren't vacation days. How can you get those two days back? Better yet, how can you have a worry-free getaway from the practice?
If you really want to make the most of your time off you'll have to apply the same planning and management skills to your vacation as you do in your practice. I'm not talking about planning and managing your vacation time. I'm talking about planning the management of your practice while you are away. The tips below will help you prepare to be gone and ensure you don't find a train wreck when you get back.
Tip #1: Take the vacation! Many doctors and administrators never give themselves a break. They may think the job won't get done properly, or at all, without them. Patients will suffer, or worse, leave. Staff will become unruly and harder to manage. Bills will fall behind. Or, I can't afford a vacation. I can't take time off or I will be so far behind I'll never catch up. Whatever your reason - it can most likely be overcome. Study after study shows the value of time off. You need refreshment and downtime - even 'staycations', as they are called, are beneficial for your health! So take one!
Tip #2: Delegate your responsibilities. I can hear the objections now - "I don't have anyone to delegate to". Ok, let's assume that's true. If you are the doctor, especially a sole provider, shut your practice for a week - or two. Refer your patients to a fellow practioner that will care for them like you do and pledges not to 'steal' them. If you are the practice manager, work with the doctor to determine what is necessary to be done in your absence. Surely there are very few items that can't be pushed off for five or ten busniess days. Do them in advance if possible, hire a temp, or schedule some managable overtime hours for after-vacation catch up. In either case, be sure to give your patient's plenty of notice and options to meet their needs.
Tip #3: Don't check in. The temptation for professionals who care about their patients and their practice is to be in constant contact. I've got one word for you - RESIST. I also have a way to virtually guarantee that you won't call in or check emails. I know what you are thinking - leave my phone and computer at home or at least turn them off. Nope - resistance starts in your brain and it can end there.
The best way to resist anything is to plan to think about something else. It works like this: have a prepared escape route for your thoughts. It could be something about your kids, your college days, your favorite pastime, Civil War history, quilting, or anything that you enjoy thinking about. When a patient name, diagnosis, billing issue, reporting deadline, or any other office item comes to mind - immediately rush to your escape route (mentally). You may have to add a physical event like looking up, or touching your earlobe, or saying 'No' out loud. Doing these simple actions creates a mental escape route. Your brain resets to the preplanned route and dismisses the intruding thought. This method takes preparation and practice but will save you some stress while you enjoy your vacation.
Tip #4: Don't return early. More specifically, don't go back to the office mentally until you walk through the doors on your first day back. You won't solve any problems by anticipating what might be there waiting for you. This takes the same mental discipline as resisting, like we explained above. You will have to commit to staying away for your time to be the most beneficial. If you can win this mental battle you will maximize the relaxation and refreshment your vacation is meant to give.
Now go ahead and schedule that time off - and then enjoy it!!
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