How doctors can survive and thrive through wintertime

Winter

Winter can be a tough time for just about anyone. Not only do rates of influenza and similar illnesses spike sharply, but as online searches tell us, as does rates of seasonal depression. And that's only among patients - winter can be just as tough for physicians treating patients and addressing these larger wellness concerns.

It's important that doctors have a few tools they can rely on when dealing with this influx. Here are just a few you'll find as handy as a stethoscope:

"In winter, influenza spikes, and that complicates a doctor's schedule."

Streamline your efforts

If you're among the thousands of small primary care doctors across the U.S., you may need help in streamlining your practice to handle a higher patient volume. The first step should be bringing in your staff. By reviewing the schedule each morning, finding the busiest hours or most involved cases, the staff as a whole can ensure proper patient flow.

As an extension of all this, proper time management is key. It's about giving patients ample time, but also understanding your schedule and the needs of patients to balance everything out accordingly. Checklists are also going to be a massive help, and they can assure that supplies are ready and equipment is in place for each and every new patient.

Make health a priority

As a doctor, you may spend hours consulting patients about how to take care of themselves during cold and flu season. However, many doctors don't heed their own advice and make their wellbeing a priority. In fact, according to a 2008 study in the journal BMC Public Health, just two-thirds of doctors sought treatment when they were ill. Of that, 62 percent opted for self-medicating. If you aren't operating near your personal peak, there is no way you can adequately treat patients. So, be like your patients and stick to the basics: Get your immunizations as allotted, and see a physician when you're ill. Doctors may have more knowledge than patients, but that doesn't mean they don't need advice and help themselves.

Address bad habits

In addition to not taking care of themselves, there are countless articles about the bad habits of doctors. These include everything from an inability to delegate and lackluster crisis management (according to Physician's Practice) to bad bedside manner and problems accepting patient information (per Psych Central). The new year is all about change, and that should definitely include doctors. There are plenty of ways to address these. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, New York University med school professor Danielle Ofri said it all begins with awareness. Namely, doctors must be cognizant of how they behave and take steps to work on them slowly and incrementally. Very much in the same way you might help a patient lose weight or lower their blood pressure.