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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

8 Steps to a Less-Stressed Veterinary Workplace

Let’s be honest. Working in vet med can be deeply meaningful. It can also be hard f#@king work. And sometimes it really challenges our resilience.

A recently published study might help us all lessen the burden of the inevitable challenges in our field.

Imagine a loved one is experiencing a serious illness (like dementia, HIV, cancer, etc.) and you’re the one taking care of them. Every day, for all their needs. Heck, maybe you don’t even have to imagine this – maybe you’ve experienced it (or are currently experiencing this). Either way, I’m sure you can see how stressful this form of caregiving can be.

Researchers took these exact kinds of people (caregivers taking care of someone with a serious illness) and put them through an online course in which they learned how to apply 8 skills to increase their positive affect (psychological well-being) and decrease their sense of anxiety and depression. The results were stunning.

Participants enjoyed, on average, a decrease of over 14% in anxiety and depression symptoms and an increase in over 50% of positive emotion.

Here’s a breakdown of the 8 skills and suggestions for applying them in the veterinary hospital:

  1. Identify One Positive Event Every Day: I know of a veterinary hospital that holds a team huddle at the beginning of every day. One by one they go around the room and everyone shares one good thing that happened in the previous 24 hours of their life.

  2. Tell Someone the Positive Event from #1: Few of us in vet med do not use some form of social media. Put it to good use and share your positive event every day on your social feed! Sharing can be a form of savoring, a skill shown to boost well-being.

  3. Start a Gratitude Journal: Keep a journal at work and, at the end of every shift write down one good thing that happened at work. Take a step further and make it more meaningful by writing down a positive contribution you made that day to someone else – client, patient, or fellow team member.

  4. Identify a Personal Strength and Use it Every Day: Take the VIA Character Strengths assessment and find out what your top 5 character strengths are. Then come up with a plan to use one strength in a new way every day at work.

  5. Set a Simple Daily Goal and Track Your Progress: For the first couple minutes of your day, before you start caring for your patients, write down a simple goal for the day. Maybe it’s placing an IV catheter in three cats or saying thank you to every client you meet. Then, throughout the day, check in on your progress toward that goal.

  6. Practice “Positive Re-appraisal”: Find an opportunity, every day, to reframe a stressful experience in a positive way. Maybe you hate performing dentals and you’ve got two on the schedule. Rather than saying how much you hate them actually verbalize out loud (or write down), “I get to help this animal feel more comfortable and live a healthier life.”

  7. Do Something Nice for Someone Else: Find an opportunity, every day, to perform a simple act of kindness. This could be as simple as complimenting a team member on their newest set of scrubs or congratulating a tech on a smooth blood draw.

  8. Practice a Moment of Mindfulness: At least once during your shift take a minimum of 3-5 minutes to focus your mind internally in a non-judgmental way. Go sit in the quietest part of the clinic (maybe even outside) and privately, without distraction, put a hand on your belly and hand on your chest, close your eyes, and for 2 minutes just notice the feeling of your breathing.

Print out this blog post and commit to doing 1 or 2 of these steps during every shift, for the next 3 weeks. Better yet, do all 8 if you can!

50% more positive emotion and 15% less anxiety. Who wouldn’t want that at work?

- Written by Josh Vaisman

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