Episode 65 | Frustration or Fulfillment? How One Simple Shift Changes Everything in Vet Med

In this episode I explain where all veterinary frustration originates, and explain how it’s nearly impossible to be consumed with frustration when we focus on our duties as veterinary healthcare providers.



  • The origin of frustration in veterinary medicine
  • Net Emotional State
  • Why all veterinary hospitals exist
  • 3 positive by-products of Focus
  • The ripple effect created by one focused veterinary team member


Vet Life Academy


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I went to school so I could serve clients and treat patients. And I actually enjoy doing that when I give myself the opportunity to focus on doing that. It's not the serving clients and treating patients that makes us miserable. I'm Dr. Cari Wise, and this is the Joyful DVM podcast. Hi, everybody. Welcome to episode 65 today. I want to spend some time talking about frustration and fulfillment and how one simple shift can change everything when it comes to our experience in veterinary medicine and quite honestly our experience in life.

So let's start out and talk a little bit about frustration. Frustration is something that we often experience on a pretty regular basis. Day in and day out. There are tons of opportunities for us to feel frustrated about the things that are happening around us. Remember frustration is created when there's a gap between the expectation and the reality. So put another way when there's a gap between what we think should happen and what is actually happening as we start to put our attention on that gap on how things are not the way that we think that they should be,

we feel frustrated. And because of the way that our mind works, we start to find more and more of those areas where things are just going all wrong, where people could be doing things differently where things should be different than they are. That frustration adds into our overall wellbeing. And if we take a look at our net emotional state or our average emotional state,

what happens is that we take the actions in our lives. From that average, remember our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings drive our actions, feelings are emotional feelings. That's what we're talking about. So if we're focused on things that have, make us feel frustrated that a lot of the emotion that adds into our average is frustration emotion that pulls down that net emotional state or that baseline emotional wellbeing.

And so the actions that we'll take in our lives won't move us toward the things that we want, but there's one little shift that we can intentionally make every single day to change the impact of frustration. And that shift is focus instead of us taking a look at all of the things that aren't the way that we want them to be. We can focus our attention on the things that we actually can control.

And as we reel in our focus to the things that actually are part of our job day in and day out in the veterinary world, what happens is we have some really positive side effects. In addition to that elevation of our average mood and the moving of our actions towards the things are actually going to bring us more of what we want in our entire lives.

There are three main benefits to focusing our attention. When we're at work. Number one, increased efficiency. When we focus on the task at hand, we stop lingering and doing things that aren't useful. We actually can then get more done. I know that this sounds like it's obvious, but when we get into that environment in a veterinary hospital, it's very easy to get distracted by what's going on around us.

And I'm not talking about the medical cases and the surgeries I'm talking about all the human components and the extra stuff. If we can intentionally refocus on why we're there, which is to serve clients and treat patients. Then what happens is a lot of those things that have us staying late and skipping lunches can get done within the actual allotted Workday time. It's quite fascinating how that works.

So we will increase our focus. We become more efficient. We stop staying late to finish up medical records. Increasing our focus has us getting those records done in the moment using every minute we have available to us to keep moving forward with the tasks at hand, as a result, we get our lunches. We get to leave on time. We don't use the excuses of medical records to be the reason why we skip a lunch or stay late along with things like medical records.

Other simple tasks can fall into this as well. Maybe their callbacks, maybe their approvals of refills, whatever they are. And none of those things take a lot of time individually. But when we look at the whole stack of those things, whether they be the callbacks, the refills, the records, it feels overwhelming. And we start to believe that we just don't have time to do it in the moment.

The result we skip a lunch, we stay late and then we deal with the whole stack all at once. But if we'll write in our focus and use every minute that we have available to us, to serving clients and treating patients, which includes calling back and doing refills and writing records will actually be much more efficient in our time. This will require us to stop wasting our time on unrelated conversations and activities,

the gossiping, and such the commiserating and such. We will have to intentionally pull our focus away from those things, which can be really appealing. We're humans. We like to interact with each other. We need that kind of interaction. And when we do feel like we're part of a group, we feel more powerful, but as we spend our time participating in those activities,

we're not serving clients or treating patients. We actually aren't doing the job that we are there to do. It may seem like it's a bit of a stress relief, but in the grand scheme of things, the trade-offs just not worth your time. If you'll focus your energy back on the things that you can control in the moment, like clicking off those refill requests,

those callbacks, getting those records written, staying focused on what you're really there to do. You'll actually gain so much of your time back and you'll be able to engage them in some other areas of your life. The second reason that this focus is so important, this development of the skill of focus is so important is because of the impact that it does have on your mood.

When we are focused on our clients and our patients, when we're focused on writing our records and getting their refills done and making the callbacks and all the other things that fall into your job description, there's not a lot of time left to be distracted by things like gossip and drama. This actually helps us to do a better job with our patients and our clients.

And it keeps us in a position of empowerment through that our mood elevates its simple understanding of the think feel act cycle. When we focus on our patients and our clients and on our records and our callbacks and not on things that are part of our job, we are then not focusing on the gossip and the drama and the commiserating and the complaining and all of that.

The thoughts associated with treating our patients and serving our clients create different emotions than the thoughts that are part of gossiping and commiserating and such. So as a result, those higher value thoughts, which are part of what we're actually there to do, result in a much better emotional state for us. So it's a beautiful, by-product that by focusing on what we're there to do,

our mood will automatically increase by alleviating the distractions of the gossip and the drama. We get the by-product of that elevated mood. The third benefit of developing the skill of focus is that it improves the entire culture in your organization. Yeah, it's that powerful. One person learning this skill can start to have that ripple effect to change the entire culture. How's that possible?

Well, if you're no longer entertaining gossip and drama, if you're staying focused on the next thing that needs to get done, if you're getting your records finished and getting your lunches and leaving on time, other people will start to notice that they're going to be curious. How are you able to do that? When I seem to be stuck here for hours afterwards,

doing callbacks and writing records, how is that possible? And they'll start to pay attention. They may even ask you and they'll notice that when everybody else is standing around gabbing, you got your nose down, finishing your records, or you're working on making some callbacks or you're helping your technicians finish up some tasks and technicians. This is for you too. You can also help prompt the doctors to the day by staying focused on what everybody's there to do.

We actually can do this together as a team and we should. So as we start to develop this skill of focus and then function through that skill throughout the day, we become an example of those wonderful byproducts of that. Like getting out of work on time and getting our lunches. We'll also have that example of not participating in the gossip and the drama.

Not everybody needs to participate in it. And I promise you, even if you don't recognize that somebody is noticing somebody is noticing when you're not participating, somebody recognizes that you're not jumping in being part of that activity that has for many of our hospitals become a lot of what happens day in and day out. And through that curiosity, they'll just kind of start to watch you and they'll remember you,

you don't need to be intimidated by this at all. It's actually a very positive thing because you're setting a positive example for everybody else around you. You're showing them what's really important. You're reminding them why we're there to serve clients and to treat patients. And when you have one or two people who are really focused on the mission of why that business exists in the first place,

it becomes harder and harder for the people who aren't focused on that mission to continue in their old behaviors, because there's contrast, it's a lot easier for everybody to complain and commiserate and to gossip and to get all wound up and drama when everybody's doing it together. But when there starts to be separation, some that are, and some that aren't, then everybody starts to notice.

And I don't know about you, but I don't want to be on this side is not focused on what I'm there to do. And quite honestly, I didn't go to school, just standing around and gossip and complain about my work environment. I would just go so I could serve clients and treat patients. And I actually enjoy doing that. When I give myself the opportunity to focus on doing that,

it's not the serving clients of treating patients that makes us miserable. The other part of improving culture is just that development of work-life balance. So again, as you become an example of what's possible as you become the example of somebody who's not diving in to the gossip and the drama, you do start to have that balance in your life. You're getting your lunches.

You're getting out of work on time. And all of a sudden you become the one who's figured out how to balance all of this together. Again, people become curious and it's one person in the organization can develop balance. Then that idea that it's not possible disintegrates, there's no longer only evidence that work-life balance is this thing that will never be attained. As soon as one person attains,

it, it becomes possible for everybody. Culture starts to shift. And as that habits, people become less and less tolerant of wasting their own time with things that don't matter. So developing the skill of focus is one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself. It takes some practice. I'm not going to lie. It takes a practice. You've really got to go in there with your game face on,

remind yourself repeatedly. Why am I here? I'm here to serve clients and treat patients. And that involves these tasks today, stay on track. If you have to have a list in front of you, of everything you need to get done, then make that list. Get your allies around you. That can help you move forward. Avoid those distractions,

say no to the drama. And if you need people to help you to do your job, who are all caught up in the drama and the gossip, don't be afraid to simply call it out and put a stop to it. A simple sentence, Hey guys, we're here to serve clients and treat patients. So how about we get back to that?

That one little sentence can be enough to kind of stop everybody from what they're doing and get them to recognize that they're not actually participating in the tasks at hand. One person can start the entire ripple effect to change not only the culture of the hospital, but the balance for everybody who works there. So the next time that frustration pops up, recognize two things.

Number one, that frustration comes between a gap between expectation and reality. There's something different than you think that it should be. And in those moments, rather than allowing that frustration to grab all of your attention, use it as an opportunity to refocus. Remind yourself why you're really there, remind yourself what you can control in order for you to participate in the activities for why you're there.

Get back to focusing on that. And you're going to notice that everything around you starts to improve. All right, my friends take this into next week, give it a shot and let me know how it goes.