I’ve been asked several times recently why I write this blog – I think in a good way – and it’s that time of the year where it’s traditional to reflect on the previous year and make resolutions for the next.
At first it was to share personal experience and frustration that I started this blog but more and more it came to be because I felt I could help to give a voice to subjects that many in the profession are thinking about and talking about in the relative anonymity of social media, and in prep rooms and staff rooms. I still see that the profession has so much it can offer and yet in so many ways it falls short of expectations. I also see this blog as an extension of mentoring and sharing experiences. I write for everyone in the profession; students, new grads, experienced vets, practice managers, practice owners, recruiters, corporate and independent. Even if an article does not seem to be written for your group, I think it is useful to know what others are thinking and experiencing. Although this blog is currently focusing on recruitment, it is going to cover many more non-clinical topics affecting the profession.
I’ve been told I am brave to put myself out there and voice opinions that may not be palatable to all, that I am harming my chance of being given employment. It’s not that I don’t care what others say but I have got to the point in my life where I feel the need to help improve the status quo, not just for myself but for all my colleagues and those in the future. I want to help people from having the disappointing job experiences like my little sister; there has to be a better way. There are so many things we have right in the profession and should be proud of but obviously some things are not going well. It is because I DO care that I write this blog. This is a healing profession. Healer, heal thyself. Or at least thy industry.
If only one person reads this blog and changes the way they think about a situation, I will have succeeded. I’m not here to force change on anyone but as a profession we desperately need to evolve to keep up with the rapidly changing world beyond our borders. Evolution is the right way to think about it and should appeal to our scientific minds; it’s a process of making incremental improvements in a sustainable, controlled way, and adapting to changing environmental requirements. Evolution requires variation, pressure and inheritability. We have the pressure, no doubt. We have the inheritability via CPD and verbal training. Variation though? Any new ideas, anything that isn’t what we’ve done before no matter how slightly different, is too often trodden down. Take ideas from outside the profession? Heresy! You all know what happens if you remove all variation from a population, so why are we doing it to ourselves?
No person or business can improve or grow by standing still. This profession can be too insular and inward looking, standing still in the comfort zone despite it becoming increasingly uncomfortable, wondering why this is happening when it worked in the past and vocally moaning about how the world is not like it used to be. We continue down the same path, doing the same things repeatedly but hoping for a different outcome. We need to learn to try new things and new ways. What we are doing currently is not working in many regards and we can do it better. I don’t know how, I am sure no-one else knows exactly how, but we need to be open to consider the possibilities and alternatives in order to develop new, better processes. Otherwise natural selection will continue to work and only the fittest will survive.
I love being a vet and I am an optimist. Just as well really, as after this past year I can see why so many of my colleagues are disillusioned with the profession and leaving or wanting to leave. I believe the right job for me is out there, if I just keep looking for it, and there will be a practice that appreciates what I can do. I discovered that I love trying new things in my work as well as my personal life (weirdly I have always loved trying new things outside of being a vet such as travelling to exotic places – see my other blog here). I discovered that I shouldn’t be scared of a fail or a mistake (while still balancing the risks if it does go wrong). I have found that I enjoy non-clinical work as much as my clinical work and so my ideal future position needs to balance the two.
I have to admit that I’m an advocate for constructive discontent, an attribute that I have been told by some is a negative, but I want to improve things for the better, work hard and test my limits. I have the ability to see problems and mistakes but rather than ignoring them, I want to improve them and seek solutions, not just moan about them. I shouldn’t have to apologise for having opinions or voicing those opinions. Disagreement isn’t always a bad thing – it is essential to creative problem-solving.
The easy route is to not speak out, to avoid conflict, to avoid considering change. I have worked with many like this and, far from smoothing things over, it becomes one of the key reasons I left that job because nothing ever improved and never would. Repressing these things is what leads to gossip, simmering resentment, feelings of powerlessness and then contagious low morale and poor engagement.
As to those who don’t want to work with me or feel offended in some way by my writing, I’m not out to cause offense so please consider why you feel this way. You have nothing to worry about because if you feel threatened by being questioned, I almost certainly don’t want to work for you. If you are offended that I can think for myself and make my own judgement and am not afraid to voice it then what does that say about you? Are you frightened that your authority is questioned? If you’re confident that your methods are the only viable way then you should be equally confident to explain why. If you’re scared of using the full abilities of your team, including their brains, how sure are you that you should be leading them? I don’t want to depose you. This is not a power-play. I just want to be able to contribute to make my team, my practice and my life, better.
I don’t claim to have all the answers but I want to encourage you to think outside the narrow confines you currently do, often called a box. I want to re-educate you to be curious – including and maybe especially of yourself. If you understand the why of a situation you will be confident to discuss it, explain it and, with better knowledge from any source, improve it. That’s called science. Let’s start the discussion and debate.
This is not change, this is evolution.