So let’s just get this out of the way: I think that almost every veterinary professional can agree that the best way to show your appreciation at a veterinary hospital is with food. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, tech, receptionist, or even a client... just give us food!
I've shown my appreciation with food by buying things at the grocery store that are on sale or that I had a coupon for, like chips, and brought them in for my shift mates. I've made cookies or chili on my day off and brought in the extra. I am such a big fan of people bonding through food that I even co-wrote a blog about potlucking to increase morale, if you care to read it. But I'm vegan, and I don’t always get to enjoy the generous offerings lingering in the lunch room. So I started to think about other ways that I show appreciation for my coworkers and ways that they show their appreciation for me that don’t pack on the pounds.
It may also be safe to say that veterinary people are not known for being the most outgoing people. We are usually a little weird and often introverts (especially in ER/ICU medicine). This can make for some really awkward social interactions and, sometimes, some "passive aggressive" behaviors. I'm no exception. I started at DoveLewis as a technician assistant, worked through tech school, and then transitioned into my present role as technician. It wasn’t easy. I felt as though I really had to prove myself to my coworkers while trying to gracefully maintain my relationships with old assistant peers.
It was a stressful time and I found it really difficult to balance taking on my new role with the challenges of working in emergency medicine. Consequently, my internal struggles showed externally. I reluctantly admit that I blindly stepped on a few toes. Though the experience was not pleasant, I had a great manager that pulled me aside and let me know how I was being perceived. She then gave me some tips on how to make things easier for myself, that I have continued to utilize. She basically suggested that I think of my needs less and the needs of others more. She suggested that I do things like setting up for procedures for my coworkers, doing differentials that weren’t mine, taking the drug key, helping make treatment sheets, asking if coworkers needed breaks, folding laundry, asking about things in my coworker’s personal lives like their kids or their weddings, offering to go into surgery, picking up shifts, swapping shifts; generally just being helpful and positive. So, I gave it a shot. What I found was that not only were my coworker’s appreciative, but overall I was happier and it made work a lot easier.
I am no saint. We all have good days and bad days. But I've learned some valuable life skills from my work relationships and experiences along the way. The environment we work in is generally a stressful one. And by stressful I mean extremely sad, demanding, thankless and soul sucking. I’ve had days where I have sat in the bathroom, during the five minutes that would be considered my break, and cried like a little baby. Compassion fatigue happens, and because it is our job to be compassionate we sometimes run out of it. Sadly, a lot of times, we take out our frustrations out on each other. So I've learned to not take things as personally, to let things go, to be direct, and to admit when I'm at fault.
Again, I am not perfect. But when I am able to do this, my life becomes a lot easier. Sometimes I'm not always able to do these things right away. But saying "I’m sorry" or "thank you" are two things that are better late than never. Shooting a quick email may mean the world to someone, and the difference between work-social life and death (kidding). I know I liked to be recognized, who doesn’t?
I've also come to realize that self care is the best service that I can do for the people around me. It’s not that when Josey is happy everyone is happy, but... it kind of is! I’m a lot easier to put up with when I am the best version of me! I probably sound pretty hippy-dippy by this point, so if you're still reading this, bless your heart. I'm a fan of going to counseling, eating well, hobbies and exercise. I get chiropractic care and acupuncture regularly to help alleviate physical tension. At DoveLewis we're lucky enough to have an on-staff grief counselor and monthly support groups as options. I have taken up a practice of writing gratitude lists daily, because it reminds me that my life actually doesn’t suck and gives me perspective. I usually list 3-10 things every day. Sometimes I text them to a friend or write them in a journal. It helps!
To wrap it up, there are probably a million different ways to show your coworkers that you care, but the important thing is that you take the time to do it every once and a while. Don’t forget to appreciate you, too! You deserve it! Bake a pie! Take a yoga class! Send a nice email! And take a nice deep breath, you’re awesome and it is all going to be ok.