Episode 64 | How Hating Vet Med is Holding Us Back

The culture in veterinary medicine as a whole is in great need of improvement. The dialogue around this often includes blame and abdication of responsibility for this culture to people and organizations other than ourselves. We are the victims. But are we?

In this episode I explore how we have unintentionally created a culture of resentment and fear that is compounded with each new generation. I also share what we can do about it, and why it won’t require massive career-level changes to start moving in the right direction.



  • The true impact of warning our young colleagues about the challenges of this profession
  • How personal opinion develops into professional culture
  • Opportunities to change individual experiences and disrupt the culture of cannibalism


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Because after spending years of our time and lots of our money to earn a degree in veterinary medicine, whether you're a veterinarian or veterinary technician, it's very disheartening to come to that place where you hate the job you have, and you hate the path that you've been on. I'm Dr. Cari Wise, and this is the Joyful DDM podcast. 

Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 64. Today. We're going to be talking about how we hold ourselves back by hating vet med. It's really easy as a group for us to be able to identify all the things that are wrong with veterinary medicine. It's a pretty big list quite honestly, and it can feel really overwhelming. It's also something that we all have in common.

This ability to point out all the things that are wrong with our profession, for sure we don't get paid enough. The schedules are really crazy and chaotic. Clients are not always friendly. We also have this culture of cannibalism within the profession itself where people don't feel safe within the organizations where they work. You just never know if somebody is going to stab you in the back,

sound familiar. Unfortunately, these are the types of things that many of us experience in veterinary medicine. And over time, what happens is we start to resent the profession. Then we start to resent the decision to ever pursue a degree in veterinary medicine in the first place that leaves us kind of stuck and backed up against a wall because after spending years of our time and lots of our money to earn a degree in veterinary medicine,

whether you're a veterinarian or veterinary technician, it's very disheartening to come to that place where you hate the job you have, and you hate the path that you've been on. Many of us kind of think those things in our minds. I wish I hadn't done this. I wish I had picked something else whenever we're focused on that perspective, when we've gotten to the point that we really regret the choices that we've made in the past.

And we have all the reasons for why that decision was a bad decision, because we can see that in our external reality and that evidence compounds through the conversations we have with our colleagues and coworkers, it's a really kind of dark place to be. Where do we go from here? How do we make it any better? As we identify all of the problems with our profession,

the ability to change those things for our profession, as a whole seems insurmountable, it seems like it's just really broken. And I'll be honest. There is a lot about this profession that is broken. We have some huge gaps in the foundation of this profession that we need to bridge. And we will do that. We are actually in the process of doing it right now,

but if we just focus on those gaps themselves, those opportunities for improvement, the things that we hate, we actually individually hold ourselves back. We do this because we don't recognize that as we focus on all the things that are wrong with our profession and with our decision to pursue this profession and with our life as a result of this profession, that we only continue to see more evidence to support that opinion.

This is just a sneaky little thing that the brain does. We've got the reticular activating system within our brain. And it's that part of our brain that really programs our consciousness. It is through the things that we focus on that the reticular activating system decides what else to show us. We see more of what we focus on and the other stuff gets filtered out.

So quite by accident and not intentionally what has happened to the veterinary profession. And honestly, a lot of people in the world given the state of the world at this point in time, what has happened though, is that we are just seeing the downside to these professions. We are just seeing what's wrong with what's in front of us. And it's not that there isn't anything positive there.

The positive also exists, but it's not as easily readily available for us to see. It's not brought into our conscious awareness as swiftly as the negative is. Now, part of this is because of that protective instinct, that the brain we're always looking for, the things that may put us in danger that may hurt us, that may scare us. And that's just part of what the brain does,

but in it doing that, what has happened kind of incidentally is that the reticular activating system has been activated to find only the negative to bring that to your conscious awareness more quickly than anything else. The good news here is that it is something that we can reprogram, but we have to intentionally seek out the alternatives. And if we're not, then this habit that we've created of hating veterinary medicine or hating components of veterinary medicine is just going to continue to compound and influence our own experience.

What we focus on, we create more of, it's not that the alternative doesn't exist. It's not that the alternative isn't actually right in front of us, but because we haven't told our brains that it's important for us to see it, it doesn't offer it to our conscious awareness easily. We just need to start looking for it on purpose. As we start looking at all the positives that go along with veterinary medicine,

and there are so many positives, right? We have the opportunity to work with animals day in and day out. We have the opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of pets and people. We get to work outside of a normal office type environment. We're not stuck in a cubicle all day long, and we have the opportunity to work at all kinds of different environments.

We can work at a hospital. We can work in the laboratory. We can work for somebody else. We can work for ourselves. We can go to work for industry. We can work for pet food companies and pharmaceutical companies, and we can work for poison control and the government. And there's all these different things that we can do with these degrees in veterinary medicine.

But when we get stuck in a rut, when we get to that point, there we're actually really burned out is what that boils down to. When we get to that point of burnout, it's really hard for us to see the positive associated with our decisions and with the career. And so, as we focus on the negative and as we talk to our colleagues who are in the same place that we are,

we then as a collective continue to just gather that evidence that this veterinary, this veterinary profession is in massive trouble and that it's never going to get better. We start to believe things like this is just the way that it is and that vet med just sucks the life out of you. So do you better just watch out because eventually it's going to happen.

We state these things as if it's telling the news, we actually tell our colleagues, this, our young colleagues, this, as I joined the profession, our negative spin on what's going on is something that we share with them. And we don't even realize that it has a negative impact on them when we do that, because what happens when they become,

get around us and start working with us in our environments, where we are already burned out and we share from a place of burnout, we actually see those thoughts and opinions that we have into the minds of those newer people, but without having given them the opportunity to create their opinions of themselves. So what happens is that they adopt our opinions as truth.

So think about this for a second. Think about when you first joined veterinary medicine, you first got into your first job in veterinary medicine. When was it that you learned that this job was really hard, that it was going to suck the life out of you, that it was going to have a really negative emotional consequence. When did you first learn that somebody shared that with you shared that perspective with you and you believe them just like I did.

And if we think about how this happens, how we have just continued to kind of hand down this belief of this being a very challenging and difficult emotionally draining profession, we've shared that belief generation after generation. It's no wonder that we are where we are right now. It seems like we were doing the profession a favor, like we were really trying to,

and it was motivated from a good place. So let's just be clear about that. Us sharing the challenges of this profession, with the people who follow us that is coming from a good place, because we don't want them to suffer like we have, and we don't want them to be blindsided by it either. But because we have yet to really create a way to live alternatively within this profession,

because we have not as a collective learn that this is an amazing profession with amazing opportunities. And we don't live from that place as a whole. What has happened is that we have simply seated the thoughts into our younger colleagues, that they're going to have nothing but challenges and struggles in this profession. And as a result of that choice, we really just kind of damper on their light from the day that they join us.

And we don't do it maliciously. We do it from a place of our own suffering from our own fears and from really not wanting them to experience it, but because it is the only opinion that they are given. In most cases, they accept that opinion as truth. Any of us who are in a leadership position, anybody, any of us who have been out in practice longer than the younger colleagues who come and join us,

the words that we speak to them make a big difference. And so we have over the years managed to create this culture of victimization and veterinary medicine. There are always going to be hard parts to this job. No doubt, absolutely. But there are also hard parts to every job and every profession we've got blinders on when it comes to that, we're very much tunnel vision into how our profession is the hardest one.

And we can give you all the reasons why it is so, and all the reasons why we are victimized in this profession. But if we only look at that perspective and we only share that message, then that's the only thing that we will ever create as a collective in veterinary medicine. And we are becoming more and more of a self fulfilling prophecy as this continues to be the message that we share,

that it is the message that's adopted. It is the message that is seen to be true because of the reticular activating system is always looking for evidence to prove our thoughts true. And we're able to gather that readily then that just continues to be what we create moving forward. The good news is that even though we have these massive gaps to bridge inside of veterinary medicine,

as far as some real foundational challenges of the profession, us individually becoming happy within this profession and getting our joy back and maintaining our peace in our own wellbeing is at reliant on those things. In the current dialogue, we believe that it is in the current dialogue. We think that until these big things change in veterinary medicine, there's no way that any of us can enjoy this career.

But the truth is there's a lot of people in this career who are enjoying it just fine. There are a lot of people in this joy in this career who are able to maintain their joy and maintain their peace and maintain their wellbeing. And those people, aren't the ones who are screaming the loudest at the top of their lungs about all the things that are wrong.

It's not that they don't see that there are things that are wrong and things that could be changed, but they also recognize where they have power to change it. And that ability to show up day in and day out and maintain peace and joy and happiness for themselves has a much greater impact than yelling on social media ever. Well, unfortunately, finding those shining lights within this profession is difficult.

It seems to be that we either have entire practices of it, or we just have a few little beacons here and they're spread throughout other practices. If you're fortunate enough to work in a practice where there's somebody that is that beacon of light, I want you to pay attention to them, watch them, we'll get what does, and doesn't bother them, what they do.

And don't let irritate them and get under their skin, notice how they interact with their patients, how they interact with their clients, how they interact with the other people around them, use them as that example, they are facing all the same challenges that you are. They also have all of the same insecurities that you do. They have the same fears.

They have the same worries. But the difference is that they are focusing on that. They're not using that as the only information about their profession, that's influencing their lives. Instead, they're looking at the bigger picture. They're looking at their ability to make an impact, even when it's difficult. They're understanding that what happens day in and day out inside of a veterinary hospital does not relate to the level of success they have as a human being.

It's not a direct relationship to the value that they have as a person on this planet. At this time, they don't let their self-worth be defined by the things that happen day in and day out. And this is the skill that we must develop. If we are ever going to change the culture of veterinary medicine and shifted away from a cannibal is that culture where we're always attacking each other just to survive.

If we're ever going to move it to a place where we can go in and day in and day out and feel happy and feel supported, we have to first start with learning how to create that for ourselves. We can't wait for some, for some big organizational shift to change the culture of veterinary medicine, because it's never going to work that way. The biggest organizational changes in the world will never change the experience of the individual people.

It's up to the individual people to do that for themselves. We're kind of approaching this the wrong way as we hate veterinary medicine. And we hate the things that go on here. And we hate the interactions with clients and the interactions with coworkers and the amount of money that we make and the level of debt that we have as we look at all those things through that lens of discouragement.

And we believe that those things are holding us back from having the life that we want. We are literally creating that for ourselves. There are alternative perspectives to all of that, but your mind, isn't going to automatically offer those to you. That's not going to be the knee jerk habit reaction, because remember the mind from a habit perspective is always going to look at everything through the lens of fear.

When our mind looks at everything through the lens of fear, then we just start to gather evidence to prove that we should be afraid of these things. And as we share those stories with other people, it gains more evidence that yes, we should be afraid of these things. We should be frustrated by these things. We should feel victimized by these things,

but living in fear and frustration and victimization does not move any of us forward. It's also not the truth of what's actually happening. That's just the knee jerk, protective reaction to what's happening. We get to decide for ourselves what we believe about what's happening in the world. We get to decide for ourselves what we believe about our profession and about our pay and about our debt and about our colleagues and about our clients and about our patients and about our abilities.

Those are decisions we must make for ourselves. The opinions that we have of ourselves are far more important than the opinions of anybody else. And as we learn to build positive opinions of ourselves and to live courageously and move forward, then we start to bridge those foundational gaps in veterinary medicine, because it is courageous, empowered, confident people who stand up for themselves who say,

I'm not willing to work for that wage. I'm not willing to work seven days a week. I'm not willing to stay late every single day. I'm not willing to work in an environment where I feel disrespected or where bullying is condoned. It takes courageous people to stand up and say that. And as a profession where we have been taught by each other,

that this is just the way it is that idea of being courageous and asking for something different and standing up for what we individually want is very foreign. It's not encouraged. It's not celebrated, it's not shared. And as we start to share more of that, as we start to look intentionally for places where our colleagues are being courageous, where they're building joyful lives,

where they've got work-life balance and a great paycheck, and they feel supported by their team and they enjoy going to work every day. As we start to look for that, my friends, you will find it because it does exist. But as long as you continue to surround yourself with people who only want to see veterinary medicine through the lens of victimization, who only want to talk about all the things that are wrong and all the way the clients are bad and all the way that coworkers are rude and all the ways that the money is never going to be enough to support us as long as we surround people who are so married to that perspective,

that they can't see anything else, then we won't see anything else. Either. The great news is that you don't have to necessarily change where you work to change this for yourself. You literally just have to decide what you want to believe. And then you have to give yourself the opportunity to see it, to see that it exists, make the decisions to surround yourself with people who believe in the vision,

that we can have an amazing career in veterinary medicine, the veterinary medicine, and pursuing that degree was the best decision that you ever made. That it's only going to benefit you moving forward, because I promise you, there is so much evidence that this is true. It's just not the loudest message out there right now. And it only takes one of us in a hospital to start to have this positive kind of impact on everybody else.

One person deciding I'm not going to buy in to the nonsense that we're victims here. I'm not going to buy into the idea that I don't have choices that I don't get to decide for me, that clients are mostly rude and angry and disrespectful. I'm not going to buy into that because that steals my joy and my joy protecting my joy in my own wellbeing is always going to be my priority.

It takes one person living from that place to have a massive impact on everybody else. We have to stop spending our time stating all the problems and we need to shift into pondering the solutions. So instead of standing around and complaining and commiserating, which we think is just venting and letting off steam, and it isn't, it's actually just making the whole problem worse because we're just reinforcing this idea in our minds.

That that's the evidence we want it to gather. Instead, how about we start pondering the solutions? How about we start asking the questions? How could I earn more money and work for your hours? How could I give all of my employees a raise and also increase the revenue of the practice? How could I move to a three-day workweek without taking a pay cut?

Or maybe how could I use my degree in a way that lights up my soul? How can I maintain my joy and wellbeing in any environment? And how can I be part of the solution just by asking those questions, that gives us an opportunity to start to see the answers. As we ask those questions. They also filtrate through that reticular activating system.

We start to program our minds to find the information that we're seeking and asking questions is the best way to do it. We will start to see how it is that we could make more money and work fewer hours or how we could maintain our joy and wellbeing no matter what's happening during the day, we'll see evidence that that is something that is possible. But until we start to ask those questions and still we start pondering the solutions until we intentionally decide that we are not going to be a victim of this profession,

we are not going to just blindly accept the opinions of those who've come before us. Then we never will change our own experience. Changing our experience really just starts with us, get around the right people, feed your mind the sentences that are actually going to move you forward and never forget that every single thing that's happened in your life up until this point has been intentional.

Your life is happening for you. Not to you. You're not a victim here. If you're discouraged, if you're frustrated, if you're ready for a change, listen to that. You know more about what you need for yourself than you think you do. And what you don't need is somebody else's permission to go after it. So I'm going to leave you with that for this week.

My friends keep pondering all the solutions for you. Surround yourself with people who are moving in the direction you want to go. And you're going to start to see amazing things happening in your life. It's going to wrap it up for this week. I'll see you next time.