Episode 175 | Cultivating a Spiritual Connection in Vet Med

In this episode, Dr. Cari Wise discusses the role of spirituality in veterinary medicine and the importance of reconnecting with animals to counteract the demands of the profession. 

Dr. Wise discusses her personal journey and how her connection with animals evolved over time. She emphasizes the need for veterinary professionals to tap into the spiritual aspect of their work and shares that by doing so they increase their ability to find joy and fulfillment in their profession.

Topics Include:

  1. the importance of spirituality in veterinary medicine
  2. the impact of logical and scientific thinking on the connection with animals
  3. the relationship between burnout, loss of joy, and spirituality



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 going to take a little bit of a detour from some of the very practical and clinical things that we often talk about here on the podcast, because today I wanna talk about something that I’ve been really pondering quite frequently over the last few months. And as I’ve considered it and talked it over,

I really think that it might be something that helps you as well. So today we’re gonna be taking a look at the concept of spirituality and how that actually plays into our jobs in veterinary medicine. And maybe even another way to introduce this would would be to say how our own connection with animals and our own spirituality may have been compromised or set aside as we’ve pursued this career and what that has meant in my own life,

as an example. So if I think back to my career in veterinary medicine, many of you have heard me tell this story before that I was not one of those people who knew that I was always going to be a vet. I know many, many people in our profession knew right from the beginning that vet med was what they were going to do,

but I wasn’t that person. Now, my dad was a vet, so I literally grew up in veterinary medicine. It was just part of my life, literally my entire life. But as I got to be older and I got to thinking about my own career and what I was gonna study in college, it wasn’t veterinary medicine, it was music. And it wasn’t until my first year of college that a,

actually following my first year of college, when I had moved across the country, gotten a music scholarship, that I realized that I did not want to continue to pursue music for the now very comical reason, because I didn’t wanna teach. And I think that’s kind of hilarious because what do I do now here at Joyful DVMI teach and I have a master’s degree in education.

And so it’s, it’s amazing how the universe always brings you right back to what you’re meant to do. But the reason that I share this and the reason that we’re kind of going in this direction is because I wanna talk about what my life was like when it came to animals before that. So before I turn this into a profession, and I want you all to think about this as well,

because for me, I always had a very strong connection with animals and specifically with cats, I was a bit of a cat whisperer, if you will. I had this extreme amount of patience where I would sit and I could coax stray cats to come up to me over time. And it was just a very normal part of the way that I interacted with the world.

And I had that kind of knack with animals that weren’t even cats. So animals in general, animals just tended to be at ease around me. And I didn’t recognize it as abnormal or recognize it as anything unusual because that was just always my experience. So I was always very connected to animals. And as I got older, you know, I guess part of me is I think about it now,

I think part of me just thought everybody was, and it wasn’t until I really got to know people outside of my, my family circle and then my high school circle and then going to college like, and you start to talk about animals with other people, that I really realized that not everybody had that kind of relationship with animals. And a lot of people don’t have an opportunity to have animals at all.

So that, you know, as you kind of learn how the world is different than the way that you grew up in it, that was a little bit surprising and curious, but at the same time really didn’t change what my connection was. And so for me, that was just part of the way that the world worked was worked, was through this connection with animals.

And then once I started to pursue veterinary medicine, something shifted. And it wasn’t until years later that I even realized the shift occurred. So yes, I had a very strong connection with animals and of course I cared about animals. And now I’m pursuing this career that involves animals. But in the pursuit of this career, a lot of my connection with animals started to fade.

It wasn’t that there was actually anything breaking that connection, that’s not what was happening at all. What was happening was that what the education required of me was to spend more time in a very logical, scientific kind of thought process. So left brain type thought. And the same thing happened to any of us who have gone through any kind of rigorous academic program.

We spend a lot of time in our head for lack of a better way of putting it. And so as we’re in this academic pursuit, very much using that left side of our brain, that logical scientific analytical side of our brain, we lose connection with the right side, which is more creative, which is more spiritual, which is more connected to the things around us.

And it’s not that we don’t have the opportunity to have access to both aspects of our being, it’s just that when we spend too much time or more time in one side than the other, then everything kind of gets out of balance. And I think this is a lot of what happens to veterinary professionals as they go through their schooling and then as they get into their careers early on.

And this wasn’t something that I recognized for myself in the moment. Like I said, this is really something that is, I’ve considered my career and I’ve considered the, the path that I went down, all the things I tried, my own experience with burnout, extreme burnout, getting out of the profession, coming back into the profession. So all the things that I’ve done is I’ve really had this opportunity now,

25 years later, just to kind of look back at all of it. And I can see where a great, a great indicator, a great, what’s the word I’m looking for here? A, a great aspect of what contributed a great contributor to what actually added to my burnout, I think was this loss of this spiritual connection with the animals. And I,

I don’t mean loss, it never can come back, but what I mean is that as I learned the science of veterinary medicine and learned all the things that you have learned about disease processes and diagnostic testing and treatment modalities, and then all of the things that could go wrong, like potential side effects of things, potential poor outcomes, potential surgical complications, like all the things that we learn around medicine and around surgery and around wellness and caring for animals and treating diseases and diagnosing and all of the things.

We spend so much time in that realm that the animal, the connection with the actual being itself starts to shift. And it’s not that we don’t care. So I wanna make this very clear. This isn’t about caring about animals because I think that is universal when you’re in veterinary medicine. I think we do care about animals and I think we do care about people,

but I think that we get so stuck in our scientific mind around our obligations associated with our profession that we actually start to miss or have a lack of awareness might be a better way of saying it to the spiritual connection with the animals themselves. I think this is a great opportunity for us because without that connection, without really leaning in to what really brought you here in the first place,

and I would say that for the vast majority of you listening to this, if you’ll go back and you’ll think about why did I pursue veterinary medicine? It had something to do with the animals. I’m guessing that most of you didn’t say, I’m gonna go into vet med ’cause I’m gonna make a lot of money, right? Because that’s really not the experience that most of us have.

And I say that, and I wanted to bring that up specifically because what drives people to go into veterinary medicine is very different than maybe what drives people to go into accounting or go into being an attorney or some of those types of, of jobs. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t some kind of spiritual connection and, and an underlying like urge for some of those people who are in those careers.

I’m definitely not saying that this is, these are just some broad sweeping generalizations. But I think when it comes to veterinary medicine that we are a little bit different. And that’s a very kind way to say how we are. That’s not criticism, that’s not judgment. It’s just that people who have these connections with animals and the way that most of us do who work in veterinary medicine,

we’re just a little bit different than the rest of the population. And that’s okay. It’s actually perfect. That’s why we’re here. But what’s interesting about that is even though we’re a little bit different, we also have this potential to get so stuck in our left brain scientific minds that that connection doesn’t stay front and center. And when that connection with the animals starts to be just kind of part of the experience,

like a, a almost like a after effect or a a side thought, then I think we make this job much, much harder. We add onto that our hyper responsibility. So once we do learn all of the things that have to do with medicine and the practice of medicine and testing and disease and all of these things, once we do learn all those things and because we do very much care about animals,

then we also take on this responsibility for their outcomes. So we do care intensely about what happens with these animals and we want them to get better. We want to know what’s going on, we wanna be able to fix them. And we forget that number one, like we aren’t that powerful. So we have to really remind ourselves that my friends, it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job,

you do not have the power to fix an animal. That animal has to fix itself. Now we can, we can assist, right? We can influence that just a tiny little bit, but we are never the one that fixes anything because we don’t control the physiology. If we get trapped in believing that we are responsible for the way that these cases turn out and we tie that into how much we care,

like if I cared enough, then this would’ve turned out right? Or if I was good enough, it’s another way we look at it, then this would’ve turned out better. Then we start to put so much extra pressure on ourselves and this just cycles and continues to trap us in left brain thinking. So again, logical, analytical, scientific problem solving all the time,

trying to figure out what’s going on. Data gathering, we just, we spend so much time there believing that if we just knew more, if we just investigated more, if we just had more information, that we would change the outcomes. And that’s not how this works. There are plenty of times that you can do everything right and the animals just aren’t going to respond.

And if you have shifted your focus over time, unintentionally away from your connection with the animals, then this becomes that much harder because you’re already in a place where you’re not experiencing a lot of internal balance. This is one of the reasons I believe that we tend to lose our joy because when we get stuck in our left brain, logical, analytical, scientific mind without spending equal time in our right brain,

creative connected part of our being, then we’re already out of whack, if you will. And so we’re trying to chase this balance, this comfort through our efforts and evaluating our efforts through the outcomes. And what’s so tricky about this is that the outcomes were never something that we were going to be able to control. If we offer ourselves the opportunity to step back and to just reconnect with the animals themselves,

our own pets, pets around us, the animals that come to see us, if we just step out of that scientific brain for a moment back into the being that is the human who happens to have some kind of job in veterinary medicine and connect with the animal, then from that human perspective, what I am finding is that it actually makes the science part a little bit easier.

That doesn’t mean I’m gonna automatically know more, but what that means is that I am able to use all of my senses to evaluate what is going on and I can bring back to myself this reminder of why I’m even bothering to do this in the first place. I would wager that most of us did not pursue veterinary medicine because we were eager to dive into science and research.

Now some, some of us had are absolutely though with the type of things that I talk about over here at Joyful DVM and the the things that I promote and the advocate that I am for wellbeing and decreasing stress and anxiety and increasing your work life balance and really finding your joy no matter what happens at work, at home or in the world. That’s the population I’m talking to with this.

I’m not talking to people who are spending all of their time and research. There’s nothing wrong with that. Please don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m talking about those of us who are in the trenches, who are client facing, who have maybe been client facing at some point, patient facing at some point, and who have gotten out of it because we are in burnout because we are just feeling completely defeated and depleted.

That’s who I’m talking to here. And what I want you to hear, if that is you, you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re feeling depleted, you’re feeling that you’ve lost your joy for this profession, I want you to consider that perhaps part of the reason that you’ve lost your joy is because you’ve lost your connection with the actual animals themselves. If you’re feeling like a cog in a wheel,

if you’re feeling like you’re just, you know, flipping appointments and you don’t have any time to actually connect and just on a hamster wheel of work all the time work and what record writing and staying late, and there’s that cycle of just endless work, we easily can get so stuck in our to-do list checking off things that need to get done, which is all very left brain that we totally miss what we’re actually working with,

which is the animals. And so if we can give ourselves this opportunity to take a moment and connect with the animals as we move through the day, I’m finding that actually is a really great addition to the other tools that I utilize to decrease my own stress and anxiety. It actually helps me to have so much more joy during the day when I just take a minute to connect with that animal that’s in front of me for whatever reason that it’s here.

I was really reminded of this today when there was a dog that came in that was a really anxious dog. And when this dog had been adopted, it had been adopted from his local shelter and it had been sent home with Trazodone and with the recommendation that they give it all the time. ’cause that’s what it needed when it had been there, it had a lot of anxiety issues and the dog was really nervous when it came in.

Now it wasn’t on any medication the owner had had had been it, it had been its dog for like a year. So it had adopted about a year earlier and it had worked with the dog and stopped all the medications and stuff. But I could tell the dog was really freaked out. Now I could have pushed it, right? I could have just gotten done what we needed to get done.

Like it, it, we could have gone that route. But you know, I just looked at that dog and I just, just looked at it, right? I just actually saw it. I think this is important, like not just as like a patient in front of me, but just like looked at the dog, connected with the dog for a moment and I just thought,

you know, what’s going on with this dog? I just really felt into the dog like, what, what is happening with this dog right now? It wasn’t like aggressive, it wasn’t like jumping at me, it was scared. It was kind of like trying to, a little bit like timid wanted to kind of hide under the bench, but then was also still curious.

Definitely wanted to hang out by its owner. And I just thought, you know, what are we, what, what’s happening in here that could make this dog a little bit more comfortable? So first thing I do, I just get rid of the white coat because that can freak him out in a heartbeat. So I just got rid of that and I just like bent down on the floor and just spent some time just talking to the dog,

offering it some treats. When it did come up with Petit was talking really nice to it and just had that connection with the animal. Now you, we know you can’t do this with every single animal. Not every single animal has the temperament that’s gonna allow you to do that in a clinical setting. I get that. But the reason that I share this with you is because that little bit of time that I spent gaining the trust of that animal paid dividends throughout the entire rest of the visit,

as opposed to if I had been in a big hurry. You know, if I hadn’t taken a moment to make that connection, if I would’ve just kind of forced the issue, then we could have gotten everything done that needed to get done, but the dog would not have had a very good experience. And as I think about what is my role here in veterinary medicine,

yeah, it is to practice veterinary medicine, but it’s also to do what I can to make sure that the animals are comfortable in my environment as I do so. And if they’re not, what can we do differently? I never wanna be so busy that I compromise the wellbeing of my patients in order to see more of them. And that was, I was really reminded of that today.

And it came back to just this thing, like I said, that I’ve been talking about, which is the spiritual aspect that is part of our veterinary experience. And I think in our day and age where our veterinary hospitals are busier than ever, where you know, people are booking out weeks in advance, the advance the public in general is at little bit higher stress level in these years since 2020,

people tend to be a little bit more demanding and a little bit more nervous at the same time. I just think there’s so many different variables playing into the dynamic that we experience in our exam rooms that it’s very easy for us to just get caught up in that left brain activity again, in the analysis, in the science, in the information data gathering,

all of that, checking through our to-do lists, just really just cranking things out in a very methodical kind of way while missing that what we’re doing in veterinary medicine actually involves other beings. And that those beings have, we have an opportunity to have a real connection with them. We have a real con opportunity to have a connection with the clients too. So don’t misunderstand.

We absolutely have an opportunity to connect with the clients, to build that trust and that rapport. And I think that when we spend time building that same kind of trust and rapport with the pets, that we actually change exponentially what we’re able to do to help both the client and the animal in front of us. So for, for all of you who are listening,

who this is kind of resonating with, I want you to consider like what was your animal connection before you got into this indus industry? And I want you to consider just allowing yourself to tap into that a little bit as you’re working in this industry day in and day out. Because what I’m finding and what I think that you will find as well is that even when you give yourself just a few seconds even of true connection with your animals that you,

with the animals that you see throughout the day, that that little bit of connection can actually shift and help balance out a lot of the scientific stressful things that we encounter. And as we continue to cultivate and nurture and foster those very real connections with the animals themselves, then I’m finding that from an energetic perspective, it helps to make everything much, much easier.

Not only does it make things easier, it also makes interacting with those animals much easier. I know there’s a lot of talk out there about things like fear free techniques, and I think those things are great, but I’m talking about something beyond that. Something beyond just medications and drugs and, and easy handling. I think those things are wonderful. Don’t misunderstand,

but I’m talking about like a real connection and, and those of you who understand what I’m saying, you, you understand what I’m saying. Those of you who this sounds quite foreign to, that’s okay. The only way that I can describe it better to you is really to go back to what I’ve said before. Go back and think about how did you connect with animals before you knew so much about them.

I think that’s really the take home. How did you connect with animals before you knew so much about them? How did you connect with them before your brain went right to assessing everything that you saw in front of them and started running through the list of all the things that could be wrong with them and all the things that could happen next with them and all the things that should be happening with them in order to prevent all the diseases that you now know about before you knew any of that stuff before your connection with them got clouded with scientific information.

How did you connect with those animals? Because the opportunity is still there for you to connect with the animals in that way. And I think what you’re gonna find is if you start practicing that connection and then adding on the medical aspect to it, you’re gonna find that you are so much more effective in not only your treatments of those animals, but your connection with the clients as well.

And when we connect with the clients through our connection, our mutual connection with their pet, what we’re able to do together really outs, shines anything that we can try to accomplish on our own. So my friends, as you go through the next few weeks, I want you just to play around with your connection with the animals. I would love to know how you experience that connection,

how you integrate that opportunity to connect with the animals into your work days and what the results are for you. Because I think you’re gonna find that actually this job goes back to being a lot more fun when we reconnect with the whole reason that we’re doing it in the first place. All right, my friends, that’s gonna wrap it up for this week.

I’ll see you soon. Bye for now.