Caring for people as well as pets



We recently won a Wellbeing award. This was a competition for veterinary practices in the UK, looking at how they look after the team working in the practice. We won the medium-size practice category. 

You may ask what this has got to do with looking after pets, but I firmly believe that you have to look after your team, then they will look after the practice for you. Giving excellent service to pets and people requires that people like the environment they work in. The nature of veterinary work means that we are continually working with uncertainty, often owners are not able to afford to do all the tests we need to be certain in a diagnosis. We often have to compromise our treatment plan and second guess what might be wrong with the pet. Our training put a lot of pressure on to be scientific and use evidence-based medicine, which often is not feasible in first-opinion practice. In addition to this we are constantly running out of time. This mix of urgency and uncertainty is a recipe for stress and stress-related illness.

Vets are often of a perfectionist-type personality. They have been very good at passing exams, and have hardly failed at anything until they come into practice and are suddenly faced with their patients dying, which in the end will happen to us all. Mistakes happen in every part of life, but there is a lot less acceptance that this can happen in medicine. It is easy to feel useless and depressed when this happens, however this is not helpful for the individual or for the practice. When mistakes happen, we do not look for blame, but aim to analyse what has happened and how it can be prevented in the future. It is also very important to be able to talk about the issues with a supportive team, not having to take the burden home to offload on partners that can't truly understand the pressure we are under.

Social bonds are important to build resilience. We have a social committee which organises events outside of work. We have done everything from go-carting to cocktail making.

We are a one-site practice, therefore it is easy for us to communicate - we do not use email, but direct communication, like talking to each other! There is a daily huddle to run through the day and plan the next day. And we have monthly practice meetings, with a home-cooked lunch.

The overall reason for making work an enjoyable place to be is to have a happy team that stays for a long time, thereby creating continuity for you and your pet.

Having moved from Norway, I look upon the team as my extended family, and love the challenges that come with any family.

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