Today I took the AVMA’s online wellness assessment test, which was adapted from human medicine’s Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) test.
According to the AVMA website, the test has been deemed a valid self-administered assessment tool to quantify the emotional effects of being a caregiver. In other words, it helps determine when your professional burnout meter is about to crash your entire system.
I learned that I don’t have far to go when considering myself “well,” a notion that would surprise my psychiatrist, my psychotherapist and the daily support group I attend (but that’s a story for another column). The point being: However much my brain might remain in fundamental disarray, when it comes to my work life, I’m almost perfectly normal.
According to the ProQOL, I scored just a smidge to the left of the bulge in terms of compassion satisfaction, meaning I derive only a hair less satisfaction from my work than you do. smidge to the left of the bulge in terms of compassion satisfaction, meaning I derive only a hair less satisfaction from my work than you do.
Which only makes sense. Given a “new” practice that requires a total makeover, a bigger crew and heaps of cash, who wouldn’t suffer some spasms of regret along with a few sleepless nights (not to mention the occasional existential crisis in the shape of an airport bathroom stall panic attack)? Given them apples, who wouldn’t be more stressed and less satisfied than almost exactly half of you?
Overall, however, I consider myself incredibly fortunate. Give me another two years with a practice overhaul in the rearview mirror and who knows how far down the right side of the curve I can plummet? To be sure, it feels good to be in the “in” crowd, for once. Catching sight of the cusp of a bell curve doesn’t happen often, so can you blame me for celebrating a little?
Yes, even with all my mental health disabilities in attendance, and with what is likely the most stressful moment of my career at full tilt, I am nevertheless treading our profession’s treacherous waters right next to you.
Which begs the question: How do we manage to stay afloat?
Not that I’m any sort of guru, mind you. I mean, I just copped to a C minus on what is arguably our profession’s most important exam. Nonetheless, I’m apparently the only person willing to give you advice at this exact moment––advice you are, as always, invited to accept or discard at will as long as you don’t succumb to the whims of contempt before investigation.
To this end, I’ve prepared a short list detailing eight simple ways you can improve your job satisfaction, along with your ProQOL score:
I get a recharge every year by going to at least one national conference. Two if I’m lucky. I find them increasingly spectacular––not always in a good way (stay tuned for next month’s column on this topic)––but they’re galvanizing, nonetheless.
Get Your Lit On
You don’t need to join a journal club to take in some journals. And it definitely doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. In fact, done right, reading vet lit can be soothing. Here’s how: Set aside a little time away from work every week to geek out. Choose a peaceful time and place. Treat yourself to a pot of coffee or tea.
Thursday night at a local coffeehouse? Sunday morning ritual on the back porch? Nerding out never felt so good. And it makes the upcoming week something to look forward to … not dread.
Tune Out Social Media at Work
Do yourself a favor: Take a break from social media when you’re at work. Sometimes it seems there’s nothing so savage as the kinds of things we’re wont to post and share online. Given that human ferocity knows no bounds when unleashed online, is there a buzzkill more vicious than reading an evil emoji-laced post … just as you’re scrubbing into a Rottweiler abdomen?
Just stop it already. Keep your camera nearby to Instagram patient pics or post them on the hospital’s Facebook page, and put a lid on whatever it is that’s not making you a happier, healthier, more productive person.
Join a Veterinary Club
If ever you’re feeling besieged by your profession, hung up in the proverbial trenches by your knife belt or something along those lines, then you need VIN. So much fun was never hoarded online by way too few. Join up.
VMA Boards Aren’t Just for Old Folk
While it’s true that your local veterinary medical association’s board is more likely to be manned by blue-hairs than hipsters, there’s no law that says the 20- or 30-somethings can’t come out to play. I promise you, no one will stop you if you’re a member and decide to RSVP to a board meeting, whatever your age. How else are we to lure new blood into our snare?
Seriously, though, VMAs can be a fun way to amp up your political engagement in your profession. And, as I like to say, my VMA isn’t just political. It’s sort of social, too. Demented and sad … but social.
Don’t Go Negative at Work
I used to hate it when people would tell me to stay positive. OK, so I still hate it. Especially when I’m pissed off. But sometimes it’s simply impossible to stay sunny all the damn time. What is easier, however, is to remind myself that going dark is absolutely verboten. In other words, I’m not to indulge any negative emotions while at work.
Like a friend of mine likes to say, when you have a cuddly dog and an aggressive dog and only enough food to feed one, which one gets the dish? The moral of this yarn: Don’t feed the bad and the good will grow.
Personalize Your Happy Space
Everyone needs a place to go and chill while at work. Even if it’s not a big “L” of a desk you get to call all yours, I’m sure everyone can claim a little space of her own to personalize, however small it may be. Yes, even when I had nothing but a 45-year-old bathroom to call my sanctuary, my candles and fragrances would chill me out when needed. Don’t knock the small stuff ’til you try it. Go there when things get un-happy.
Take the ProQOL
This might sound like a weird way to improve your test score, but old tests helped all through vet school, didn’t they? So what are you waiting for? If you score lower than I do, you might want to have a chat with a friend about it. If nothing else, talking to a friend is a sure way of improving your score. And that’s advice you can take to the bank.
Now, if only I could take more of my own advice, I could improve my own ProQOL score, too …
Dr. Patty Khuly owns a small animal practice in Miami and is a passionate blogger at drpattykhuly.com. Columnists’ opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Veterinary Practice News.
Originally published in the April 2017 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!