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Weathering the Storm

It seems like the veterinary world is in a turmoil just now, with different threats and stressors impacting our daily lives. There is the recent cloud overhead of what next with Breed Specific Legislation, combined with the impact of the CMA’s financial review, the changes in medicine prescribing, with the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, all hot on the heels of the pandemic. No wonder the veterinary sector is feeling buffeted and worried about the coming months.  

Many animals huddle together and collectively brace themselves in the face of an oncoming storm and here at VDS Training, we want to be part of this protective huddle to ensure we weather this storm together. 

So how can we do this? How can we collectively brace ourselves? People talk a lot about resilience- the ability to bounce back at times of stress. It's very easy to tell people to stay positive and to manage stress, but what does that look like in reality? And how can effective communication build our resilience? 

I hope we can help! 

It starts with recognising that the sort of conversations that we are having right now with clients and colleagues might be tense and tricky and easily spiral out of control because we are all under stress. What often helps to manage this is recognising what we can control, what we can influence, and what is outside of our control. We can control our behaviour and our approach to situations, and this can influence how others behave reciprocally. It’s important to recognise what we cannot control and find ways to manage ourselves and interactions such that we spend energy only on those things we can control and influence.  

Talking about money

Thinking about perennial issues of finances, recently exacerbated by the cost of living crisis and brought into sharp focus by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA): how do you communicate with clients about money? Do you find out and incorporate financial concerns into the decision making early on, avoiding judgement? Or do you end up at the end of the consult feeling frustrated that your perfect plan is being resisted by your clients? If so, it might be helpful to consider how the concept of making a truly shared decision with out clients allows us to take different contexts, including financial limitations, into consideration when creating a diagnostic and management plan. This helps to ensure it is agreeable to everybody, thus taking the heat out of these sometimes challenging conversations. Be upfront in asking clients about their priorities, including finances, and recognise that the decisions you make depend on different client, animal, person and professional factors. Listen to their concerns and help to find plans that take these on board. This will save time and heartache later.

Supporting yourself and your colleagues

It might be that we are going to have to care for and even euthanise healthy dogs that are now subject to the widening of the laws around banned breeds. How are we going to manage our own feelings during this time? What can we do to support ourselves and our colleagues? It's not easy, but setting aside our judgements can help, recognising that we are all human, with our own beliefs and values, and that makes us all fallible. Recognise the signs when you are feeling distressed, practising self-care, and finding support when you need it are all key elements of managing yourself through these tricky situations. We can find ways of navigating this stress by recognising the things we can't always change and managing our own feelings through the acceptance of tough decisions, using reframing to mitigate the impact by creating space for more positive thoughts. Also, where possible, it helps to be a support buddy for others.

Supporting the team

And that brings us to the final questions: how is the team fairing? Are you a supportive team member and are you supported by your seniors and colleagues? Resilience is also about having a nurturing culture in your practice. This comes from management and also from team behaviour and how we communicate. Are you an effective support, creating non-judgemental and positive spaces, where others can safely weather this storm with you?

Support from VDS Training

We have developed a series of webinars addressing some of the current issues called 'It's Good To Talk' and we have also created a new workshop, bring together ideas, tools, and top tips, curated from across our training provision, to help you use your communication skills to build your resilience to weather the storm. Find out more about our workshop Mastering Communication for Turbulent Times.

About the author, Ruth Serlin, Training Consultant, BVetMed Cert VA PGCAP FHEA MA MRCVS - Ruth is a small animal vet who has spent much of her career working for charities or in education. Ever the ‘word nerd’, she is fascinated by how communication works. She is currently completing an MA in Applied Linguistics and is particularly interested in vet-client communication and pet euthanasia. Her goal here at VDS Training is to help veterinary professionals recognise and develop their expertise in communication because she believes this is the key to thriving in practice.

About VDS Training
VDS Training are passionate about developing all members of the veterinary team, to help you overcome the personal and professional challenges you face on a daily basis, and to build practical skills and techniques to make a real difference to you and your life.