Assume good intent.

This one is for the vets.

We’ve all had the question whether at a formal interview or on an awkward first date “So, why did you want to become a vet” …and then proceed to give our well rehearsed answer… “Well, since I was young – .” The conversation inevitably brings reactions of either shock or respect after explaining the 8 year process. Sometimes it leads to judgement that we weren’t human doctors instead, but we don’t care. We have all been there a million times. All of us, vets. I say “us” as though it’s obvious that we would be a unit, one profession. Buddies, confidants, mentors, students – of one another depending on the day and topic – however it is often and unfortunately, quite the opposite.

Now I am not sure whether it’s normal for competitive professions or those consisting mainly of “Type A personalities” to be this harsh on each other but in the veterinary world it can seem that if you slip up the crocs will catch you. Unless you’re wearing crocs in which case you can’t actually slip but I digress. You might be called out on your treatment plan during ward rounds or shouted at by a colleague. You never can tell what’s going to happen next.

Of course I have worked with many, many incredible people in the veterinary industry including vets, nurses etc however the invisible presence of discomfort where you tremble inside during ward rounds and try to stop your voice from showing it but you actually can’t do that so you just sound unconfident – is there lurking. All of the time.

Why is that? And is it just me?

During my final year of vet school we were finally given the hard earned right to be mentored in the University’s small animal hospital. This was the 8th year of studying towards my veterinary degree so no one can argue that I didn’t earn this privilege. The university fees also can’t argue that point – we paid to be there. However what we didn’t pay for was the ability to learn in a healthy environment. This is not entirely anyone’s fault. It was a combination of things. Some professors can be very hard on you and being called out in front of a group of colleagues is not only embarrassing but it creates a discomfort that is not conducive to learning. When the colleagues are less than forgiving about you making a mistake, this piles on top of the embarrassment and to top it all off we have the anxiety of a young stressed vet student – worried about exams, worried about forgetting to ask something in a consult with strangers while being tested by your professor plus 4 other students. There is nothing healthy about this combination – in my little humble opinion.

When I started practicing as a vet I was shouted at by my mentor, got no training as no one seemed to have the time despite working for a company that promised a 3 month teaching programme and felt unsupported by my peers. Why?

Is everyone just too stressed? Too tired and can’t be bothered to reach out? Worried about competition for promotions? What’s the reason for this lack of support? We, the team, should be lifting each other up. We should be reaching out to one another. Times are hard and the world has been going through a tough time. We have all been going through a tough time, together. So let’s get out of it together. We, us, the team. Let’s pick each other up. Let’s be kind to one another. Let’s talk, let’s share ideas and opinions. Let’s be friendly.

A very amazing vet said in a talk a few years back to “Always assume good intent.” I am sure that we all have similar answers to the very boring question “Why did you want to become a vet?” We have all worked very hard to be here and we all deserve each others respect and care. Let’s take care of each other. Let us work together as one profession in this crazy exciting veterinary world of ours! Let’s assume good intent and get on with it.

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