If you answered within the past six months or less, good for you! We applaud your team in building a work environment in which there is deliberate time set aside for personal and professional development.
For those of you who answered, “I can’t remember,” or “Never,” know you are not alone. Rarely is a veterinary team allowed the luxury to reflect, assess, and build upon resources in this fashion. Yet, there is hope.
Now is a great time to focus on trends in veterinary medicine because we have just survived the past 12 months within a global pandemic. Give yourself a pat on the back!
Before we dive into the meat of the exercise, consider what brought you to veterinary medicine in the first place.
First, invite curiosity
When you began pursuing your career in veterinary medicine, what was your “why”? Can you recall?
You may be familiar with Simon Senik’s popular video, “Begin with Why” (see: https://youtu.be/IPYeCltXpxw). Consider watching it again and answer these questions to put yourself in the place of curiosity and the excitement you felt for healing animals. I think we forget we are healers at our deepest core, regardless of the position on the veterinary team.
- The path that brought you to veterinary medicine.
- The strengths and gifts you bring to this work.
- How you envision your work as you move forward.
This may be a chance for a needed reset, regroup and refocus. Your “why” is your baseline, the foundation that brought and keeps you engaged in veterinary medicine. Now, let’s consider trends impacting veterinary teams and discovering solutions.
Current trends in veterinary medicine
Oh my, the changes we have seen in the past year are mind-boggling!
Consider the demographics of team members, the various clients, the number of animals treated, the delivery of veterinary care, stress because of COVID-19, introduction of telecare, or even the confidence and education needed to deliver veterinary medicine. There are so many ways to view the trends.
No wonder individual team members and teams will create and view the trends differently.
Quickly, pen and paper in hand, without overthinking it (which we tend to do), without labeling good, bad, or ugly, write out the trends you have experienced over the past year, personally and professionally.
When engaging with veterinary teams, generating a trends list impacting veterinary medicine in real-time, it may look something like this:
- Curbside services
- Anxious/angry clients
- Increase in caseload/workload
- Need for intentional self-care
- Social distancing
- Shifting schedules
- Ill parents and/or children/relatives
- Competition of suffering
- Digital/social media
- Unemployment rate
- Inclusion and diversity
- Increase in industry demand for veterinary professionals
Continue to identify the trends you and your team are experiencing. Be as specific as possible. Consider putting “Identify vetmed trends” on your next team meeting agenda to get the conversation started.
Of the list of trends, which would your team deem as priorities in rendering solutions?
For now, we will focus on two needing attention and provide a recipe for devising solutions and resources.
A good series of questions to ask include:
- What is working? Always focus on this first. Fully tap out all that is going well. If the team jumps to No. 2 prematurely, refocus on the positive in No. 1.
- What is not working? Second, create a list of what needs improvement. This may be a long exhausting list, but develop it fully.
- What resources are needed in delivering the solution? Generate a list of the resources, funds, networking, coaching,
or ideas to support everything that needs improving.
- Lastly, prioritize! Identify the top three priorities.
Demand for veterinary professionals
Let’s be honest, who signed up to be an essential worker when becoming a veterinary professional?
Chances are you may have not even considered your job in veterinary medicine as essential. Yet, here we are, in 2021 delivering essential veterinary care!
It’s good to see the demand for veterinary services and professionals so high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), there is a projected 16 percent growth in the field of veterinary technology between 2019 through 2029, much greater growth than in other industries. The difficult aspect is merely filling the pipeline with formally trained professionals for
the needed positions.
Apply the series of questions to the trend in veterinary medicine.
Consider all that is working well in growing an essential veterinary team. The list may include:
- The enrollment of online team members in educational programs (assistant and veterinary technician)
- Potential options in career advancement within the practice (team leads, trainers, managers)
- Flexible scheduling with varying shifts
- Evaluation of efficiency and effectiveness to include innovative improvements
Determine what is not working. The list may include:
- Increase in team turnover
- Unfilled positions
- Increased overtime
- Lack of training new hires or inadequate onboarding
The third step is identifying solutions and resources which may include:
- Establish stronger relationships with local and online assistant and veterinary technician educators.
- Create incentives for hiring and recruitment.
- Evaluate the hiring process to include the creation of a professional video.
The point is, allow for the solutions to flow, without squashing the ideas or thwarting the creativity.
Prioritize three solutions that may work nicely into SMART Goals, then establish who is accountable to bring the solution or resources to fruition.
Competition of suffering
When was the last time you found yourself in a conversation boasting the ability to suffer more than another? It’s an interesting twist on compassion and veterinary teams are really good at it, winning at the competition of suffering!
Historic energy levels of workplaces have evolved over the centuries from suffering to surviving to thriving. You may be experiencing similar levels within your career. In Marcella Bremer’s Organizational Cultural Change, she suggests the following may be experienced in your career or workplace.
Which can you most identify with?
- Suffer: Life is harsh, you can’t win at work, low energy, simply enduring from a place of little hope or getting through day for the paycheck.
- Survive: There’s no free lunch, not everyone loses, do your best, self-mastery, medium energy, grow within the organization, do what your boss expects from you.
- Thrive: Life is great—live it to the max! Radiate with high energy and uplift people, brainstorming, engaging, healthy debate, looks and feels dynamic.
Unfortunately, there may be a level of competition of suffering on veterinary teams. Do these conversations sound familiar?
- “I’ve been so busy I have not had time to eat lunch.”
- “Well, I’ve only eaten a protein bar in the last 24 hours.”
- “I was here until 8 p.m. last night.”
- “Well, I left at 8 p.m. and thenI was up until after midnight doing paperwork.”
- “I have not had a chance to take a bathroom break for six hours.”
- “Well, my solution to that is to wear a diaper so I don’t need to take one at all.”
You may be laughing or shaking your head in agreement. Maybe you have initiated the conversation or continued to add to the “competition” perpetuating the contest.
When we apply the series of questions as related to the idea of competition of suffering, we may find the following:
- What’s working: The team recognizes the trends in competing for the “Most Suffering Award.”
- Not working: Positively reinforcing the suffering behavior is a recipe for increased fatigue and burnout.
- Solutions include self-awareness in curbing the competition of suffering. Resources may be found in supporting healthier habits (i.e. taking a lunch break, getting quality sleep, and finishing on time).
- Prioritize an award system to improve healthy competition.
- Drink 8 ounces of water every hour and make regular pit stops between appointments.
- 30 minutes to eat lunch off the floor, uninterrupted.
- Properly delegate and improve time management.
Once again, to bring the solutions and resources to a tangible point, establish accountability and work through the details within a SMART Goal.
As you know, and now made tangible, naming the trends impacting veterinary teams can be a powerful exercise. The month of March may be a difficult anniversary in that we have been essential for a year. Veterinary team members may find relief and a sense of control in this thoughtful exercise.
Rebecca Rose, CVT, certified career coach, founder, and president at CATALYST Veterinary Professional Coaches, has a diverse background in the veterinary community. She has worked in and managed clinics, collaborates with industry partners, and facilitates engaging team workshops. Rose’s enthusiasm for professional development in veterinary medicine is contagious, as she encourages and supports veterinary teams in reaching their highest potential. She can be reached via
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians (bls.gov)
Suffer, Survive or Thrive in organizational culture, Marcella Bremer, Leadership and Change, February 2016, www.leadershipandchangemagazine.com/