“I wish someone had told me that before I graduated”

Recently someone asked me to write a chapter in a book for new Veterinary graduates.
I thought it might be useful for many people of different walks of life, so here are my
TIWI KWIP’s — This cone of shame is a mnemonic word that specialists and “older” vintage  practitioners use to explain “Things I Wish I Knew When I was in Practice”
 I always enjoy listening to these lecturers, as their stories given with their “retrospectroscope” are illuminating and often a relief to hear that others had gone through your situation, bringing some hilarity to our subjective failings .  For instance the Professor of anaesthesiology was lecturing to us and relayed a humorous story about an Anaesthetist climbing the long ladder to heaven after he had passed away.  There was a long chalkboard next to the ladder, and after each step you had to place a chalk mark  next to the ladder for any mistakes you made in your life or any work related mishaps.  On his way up he met a surgeon he knew coming down, and he was surprised and somewhat concerned to see that this surgeon was heading the wrong way! “Hey, are you ok? Did you get rejected at the pearly gates?” he asked. “No, I just ran out of chalk, I’m coming down to get some more!” the surgeon said.
I hope, as you travel through your working life, that you realize that all the great Veterinarians that you respect, and that have gone before you, are there because they never gave up, and that they probably made all the mistakes that you perhaps will, or are going through right now.  Your licence to “practice” means just that- you will forever be “practicing” and learning. Listen to your colleagues, listen to your clients, avoid becoming judgemental, stay humble.  You are still the top of your High School league, and necessarily in the top 1% academically, so be aware that Veterinary Medicine and Surgery is not always clear sailing, and it is not always your fault. This does not mean that you shouldn’t acknowledge anything that did not go 100% smoothly, but remind yourself, and your clients, that we are dealing with biology, not changing an old tyre, and we cannot guarantee immortality at any cost. We can only do our best, with our heartfelt desire to help. The vast majority of our work will be an improvement for their pet, and we are definitely more knowledgeable than any other non- veterinarian out there giving advice on pet care.
There will be  many moments of mild, or even severe anxiety,  and several periods of doubt, during your first few years as a Veterinary Surgeon and Physician.  You will gain experience. Keep moving and seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed- because it’s actually a normal part of the process!  Many “disasters” are actually a lesson which in the future will help you to help someone else.  Cherish those, and remind yourself how well you recovered from that situation. Save your client thank you notes, and refer to the many outstanding successes you have had if you ever find yourself feeling down about your profession.
sunrise boys

First off remember that you are NOT ALONE.  You really do have friends and family that care, just go and find them.   Get social.  Talk to PEOPLE.  Off load your grief. The rate of suicide in the veterinary profession is unacceptably high.  It has been shown that those  vets who have a more balanced life, with a social supporting structure such as church, drama clubs, book clubs, soccer, netball, football have much less stress related illness. Exercise based activities that are routinely added to your week are a survival mechanism, it might seem a chore but just DO IT!  Find your TRIBE, so you have a sense of purpose and belonging. Tribes exist online (Facebook) and in real time in your community, its the niche- doing what you like together with a small group.
1) Develop an attitude of gratitude towards your boss and nurses. Bring food to share!  When you graduate you do not know everything and the nurses and staff often know a heck of a lot more than you. Be kind to the nurses especially, some of them may not seem worth it (they get stressed by new grads) but time will pass and you will improve.
2) Expect the unexpected– re spay– plan everything well, and something will happen that you didn’t expect, but don’t feel bad about that because next time you will do that better.   Everyone drops a spay pedicle in their first year, don’t panic, extend the incision and find the kidney in that area, its right under it.   Exteriorize and have good vision of the tract.  Don’t use thin  monofilament suture around the uterine stump in fat/peri-oestrous  as when the swelling happens (as it always does post) the material will cut into the tissue and the animal can bleed out from there.
3)  There are always more options than what you have been taught at Uni, consider referring if you are stumped- no shame in that: ophthalmology, Dentistry, Dermatologist, Internist referral, also “alternative medicine” to a qualified veterinarian trained in acupuncture, Chinese herbs, western herbs, essential oils, remedial massage, chiropractic, osteopathy- refer to your colleagues it will make you look AWESOME. (not dumb) if you get a patient that you cannot think of a way forward.  Visit your colleagues and watch them practice, see if you can be a trainee under their mentorship. Join the local journal club.
4) FAMILY first!  Make time for dating and looking after your partner and plan family fun times- your family is more important than work. However if they are very “needy” you might have to put in place some outside help, eg. if you are caring for elderly parents, an autistic child, or disabled partner, you need back up plans for when you are scheduled to work.  I have been both employer and employee, and understand both sides, however if an employer is looking after an family crisis member and their casual staff calls in at the last minute repeatedly to say they cannot work because their child has a head cold and cannot go to school – you can understand that this is really not the employer’s problem, even if government regulations in the workplace industry might allow some time off for parental leave. It’s important to be thoughtful of your colleague’s time.  Be kind to your workplace and have babysitters lined up to cover these incidences. There are paid agencies such as “Dial an Angel” and lovely grandmothers nearby, figure it out in advance, prior to your need!
Remember the saying “if you fail to plan, you are planninbaristag to fail”. Plan to make time for your family and help the practice plan to give you time off.
5) Nutrition! Don’t skip breakfast! Have 1gm of protein/kg of your body weight every day. If you  need to have a smoothie on the run, then do that. Plan nutritious stews for evening meals, a slow cooker and a rice cooker with steaming basket on top are essential to your growing family. Throw everything in the crockpot before you go to bed, and its done for the day!
6) Do 7 minutes of exercise everyday- this could be 1 minute of push ups, 1 minute of star jumps, 1 minute of planking, 1 minute of running on the spot, 1 minute of stair climbs and 1 minute each of side planking
fatcatI’m in shape! (Round is a shape, right?)You can watch the morning news while doing this.

7) Find a hobby- art, painting, pottery, snorkeling etc- you need to put GOOD pictures into your brain daily, to wipe out or replace the BAD pictures that will come in- the Hit by cars, the emotional client that blames you (incorrectly usually!) for not picking up their pets disease, the euthenasia where everyone cries etc- these all affect your adrenals and will give you a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  You need to file these away and calm your hormones. Reset your Parasympathetic gut healing and remove the cortisol/adrenal rush.
8) See a Qualified Naturopath and an Integrative GP doctor–and ask for a referral to a specialist if necessary,  to help you cope and find strategies, supplements, and diet advice to get you back on track if you are feeling not quite 100%
9)  SMILE! It’s contagious–Do IT- even if you don’t feel like it. Be happy.  It is a choice.  Learn to meditate on that.
smile pup
Good luck and be well, go for the long haul– life journey!
Feel free to pop over to my wellness sites for more advice. https://www.facebook.com/Naturopathvet?fref=ts
Naturopathvet.com
Dr Elaine Cebuliak
Get your antioxidants in early in the day, and take large quantities!

Get your antioxidants in early in the day, and take large quantities!

ANIMAL WELLNESS ph 61 7 31221997
Veterinary Integrative Care Clinic AND Advanced Veterinary Dentistry
Greenslopes Shopping Mall
Shop 6B/700 Logan Road,
Greenslopes Qld 4120
www.animalwellness.com.au
http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/animalwellness

https://naturopathvet.com/

Dr Elaine Cebuliak BVSc MACVSc dentistry, Dip Ed, Dip Rem Massage, Cert Chinese Herbs, Cert IVAS Qual Acupuncture, CMAVA, Adv Dip Naturopathy, Adv Dip Herbal Med, Adv Dip Nutrition       ph 61-422413404
http://www.pethealth.com.au/Page/animal-massage-brisbane
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3 thoughts on ““I wish someone had told me that before I graduated”

  1. Pingback: “I wish someone had told me that before I graduated” | naturopathvet

  2. Thanks for this great article. Yes, I wish I knew this while I was still practising. I left private practice (and veterinary science, to all intents and purposes) two years ago and am only now recovering from what I regard as severe PTSD. If I had known these things on graduating or while still practicing, things might have turned out differently. Ironically, I wrote about this issue in 2006, but never seemed to get it right. http://www.colourandquill.com/more-than-one-way-to-kill-a-vet.html

  3. so sorry to hear your journey caused you to be unwell – it is not uncommon in our profession! Dentists and even doctors also suffer from this syndrome. There are many constraints beyond our control and so being kind to yourself takes some effort. Hope you find your bliss in life! We vets are special and an exceptional breed. All the best, Elaine

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