It is good to talk.
The number of posts in social media by vets considering leaving the profession is a great concern. Common themes in these posts are lack of support, long hours, awkward clients, feelings of not being good enough and that “there must be something better out there”. I completely understand these feelings having been there myself, but before rejecting the profession that we trained hard to get into it is important to take time to reflect on what is happening.
First of all, please do not think that you are the only one feeling this way, you are not. Equally do not assume that others realise what you are feeling, no one knows what we are feeling unless we tell them. So, the first step is to talk to someone about how you are feeling and the areas that you are struggling with. Posting how you are feeling on social media may make you feel better because you have written your feelings down, but this is not the way to look for help as it runs the risk of validating your feelings and giving you the impression that what you are experiencing is what everyone is feeling, but this is only the views of a small number of people. I believe that it is important to write your feelings and worries down, it helps to understand what you are feeling and what you are thinking and makes it easier to talk to others. Talking to the right people always helps.
Too often younger members of the profession are left to sink or swim in practice. Practice owners may have put in place helpful resources, but they are seldom backed up with support in the practice and mentoring. I have looked at these areas in previous posts and feel that they should be mandatory in practice, for the good of all. Ideally when one starts in a new job, be they new graduates or more experienced colleagues, a structured review and support plan is put in place. If such a plan is not part of the package, then perhaps it is best not to accept the position. As employees we are in a strong position to ask for support before taking on a new job and as employers, we need to be listening to what members of the profession need in order to be supported and developed, again for mutual benefit. The current situation where practices are finding it difficult to recruit practices is an ideal opportunity to address these issues.
If you feel that you do not have access to any support in your practice, talk to trusted family or friends. Talking always helps towards gaining clarity as to what is at the root of your feelings. Too often we bottle feelings up until one episode, such as an awkward client, an ill-advised comment from a colleague, or something that we would normally cope with releases all the pent-up frustration and negative thoughts that we have been suppressing and we explode in anger and lash out at whatever and whoever is nearby at the time. If you feel that you have nobody to talk too, pick up the phone and call Vetlife. Whatever you do, talk. It is only by talking that you will come to realise what you need to improve your life. It may be that you come to the conclusion that practice is not for you so you can look at what other avenues interest you either within or outside the profession, but equally you may realise that you really do want to stay in practice and that you need to change the job and not change jobs.
Talk to your boss, line-manager, your HR department, whoever is the most appropriate in your organisation and ask for support, ask to be assigned a mentor, ask a colleague who you trust to be a mentor. It is only by asking that we will make everyone else realise that we need (not just want) support. Get your employers on board by presenting what your goals are and what you need to achieve them. If your goals are a million miles from your employer’s then look for a practice whose goals are more in keeping with your own. I suspect that most members of the profession have the same goals as most practices, that is to be the best that they can be in their chosen profession and to offer the best care for our patients and owners.
If practice owners continue to ignore the needs of the profession, then there will be a decline in standards and an increased dissatisfaction both within and of the profession. With support in place, the other commonly cited issues with the profession will be taken care of and the potential of talented people will be realised. We all have a part to play so let’s get talking.