Do you need a break? From what?


In the Thursday before my week of leave, I think I had just about reached my limit. I needed a break from work. That morning I completed a clinic at the child development centre and then drove off to complete a nursery observation.

It was after 15:00 when I was able to settle and sit down to lunch.

I still had four more reports to dictate. Three lots of S1 records to update. I still had over twenty reports to edit and sign off – all before I starting my annual leave. An impossible task, which I did not finish.

On the Friday, amid constant interuptions I managed to get through the dictations and sign off the most important reports. Then on the Tuesday of my 2nd day of annual leave (Valentine’s day!) I found myself correcting and signing off the last of the urgent reports. Only then did I feel that I could ‘relax’ and enjoy my leave.

I, like many of my doctor and other clinical colleagues are driven by a sense of responnsibility to our patients. We don’t want to let people down. The guilt and pressure of being part of a system that is underpressure and failing, is immense. I work in community paediatrics and some of the challenges we face are in part because of and as a result of the long waiting times for neurodevelopmental assessments. There are just not enough staff to meet the ever-increasing levels of needs. It’s not just within health I am talking about – partner agencies in education and social care are financially decimated and struggling to provide adequate services. It has meant that we have to be creative in the way we have had to plan services. It is however exhausting. Mentally, physically and emotionally.

I am still working on maintaining boundaries around work but I often fail! Even though I was on leave, I was still checking my work e-mails from time to time. This led to me, on the Thursday of my leave, I logging into a team meeting. Why? I guess I felt as the lead for this particular part of the service, I wanted to make sure I was part of the decision making and understood the new processess being discussed. I wanted to share the knowledge and information that I had about the service that I have been part of and have worked hard to refine over these past few difficult years. Was it an anxiety thing? I don’t know. Was it becasue I was just ‘sitting around’ at home and did not value that time? I know for certain when I was on sick leave last year, I would not have attended any meetings. I know on my last period of leave during the last two weeks in December at Christmas and NewYear, when I was on holiday with my husband and his parents, there is no way I would have done such a thing. So why is it that I didn’t value my own time, when I was on my own? In an attempt to balance this, I will be taking the time back when I go back to work next work but maybe the damage is already done?

It’s Sunday afternoon, I’m in my study at my desk, writing this post, the sunshine is pouring through the window. I’ve managed to have a lie-in. Make a tasty, filling and I think healthy breakfast. I’ve cleaned the kitchen (well – I have made a start, the countertops, the windowsill and cooker are clean, the floor has been swept and mopped). Despite my little forays into ‘work’ this week, I do feel rested. I am glad I booked this week off. It was needed and it did help. I still have more annual leave to use up from March, a whole week and and a few odd days here and there. I would like to think that I will be better at cutting off the need to work and value the time I have been given to refresh myself.

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