Can't We All Just Get Along?

Posted: Dec 12, 2014
Views: 5334 - Comments: 12

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I’m a fairly cynical person. It’s not a trait I’m necessarily proud of – while sarcasm is fun at cocktail parties it sometimes really poisons the genuinely good moments in life. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it’s because in this line of work I’ve seen some truly heartbreaking events. I might just be tired today but I find myself more sensitive to the negativity and cynicism among my colleagues. And I’m not just talking about my immediate coworkers - I’m talking about my veterinary medicine peoples worldwide.

As many of us can probably say, I participate in the massive time-suck that is social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the ever widening wormhole of articles, videos, funny cats, puppies, and comments brought to me via the magical internet. And the negativity is astounding. Not only negativity about the general nature of work, but about everything. EVERYTHING. Rather than lecture all of you about how a negative attitude will just drag us all down, I’m going to rally in the season of thankful and give you a blog of all that is good.

I have a job where I make a difference. Think about it. What I do as a veterinary technician directly impacts the lives of animals and people. Even when I was a poop scooper at a boarding kennel I was making a difference to those dogs. Not everyone can say that they see the direct results of their work. I protected that puppy from a deadly disease. I noticed that arrhythmia and brought it to the doctor’s attention. I comforted that nervous cat. I helped that owner understand how to administer SQ fluids. It may not be glamorous, bring me attention, make me rich, or keep me clean, but I make a difference each and every shift and that’s a reason to be thankful.

I work with incredible people. The people who choose to do this work do so because they want to make a difference. They are helping, fixing, compassionate, hilarious, generous people. This applies to my DoveLewis family, but also to my extended veterinary medicine family. As an introverted ‘fear of the weirdoes in the universe’ person, how else can I explain my fast friendships with people I’ve barely met? There is a bond that we share that is easily recognizable. If you can get around the negativity on social media you can meet some unbelievable veterinary people – that’s a reason to be thankful. I am lucky enough to travel and meet these people, all of which have become fast friends after spending less than 15 minutes together. We are awesome. All of us.

I get to work with animals. This is an easy one. While they can be frustrating, for every one devil cat or hound from hell I have to work with, I get 20 perfect angels who eat all of their oral medication in canned food meatballs or devour their activated charcoal no questions asked. Why then, do we have to focus on the difficult patients? Instead, think about that dog who perks up when he hears your voice, or the cat who refused food for days and finally ate from your hand. This may be a very Pollyanna way to look at life, but it’s true. I live in a society that values animals enough to provide medical care, and I am thankful for the opportunity to provide that care.

I’m helping. I make a difference for my patients, but I also make a difference to their people. I may not always agree with the people and the decisions they make, but I don’t focus on those. Focus on the thank-you cards posted outside our ER. Focus on the emails we get with videos of the post-ventilator dog frolicking in the flowers (It made me cry. Seriously. Amazing). We may not get more than a tail wag from a patient, but when an owner thanks us with pizza and donuts? I’m pretty thankful for that.

I’m trying extra hard this year not to be grinchy. It’s the holidays, and while the unrealistic expectations surrounding this time of year can make it a challenge emotionally, I’m going to combat that with focusing on the positive things about my life, and the job where I expend so much time and effort. Can we all try that? Can we go an entire week where the groups dedicated to veterinary professionals DON’T focus on rants and complaints and anger? If we succeed for a week let’s try a month. Let’s not be positive just because of the time of year, but because we are smart, compassionate, hilarious, supportive professionals who deserve the respect of our peers. Sure we might not make tons of money, sure we punish our bodies wrestling with giant dogs, sure we enter the gladiator ring with angry cats, but for me it sure beats the alternative. 



Lauren Lindsay's picture

Thank you so much for posting this. This is a theme I see all too often in my life (both professional and sadly, personal).
Taking the time to stop and count your blessings (cheesy though it may be) is definitely something I need to remember to do, and often.

Amanda Barr's picture

My husband challenged me last year to think of one positive thing about each day and write it down on a slip of paper. I put all those slips of paper in a box starting January 1. Then on New Year's Eve, we rang in the new year by reading all the good things that happened the year before. Sometimes the slips of paper said things like, "I made it to work on time." But sometimes they said things like, "Distemper dog went home with tail wagging." It's amazing how your perspective can change when you take the time to notice the positive.

Fernando Catalan's picture

"Even when I was a poop scooper"? really? I would like to thank all the kennel personnel at our veterinary clinic because without them, the veterinary clinic would not exist. I am also thankful that doctors, technicians, receptionists, and kennel attendants all treat each other with respect and don't put each other down because one position is more reputable than the other.

Erin Sochocky's picture

Thank you, Megan! I have been talking about this a lot lately. Often I come into work in a great mood and then after being around a negative Nelly or two my mood changes. We all have to remember that we are all in the same boat. We are all seeing sad things every day. We are all feeling the same compassion fatigue. So instead of beating ourselves up and the others around us with a cloud of negativity why not try to raise each other up? Be positive. Point out a cute cat to hug after your coworker just experienced a heartbreaking euthanasia client. Often if we just change the conversation we are able to change our mood and those around us. Cheer up folks! Life is too darn short. Happy Holidays to you all!

Megan Brashear's picture

Thanks for your feedback everyone. Fernando, I TOTALLY agree. I mentioned 'even as a pooper scooper' because I think our assistants and kennel help struggle to see the difference they make because they aren't monitoring anesthesia or providing direct nursing care. But cleanliness and timely walks outside and a comfy bed are VITAL to our patients and hospital. Keep up the positivity everyone!! It's contagious!

Remona Seckinger's picture

I have witnessed the cattiness and hatefulness among techs on social media and it almost turned me off from this field. I don't want to work with people like that. I told my self there was no way I was going to let the misery of others deprive me of a career that I am passionate about. Misery loves company and I won't be visiting. I LOVE vet med and always will.

Shawna Thrailkill's picture

I work in a very fast paced, emergency/referral hospital. And I am on the ER shift. I am having difficulties dealing with gossip and laziness, and have directed my concerns numerous times to upper mgmt. Any words of encouragement?

Megan Brashear's picture

I'm sorry you're having a rough time with your team. My best advice is to stay positive yourself, and walk away from negative conversations. It's harder than it sounds! Set the example, and don't let yourself get sucked into conversations about clients, patients, coworkers, etc. Talk to your manager(s) about setting up a kudos board where you all write positive notes of thanks to each other. Set out a bowl of candy or snacks and every time someone takes a piece of candy they have to write something positive about someone else. Then monthly send out an email with all of the positive comments. Changing the culture to one that is positive takes time and energy, so don't give up! Be the example and hope others will follow.

Kimberly Sams's picture

I like to think we'really a lot a like. I love my job and have been doing this for 20+ yrs. I am generally the first one in and last one out of the clinic each day. I am the only RVT out of 12 ppl working
but have trained most of the ppl there. I LOVE seeing our regulars and am known as the candy lady because I always have treats in my pocket. I love watching the babies brighten up when they see me come down the aisle in the boarding area for their cookie and I get a kiss, or slobber. This gets me through the day of a VERY busy NO appt, walk in base clinic of 6 doctors and attitudes of whatever! From the young ones. My client are the 4 legged and their well being comes first.