Challenges for GPs

Working with ED Patients can be challenging and rewarding

There are enormous rewards associated with assisting someone with an eating disorder in working towards recovery and watching them regain their health. However, this can be very challenging work. 

Sometimes the struggle to assist someone to overcome an eating disorder can leave clinicians feeling disheartened, sad, unskilled, angry and exhausted. 

In this video, Dr Louise George (Clinical Psychologist) explores the challenges that health professionals working in eating disorder treatment may face.

A variety of strategies assist clinicians to avoid the effects of stress and burnout.  

This will involve taking a proactive approach to developing your knowledge, skills and support networks and will include: 

  • Regular debriefing and clinical supervision 
  • Clinical supervision and peer support are also very important to ensure reflective practice, and to protect the practitioner against burnout. 
  • Accessing telephone support and advice from eating disorder specialists 
  • Undertaking professional development including mentoring or working one-on-one with experienced staff 
  • Contributing to development of the treatment plan 
  • People with eating disorders can experience complex needs and require lengthy treatment. To reduce burden on individual practitioners, identify colleagues in your local area who can work with you as part of a team. Remember that remote resources (by skype, online or phone) are available for needs that can’t be met locally. 
  • Avoiding destructive traps such as splitting, rescuing, distancing or overlooking your own needs 
  • Increasing skills in handling the emotional aspects of the work 
  • Looking after your own emotional needs 

 Important points to consider: 

  • Work collaboratively with your team to ensure that there is an adequate safety and/or crisis intervention plan 
  • Be aware of the mental health services in your area 
  • Take care of yourself by being clear about your own boundaries, skill set, level of comfort and by having regular clinical supervision  
  • Reducing and ultimately stopping high risk behaviours is a treatment priority 
  • Document clearly all evidence around your evaluation of the person’s risk 
  • Encourage the person with an eating disorder to keep a diary or use regular monitoring cards to help reduce these behaviours. 
  • Work gradually and consistently to reduce: 
  • Suicidal and self-harm behaviours  Self-induced vomiting or automatic vomiting post-meal  Laxative abuse (develop a realistic reduction plan)  Excessive exercise (i.e., the Loughborough Eating disorders Activity Program (LEAP)) 

Eating Disorder Coordinator 

New South Wales, and several other jurisdictions, have an organised system for helping people with eating disorders access treatment and stepped care treatment options, including hospital. 

In NSW, there is an Eating Disorder Coordinator in every health district. The Eating Disorder Coordinator can assist you in establishing treatment pathways, escalate care if needed, provide support and find specialist eating disorder professionals. Please see our website for contact details for your local Eating Disorder Coordinator