Episode 149 | The Impact of Age in Veterinary Medicine

In this episode, Dr. Cari Wise discusses the impact of age in veterinary medicine. 

She explores how age can affect the perspectives and assumptions of both clients and veterinary professionals. 

Older clients may be assumed to have limited financial means or knowledge about veterinary care, while younger clients may be judged as irresponsible or unknowledgeable. 

Dr. Wise emphasizes the importance of stepping out of judgment and providing consistent recommendations and education to help clients make better choices for their pets. 

She also highlights the impact of age on veterinary professionals, with younger professionals experiencing imposter syndrome and older professionals feeling insecure around younger professionals. 

The key is to challenge these beliefs, believe in oneself, and practice self-acceptance and self-love.

Key takeaways from this episode:

  1. Age should not be used as a determining factor for a client’s ability to understand or make decisions about their pet’s care.
  2. Older clients may have more resources and be more financially stable than assumed.
  3. Younger clients should not be judged as irresponsible or clueless, as everyone starts with limited knowledge and experience.
  4. Consistency in recommendations and providing education can help younger clients make better choices for their pets.
  5. Age can also impact veterinary professionals, with younger professionals experiencing imposter syndrome and older professionals feeling insecure around younger professionals.
  6. It is important to challenge our limiting beliefs and recognize that all veterinary professionals are qualified and have valuable contributions to make.
  7. Practicing self-acceptance and self-love is an essential component of creating a sustainable veterinary career


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Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay



Website: https://joyfuldvm.com



Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay


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This transcript is auto-generated and may contain typos.

Hi there. I'm Dr. Cari Wise, veterinarian, certified life coach and certified quantum human design specialist. If you are a veterinary professional looking to uplevel your life and your career, or maybe looking to go in an entirely new direction, then what I talk about here on the Joyful DVM podcast is absolutely for you. Let's get started. Hello my friends.

Welcome back to another episode of the joyful DVM podcast. Today we're gonna spend some time talking about the impact of age and veterinary medicine, and I'm gonna be talking about this from the perspective of not only the clients but the veterinarians and the veterinary staff themselves, because whether or not we want to admit it age actually does impact our entire veterinary experience. And it's an opportunity for us to shift our perspective to create a better experience,

not only for ourselves, but for our clients as well. So let's start out and let's think about the clients. When you're getting ready to go in and work with a client that is of senior age, what is your assumption about that person? Some of us have assumptions that they're retirement age and that they are not gonna have any money to spend on their pets,

or that they are old enough that they aren't current on the current veterinary perspectives, and so they don't listen to what we have to say. Some of them have probably spoken the words, you know, this isn't the way that we did it, or It's just a farm dog. Or Back when I had puppies and kittens, we never took 'em to the vet.

All of those kinds of things. I'm sure that you've heard those statements come out of the mouths of not only senior people, but honestly a lot of clients of varied ages. And we have to just consider how our assumptions about how they may respond to us in regard to their age may change the way that we offer what we can provide. We don't like to be told no,

let's just be honest. As as humans, we don't like to be told no, because many times when we're told no, we personalize that. We make that mean that we are failures. We also make that mean that we aren't respected, that we aren't valued for what information and services we can provide, but that's not actually what's going on at all.

However, whenever we do have that assumption going in, which is an assumption that is pretty easily made with some of our older clients, the assumption that they're going to say no, then we don't even show up in a way that is in best service of that client or that patient. Many of us don't even bother to have conversations with people of a certain age because we go in with an assumption that they're going to say no.

Now I know some of you're gonna be hearing this and you're gonna be saying, well, yeah, you know, Mrs. Smith, I've seen her a million times over the last five years, and she always says no to everything, so I just don't even bother. And what I want you to understand, or at least consider, is that when you've offered something multiple times,

when you are consistent in your recommendations, the impact of the information has more value than you even know. So you can't see how much the information that you provide is actually permeating the way that the owner is thinking about their pet and the wellbeing of their pet and the care of their pet. And over time, as that message just is reinforced, time and time again,

people do start to make some different decisions. However, if we assume based on their age that they're just not going to be able to do anything, then we often will tailor what we recommend because we don't want to hear them say no. Now you can give yourself a million reasons why you say you're not giving them all the options, but the bottom line is this,

you don't wanna feel uncomfortable if somebody declines your services. And so you're trying to decide in advance what they're going to agree to so you don't have to feel uncomfortable. This is not really our role, right? Is to stay comfortable all the time. Our role is to always give the options. And so when we are tailoring what we offer in order to get a yes out of a client,

and when I say tailoring what I offer, I'm all about let's meet in the middle. But if you're starting cutting stuff off your list before you've even given the opportunity to the client to make a decision, we've stepped out of our lane and into theirs. And I have found that the age of the client has a big impact on how frequently we do this.

Now, maybe we're talking about older clients, which we've just discussed. On the other side of that, there are also older clients who have more resources. And so this is one of those areas that we have to be really aware of our motives when we provide opportunities for pet care. So what is it that we're putting on our treatment plans? This is why it's so important for us to stay consistent,

because if we try to guess what they're gonna say yes to, we're missing out on a lot of opportunities to help pets in an advanced way simply because we've made assumptions about their financial means. And so older people, it's common. It's just as common as it is for people to be on a retirement income and have a limited income. It's also very common for them to be financially very stable and in a phase of their life where they're more able to do for their pets than they have ever been able to do in their entire lifetime.

So making that assumption about what they're going to be able to do based on age and more importantly, what they understand, I think this is really critical with the age piece, because we can go in and talk to clients of a certain age and not even realize that we have an age bias against them, that we believe that they're not going to understand what we're talking about,

or that they are going to dismiss what we're saying. And that's us carrying our own baggage into an exam room. That's just the bottom line. And we just need to be aware that we might be doing it because we can't solve a problem, problem that we don't understand. We can't solve a problem that we don't know exists. And the reason that I wanted to do this episode today was to bring some awareness to us and some perspective for us to consider when we're interacting with clients to see am I changing the way that I'm treating this client based on their age?

And so it starts out thinking about the older client. Now, let's talk about the younger client. We're talking, you know, early twenties, late teens, maybe this is their first pet ever. And maybe they're in college, maybe they're just early in their careers, they just don't have a lot of money, and they tell us that that's totally fine,

right? They always get to decide for them within the budget that they have. But if we make assumptions about them based on their age, and a lot of those assumptions with younger clients is that they're irresponsible. They don't know what they're getting into, that they're clueless, and we judge them harshly. And we forget that at one point we were those people who knew nothing about veterinary medicine,

who knew nothing about taking care of animals other than what our family and friends had shared with us and what we had picked up from those people. And if we had never actually had a house pet or a pet that was a member of the family where veterinary care was prioritized, then we would never have been introduced to the concepts that we are now trying to introduce to these young clients.

And so I think it's very important for us to step out of judgment of them and to remember that we're there to educate. And also remember that consistency is key. If we make the same recommendations over and over and over again, we let them decide every single time and we move forward with whatever it is that they pick. But don't underestimate the impact of the education that you're providing all along the way because those people are actually absorbing more of what you're saying than they realize.

And just like many other aspects in life, oftentimes we have to learn some tough lessons. So it's not all that uncommon that you'll have somebody have an animal, a dog that you've recommended puppy vaccines to, and they haven't gotten them, or they've had a huge lapse and then all of a sudden their animal has parvo and it's tragic and it's a terrible disease,

and maybe they live and maybe they die. But what tends to happen in my experience over 20 years is that when somebody goes through the experience of parvo, they get what we are saying. Some people just need to experience these things firsthand. And in my experience, those clients never miss a vaccine again. Now it's a tough lesson and it's one that it's,

it's hard for the veterinary staff because it's exactly what we're trying to prevent, which is these preventable diseases. And it's really tough for the clients too, like this is what we have to remember because the shame and the guilt of an animal that gets an illness that we warn them about and that could be prevented, they have so much shame and guilt in that situation that a lot of those clients don't even want to come back to us.

And I think we have huge opportunity just to stay completely outta judgment. It's not our place to judge them in the first place and to stay in an area of, of service and of ability to help. We don't need to judge their choices, but we can help them with the next ones and we can help them wherever they're at in that situation. And so with our younger clients,

if we dismiss them as being young, as flighty and irresponsible, we don't give them any opportunity to make really good choices. And we actually, the reason they don't have the opportunity to do that is because we stop providing them with the information that they would need to make really good choices for their pets. So again, just something to consider when you walk into an exam room,

check yourself on how is your, how are your, are you interacting with that client? What is your demeanor? What are the assumptions? Like look for them, what are the assumptions? And as soon as you walk in and you lay eyes on a client, what are your assumptions about them based on their age? Because odds are that they are there.

And if we just start paying attention to where we have these biases, then we have the opportunity to intentionally interact with those clients in a way that is more consistent across the board. The bottom line with that is the patients overall get better care because we are providing a consistent base of service. Now, we've talked about age from the perspective of the client,

but now we have to take a step back and we have to look at the age from the perspective of the veterinary professionals, because my friend's age actually does have a huge impact on the way that we interact with each other and the way that we think about ourselves. Now, it's really easy, probably for most of us to remember being really fresh outta school,

being the new veterinarian or the new veterinary technician being so much younger than a lot of the people that we worked with and most of the people that we served. And I'm sure that you guys, just like I did, you had that moment in your veterinary career where a client made a comment about your age. I remember walking in one day when I owned my first practice,

and I'd probably been a practice owner at that point for three years. I was like eight years outta school probably. And I remember walking in and introducing myself like I always did. I have a very standard walk in, put your hand out, shake the person's hand, hi, I'm doctor, you know, insert whatever last name I was using at the time.

And you know, at that point it would've been probably my maiden name, Conklin. So you know, hi, I'm Dr. Conklin, it's nice to meet you. This must be fluffy. You know, I had a very standard thing that I would do every time that I would walk in. If it was a client that I'd seen before, of course,

then I would walk in and and say hello and say hello to them and their pet by name and all that kind of stuff. But I remember very clearly this time where I went in and a new client and I did all that. And I was talking to the owner and I'd been doing the physical exam and talking through the physical exam. And I was probably 75% of the way through my entire interaction with them,

when finally they just looked at me and they stopped and they said, when is the veterinarian gonna come in? And I just, I kind of froze for a second 'cause I like had on my white jacket, it said Dr. Conklin on it. And I had introduced myself and I said, no. I said, I am the veterinarian. And they looked at me,

they're like, but you're so young. I'm like, well, I'm not so sick. I am, but, but yeah, I mean, yeah, I am. I am young, but I am your veterinarian. You know, I am the practice owner here. And, and they were just really puzzled by the whole thing. And so the reason that I wanna remind us of this is because it,

it is very easy in that moment to get offended. And it's fun to laugh about those things now because that I kind of have the opposite at this point in my career. I don't get the, how young are you question as often anymore, really probably ever anymore. But the interaction with the client, what I noticing and what I noticed back then is that their interaction with me was also different based on their age.

So when we're in our early in our veterinary career, this is very easy for us to see because we do tend to get a lot of the young comments. And this is not just for veterinarians, this is also for veterinary technicians and practice managers and the whole nine yards. And so it's very easy for us to get those comments about our age and to be offended by it or to be defensive of it.

You know, like, well, I went to school, I did this, I am the doctor. Remember when I walked in and I said, hi, I'm Dr. so-and-So like, I meant that, like that's always the way that I talk about this in kind of a like judgmental way quite honestly, and, and being offended. If I get down to what it is,

I'm a little bit offended that they assume that I don't know what I'm doing because I'm young. And just notice how when we get offended that they don't understand, or that they don't believe that we know how to do our jobs because of our age. It's the exact same thing that we're doing to their, to them, we assume that they don't know how to take care of their pet because of their age.

So it goes both ways. Judgment is always a mirror. There are always two sides of it. Whenever we judge somebody, there's always an area where we're feeling that judgment ourselves. And so not only as young veterinary professionals do we experience this, but I want you to know that there's also an older veterinary professional site of this that I didn't know existed until I became part of that older demographic.

So I'm coming up on 25 years now since I've been out of veterinary medicine. I've almost, you know, when I hit my 50th birthday next year, I will have been a veterinarian for half of my life, which just seems impossibly strange to me in that that much time could have gone by. But in 25 years of veterinary medicine, and it's been very interesting to watch the age dynamic shift over time.

So being from where I was very young and I believe they weren't respecting me or taking me seriously because I was young, to where I am now, where I am older. And it's interesting to notice that when I walk into a room, sometimes I see clients visibly relaxed, relax, and it's, and it's people that I haven't met before. And I think that's interesting because I think there is always this,

people are just kind of bracing, like they don't know what they're, who they're gonna be seeing, what they're gonna be dealing with. And I'm not saying that a younger veterinarian is disadvantaged, I'm not saying that at all. I think it's all in the presentation of it. And I don't think that the reason that they relax with me is so much about my age as it is about my confidence and being able to go in and talk to them and really kind of commanding that room,

you know, introducing myself. Hi, I'm Dr. Wise, it's nice to meet you. This is fluffy, I, I know you're here today for these things. Like just being very open and to hearing what they're here for and really helping them to empower their choices. But the age thing when I deal with younger clients is also very interesting. So this is kind of when I see,

when I walk in, I see somebody of my age, I see a little bit of a visible relaxation. And I don't know if that's age related or if it's just I walk in and I smile and I'm kind. And I think that that makes a difference. And actually we're gonna come back to that because I think that's, that's a huge part of this.

But with younger clients, what I also find is, even though I'm an age of a lot of my younger clients, we live in a college town, I see a lot of college kids with their pets in college and like this is their first pet on their own, and maybe they've got parents paying for stuff, but I see a lot of these,

these kids that just don't know a lot about their pets yet. And they're scared. Like they don't know what they don't know. They think they're doing things right. They want, they want to, they wanna take the greatest care of their pets. But if I walk in there and I'm instantly annoyed at how young they are and that what they don't know,

and I'm in judgment of how like maybe they're too, I think they're too busy, they shouldn't even have a pet or you know, insert whatever judgment I want to there, then I'm never gonna be in great service to them or to that, to that patient. And that assumption of them starts the second I walk in and I make a correlation between their assumed age and my history of conclusions.

I've drawn about people of a certain age, and I know that I'm not the only one who has done this. So I wanted to bring this to our awareness so that we again can just check ourselves. Are we making an assumption? And then flip side, are we believing that they're making an assumption about us? Because that's where a lot of this stems from.

If we have started early on being offended that people aren't taking us seriously, that becomes a habit in our nervous system. So believing that people aren't going to believe us, they're not gonna respect us, they're not gonna take our information seriously, they're not gonna value what we have to say if we start that early in our careers when we are young, because it kind of starts and stems from just being brand new and being younger.

And we don't ever counter that story in our minds. We carry that story with us no matter how old we are. And so we carry this story of they don't value up my opinion, they don't take me seriously. They think somebody else is better at this than me. We take that narrative, which is all internal dialogue and completely made up. We take that with us into every single client interaction,

no matter how much our age changes. And so we have to start noticing it at this point in time. If this is something you've never considered, today is the best day to start to just pay attention to how much you're assuming what a client believes about you, and how much you're trying to alter the way that you interact with them, either to change their assumption of you or to avoid the discomfort of what you believe they assume about you.

And avoiding discomfort is off, often comes back to really trying to guess in advance what they're going to agree to. So you never have to hear a no. So they never decline because that when, when we're already insecure, when people decline services, we take it very personally and it's never about us. Our job is just to make recommendations. So we have these very young clients who are the future pet owners,

right? They are the future of where this career is going just as much as the younger veterinarians are. And the younger veterinary technicians, they are the future of veterinary medicine. They're gonna be the ones deciding what the demand is in the years to come and what they value as far as services. And if we initially in those very first VE veterinary visits isolate them because we make assumptions about their ability to pay and their ability to make decisions,

then we really limit their ability to grow as pet owners and for us to grow as veterinary professionals being able to provide to this generation. So we have to keep that in mind. The other side of this from that veterinary professional perspective is also when we're newer veterinarians, there's a very typical experience of what has been labeled imposter syndrome. Now, talking about imposter syndrome is a whole other episode,

but you also know what I'm talking about when I say imposter syndrome, feeling like you're not good enough, feeling like other people in veterinary medicine are better than you are. And it's usually other people that you work with who've been out longer than you are. They know more. So there's this assumption as veterinary professionals that you don't know enough when you're brand new.

So you're already insecure on your own. And so then again, we reflect that they don't be, they don't believe me, they don't respect my information because I'm young. So you notice how this is just the reflection of the same thing. And again, if we have that habit that gets established of believing that we don't know enough, we're not good enough,

we're not as good as so-and-so we're not as smart as so-and-so we're not as skilled as so-and-So if that's the habit belief system that we set up early on in our careers, then we just continue to carry that through. There isn't a magic number that you reach as far as age that all of a sudden that switch flips off. It has to be in an intentional decision to re rewrite the narrative,

the story that you believe about yourself. Because the truth is, every single veterinary professional out there that has a credential is qualified to do their job. The only authority out there that can make that decision has given you the credential, you've passed the test, you've made it. So whether or not you're hanging on to I'm not good enough, I don't know enough,

I'm not skilled enough, that's all optional at this point because you don't actually have any proof of any of that being true. And when you can start to compare yourself to other people, people who are older than you are in this profession, then if you really get bought into that early on, you're going to just continue to carry that same story throughout your whole career.

You're never going to be good enough. You're not gonna be able to work hard enough to get there. You're not gonna be able to go to enough CE to learn enough information to get there. You're not going to be able to do enough space to believe that you're skilled at them, like because you have an underlying belief system that you are not enough.

And we have to just intentionally decide to believe something else because all the evidence is to the contrary. And when we label it then or attach it to our age, that just continues to move forward. And as you get to be older, the way that it pops up is looking at the younger generation and believing that they know more. So this is so fascinating because when you are a younger veterinarian,

it's very typic or veterinary technician. It's very typical to look at people who've been in the field and to really believe that like they are better suited to be to do this job. And the truth is, they've just practiced it more. Remember, this is the practice of veterinary medicine. It's not the perfection of veterinary medicine. And so as you go through the practice of veterinary medicine,

working cases, doing different procedures, your psychomotor skillset does become more solid just because you get more practice. But you've always had the knowledge base. And what's interesting then is if you have these insecurities and if you just continue to hang onto these insecurities as part of your identity, as you move through your career, then as you get to be in a middle-aged veterinarian and an older veterinarian where you've got generations of veterinarians below you,

and we're talking like I'm kind of thinking in decades here, you then also you just carry that insecurity with you. And then you start to get to this point when there's enough people who've come after you that you believe that they know more because they've been, they've gotten outta school more recently. So then you start to doubt your knowledge base too. Like I don't know any of that finkel stuff that they're teaching those young veterinarians now.

And so you feel insecure around new veterinarians. And what's so funny about this is that the new veterinarians feel very insecure around the older veterinarians who have been doing this for a while. The older veterinarians feel insecure around the younger veterinarians who come out knowing all the newest things. And so we're also afraid of the other judging us that we need to tend to isolate ourselves from each other when actually the entire veterinary profession would be much better served if we could just come together and collaborate and help each other and support each other and realize that veterinary medicine is called the practice of veterinary medicine because it's ever changing and there's never a moment in time that any one person knows it all.

It's just not the way that it works. It's an ever moving knowledge base. And we all have the capacity to learn it because we all have got the, the credentials that have shown us that we can. We don't have to be so afraid of judgment. And when we, I say that very simply, we don't have to be so afraid of judgment,

but the truth comes down to we have to stop judging ourselves because even though throughout this episode I have talked to you about opportunities to notice where you are using age as an anchor point to judge yourself or to judge somebody else, either press veterinary professionals or clients, the bottom line comes down to what do you believe about you? Because if you're really hard on yourself,

if you believe that you're not good enough, that you're not smart enough, that you're not skilled enough, if you believe that everybody else is better than you are, that you shouldn't even be in this profession, then that anchor belief system is going to infuse every other aspect of your lives, not only your professional lives and the way that you interact with all of the other veterinary professionals and even the clients,

but it will also bleed into every other aspect of your personal life as well. It's all part of the same belief system. And the opportunity here is not to to know more. It's not to do more. It's not to be better because you don't need to do any of those things. The actual truth is that you are already perfect the way that you are.

You're perfectly you. And the only judgment of you that actually matters at all is the judgment that you have of yourself. So if you find yourself easily offended by what other people say about your age, about what other people say about your skillset, if you find yourself constantly worrying that you're not smart enough, you're not good enough, or that you're going to look stupid,

or that they're going to think something negative about you, those are all indicators that you've got some work to do on your own sense of self value and self-worth. And if you'll do that work, if you'll put the work in to get to know who you are, to accept who you are, to love who you are, to realize that who you are is perfect exactly the way you are,

that you don't have to be different in order to receive approval, that you don't have to be different in order to be liked or accepted, that the person that you are is already likable and acceptable and lovable. If you do the work to believe that for yourself, then the need to get into any of these other thought patterns completely disappears. There's nothing to protect yourself against when you believe in yourself more than you believe in the opinions of other people's,

other people about you. This is such an important concept. It's such an important topic that is not talked about enough. How much our interactions and judgments and frustrations with others really comes back to a central frustration and judgment of ourselves. And when we do the work to clean that up and to really get into a place of complete self-acceptance, self-trust and self-love,

then what the other humans do on this planet and veterinary medicine and outside of it really doesn't matter. It's not that we don't care about what happens in the world, but we know that our safety isn't dependent on it. We know that our personal value isn't dependent upon, dependent upon it. We know that our peace and our joy are completely independent of the choices that other people make.

And my friends going through life from that kind of perspective makes a very empowered journey for all of us and actually makes the whole thing a whole lot more fun as well. So just some things to consider as you go through the next week. Pay attention to the way that you react to and interact with people based on their age. Just use it as a point of reference for curiosity.

I can't stress stress this enough. Any of these concepts that I bring to you here, any of these things I challenge you to do here through the podcast, it's always, always recommended that you approach it through curiosity and compassion first, because we don't know what we don't know. And until we start to question the way that we interact with ourselves and with the world,

we will not make any changes. But if we jump straight into judgment, when we start to realize that we're interacting with people or making choices that we actually don't like, then we will stop. We will be frozen, we will retreat. And when that shame and that judgment will hold us back, and none of that is necessary, this is simply another perspective for you to consider in your own life,

to play around with, just to be curious and compassionate with yourself. And to notice, because as you start to notice the areas where you're holding back being you, or where you're feeling offended and defensive, then you also get that little glimpse of where you're actually holding judgment against yourself. And when you give yourself permission for full self-acceptance in those moments, then everything else in your life gets easier.

All right, my friends, that's gonna wrap it up for this week. I'll see you next time. Bye for now.