Written by Leigh Pogorzelski
Let me throw some words at you: burnout, compassion fatigue, imposter syndrome. There’s only a rare individual in the vet biz that isn’t surrounded routinely by these terms. We are in the midst of an enormous event right now. A time when these phrases, these concepts, these feelings are being talked about, examined and thrown against the chalkboard. They are important. They are recognized. They are no longer taboo or accompanied by eye rolls and scoffs. This is a time when vet professionals can finally be REAL and trust that they are amongst friends. We are a community and a huge one at that. And there’s power in community. Safety. Opportunities to help each other RISE. But simply talking about these things, attending conferences – hell, even reading this ranting blog – can’t be enough. Awareness is vital, and yes, it’s “the first step.” But turning that knowledge and acceptance into action is the step that truly makes a difference. When was the last time you reached out to help a fellow coworker? How about the last time you reached out to ask a coworker for help? I challenge you, stop sitting on your hands, stop simply talking about it, and start doing something about it. Host a self care team meeting or yoga class, start educating your clients and reforming their expectations, continue training your team on how to manage escalated clients, stand in front of your boss, and lobby for paid maternity leave, or flexible work schedules, or whatever’s important to you. Go to the gym. Go to lunch with a friend. Go to Disneyland with your family. Go to Venice with your partner. Take a damn nap!! Find a life outside of work, find what gives you peace, and just frigging DO IT.
The daily life of a vet professional will never completely change. We will always be faced with most of the challenges that have brought us to a state of total burnout, fatigue, depression and anxiety, and that have contributed to a huge exodus of vets and staff, not to mention the increase in suicide. It’s heartbreaking watching our profession slowly crumble. But we do have options and a chance to turn things around. What we need to do now, as a community, is learn how to prioritize our own health and wellbeing in the midst of the chaos and emotions. We need to work out the kinks of our daily practices and establish new methods that allow us a chance just to pee during the day. We need to retrain our clients and be brave enough to set boundaries. We need to re-engage ourselves in life outside of work and schedule time for reflection and some really serious deep breathing. It CAN be done. We can keep the vet profession alive and thriving. It can once again be a desirable and fulfilling place to be. We just have to actually do something about it.