Most of us become vets because we care about animals.
But the question is after being a vet for some time, do you still care?
If you don’t care, well why not?
Caring can manifest itself in a number of different ways, obviously, as you go into a consult, you care, and you are going to make sure that animal gets your full attention, you are going to make sure that person gets an adequate conversion and information.
The follow-up aspects are really easy to get flustered about, for example, a euthanasia pet, do you care enough to send them a card afterward? If you treat an animal with an unusual type of condition such as a manifestation of itchy skin which you haven’t seen before, or some other type of unusual case, do you care enough to call them back in a week? Or in 2 weeks?
When it comes to the staff in your clinic, do you care enough about them that you will stay on for an extra 10 minutes at the end of the day to help them clean up?
Do you do aspects of your work to a high enough level which demonstrates to people around you that you don’t just care about what needs to be done, but you care enough about them to help do that extra bit?
What’s the most common reason for people to stop caring?
I think the main thing is when the work life balance goes. I think for me as a vet for the first decade of my working career, I loved it, I really enjoyed it and because I loved it I cared an awful lot. Then after 10 years of working 10-12 hours per day, 5 days a week, nights, some weekends, on call etc I got tired, and then I got bored and I guess, I stopped caring.
I felt I didn’t have it in me anymore, a form of compassion fatigue I suppose.
So for me, what I had to do was review my work schedule. Luckily, I was in a fortunate position where I was able to work less hours, we had an emergency clinic come to our part of the world therefore I was able to do less on call.
I make it sound like a conscious thing where you can chose to care, you can chose not to care. I don’t think this is the case, it’s more that if you are in a job which you enjoy, enough good things are happening outside of work which you enjoy, your workplace environment is good, then you enjoy it more and as long as we are all enjoying your work, naturally, we are going to care about it more.
‘When you lose the enjoyment in work, the caring is much more difficult to maintain.’
I think it should be an ambition of all of us to continue to care, you know yourself that when you stop caring, some bit of you inside, that little voice in your head does say to you ‘this isn’t quite right, I am not quite coming up to my potential here’ – this is not a good sense to have inside you.
I sometimes think that the broad idea of not caring anymore, works its way inside your head, I wouldn’t call it mental illness or a psychiatric issue, but I would say it can be the first sign that you should look carefully at yourself to ensure things are moving in the right direction, not the wrong direction.
We all know that psychiatric issues, addiction, depression are common in our profession, and perhaps that symptom of not caring is the earliest aspects of that we should be looking out for?
I make it sound like this is in our control, which isn’t always the case, maybe you are in a workplace where the boss expects you to work these long hours?
Your practice offers 5-minute consults without the necessary support?
For these aspects are things you can’t control but they can make you stop enjoying your work, which can result in you not caring.
I am a strong believer that we each have individual preferences and ways that we like to do things, things that we are particularly good at, we have our own strengths and weaknesses and the main mission for all of us as vets, is to try find our own induvial niche, expressing through our work what we are and what we are good at.
We are a caring profession and it’s disappointing when we do stop caring, I think one of the key ambitions for all of us is to make sure that we organise our workplace and our work time so that we carry on caring.