Be More Staten - The Many Benefits of Veterinary Collegiality
The room was raucous; on my left, a passionate conversation played out with wild hand gestures and intense eye contact. On my right, the tables were all in for the chaotic improv routine the talk had descended into. The wine was flowing; food was being devoured. The room was bouncing! All of this, and we were nearly two hours into a talk that should have been 90 minutes on a slow day. Wowzas!
It’s rooms like these that I love and live for as a speaker. Rooms where the energy crackles and the vibe is positive. They’re not always like this, in fact, it’s quite rare, but on a late summer’s Monday evening, the vet community of Staten Island showed up.
I meet many people and teams when I’m on the road. Individually, people in vet med are almost always lovely, and it’s a pleasure to meet with them and hear their stories. However, put a bunch of veterinary peeps in a room together and things can feel distant, unconnected - sometimes even factionalized. Teams sit together, talk only to each other, and tend to avoid too much contact with “The Enemy”.
Collegiality, once the hallmark of the profession, seems to be in short supply. It’s been replaced with distance. Not in the geographical sense, but figuratively.
The distance is driven perhaps by some of society's wider trends.
We all suffer from the heads-down, device-up dependence, where likes and comments have superficially replaced deeper, meaningful, real-world connections.
Talent shortages put pressure on teams, which can lead to resource guarding! (There have been several instances of aggressive staff poaching behavior.)
Corporate takeovers have rapidly retired a swathe of the “old guard” from the professional landscape. Replaced with younger vets struggling to even get to grips with their careers, let alone manage the pressure of leadership.
The sense of being part of a “profession” has been replaced with a view that veterinary medicine is less a calling and more a job. Or perhaps even worse, it’s seen as less job and more of an abusive partner! Who wants to spend extra effort getting to know your local peers when you feel exhausted and burned out?
There are likely plenty more reasons besides this. Pity.
But on Staten Island, I got a vivid, hurly-burly reminder that all is not lost when it comes to collegiality. The air of conviviality and sense of connection was palpable. The joy I observed in these veterinary professionals coming together will stay with me for a long time. They were clearly energized, and lifted by the experience. It reminded me of why I love being part of the veterinary family.
Some, for sure, will have suffered sore heads the following morning. Many will have sore jaws from talking so much. All will have been affected positively by the investment of a few hours of their life. Asymmetrically so, because that investment will provide emotional benefits that last far longer than the time spent together.
It's a shame this doesn’t happen more, because nights like these bolster our emotional reserves. They foster the sense of connection vital for the vet community to function. They get veterinary professionals out of the trenches and remind us that we’re not alone. That your struggles are my struggles. We’re here for animals, for sure. But as humans, we’d do well not to forget each other too.
Feeling part of something bigger matters. Feeling connected to our peers matters. Feeling like we’re in this together matters. When we come together as friends, we can meet so many of our human needs. And this, in turn, boosts our resilience and happiness. For all their benefits, neither yoga nor meditation gets close.
Shared stories, jokes (and tears) over a meal, downshifting from a hard day at the office. Knowing you are in the company of others who know exactly what you are going through… It’s hard to beat.
So, thank you to the lovely vet professionals I met in a Sushi restaurant on Staten Island. Thank you for showing me that collegiality is alive and well in your part of the world. Thank you for laughing at my jokes and engaging enthusiastically with my presentation. You filled a few of my human needs buckets last night, and I reckon you filled each others’ up plenty too.
Many trends are happening in veterinary medicine that are not within our control, and many of you dislike them. One thing that you can control is how you connect with your colleagues both in your clinic, and in your local and wider veterinary communities. There’s a lot of energizing joy to be had in getting stuck in.
I hope we can all remember to be a little more Staten.
My thanks to Justin, Farah, and the team at Idexx for supporting the vet community and making nights like these possible.
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