In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, I’m going to discuss the top 8 things that you need to give up NOW. Whether you’re a veterinarian, veterinary technician/nurse, CSR, vet assistant, or veterinary student, these are important life hacks that you need to know as you progress in your veterinary career.

1. Give up your pride. Recently, we posted the meme (below) about a human medical doctor intern not wanted to learn from nurses… and getting killed in the process. We all have something to learn from each other, so give up being haughty in the clinic. I still remember my first dyspneic cat that I saw as a newly minted veterinary intern at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital. I had ordered IV fluids, and one of the seasoned veterinary ICU nurses hung the buretrol on the IV pole and didn’t give it, as she knew the cat was in congestive heart failure. She asked me if I was sure, and that’s when I realized I was in the wrong. (How I ended up a criticalist, I’ll never know!). Veterinary staff have a ton to teach us – regardless of what “level” you are at. We can all learn from each other, and we’d all make our profession just a little less judgmental – and awesome – if we more humbly learned from each other.

2. Give up being a perfectionist. Our classic veterinary Myers-Briggs personality is INTJ – with that comes a very science-driven, caregiving, perfectionist personality. But perfectionism comes with its own set of problems. Our Chief Happiness Officer, Jeannine Moga, MA, MSW, LCSW, talked about this in a Facebook LIVE event HERE. If you want to survive and succeed in life, learn to give up your perfectionism. The sooner you learn to let go, the better your work-life balance and quality of life. Classic example: when it comes to “perfecting your medical records,” give it up. Write a good SOAP, but no need for 2-3 page essays! Same goes for your home. Have friends or family coming to visit? Don’t stress about the hairballs in the corners of your house – your true friends could care less and just want to spend time with you. If they do complain, boot them out of your life. You don’t need that negative mojo. (BTW, if you don’t have time to vacuum, buy a iRobot Roomba.)

3. Give up the ‘tude. Stop acting like a calico cat at a veterinary clinic. We all work hard. We all come from different backgrounds. And we all have drama in our lives. But please leave the ‘tude at the door. Veterinary clinics are notorious for being “catty” environments, and that doesn’t mean that they’re feline friendly. Drop the bullying. Drop the attitude. Drop the gossip. Yes, I’m talking to you.

4. Give up your inefficiencies. I wrote more about how to be efficient in the veterinary clinic. The key to survival in the veterinary clinic and getting out on time, is to learn to be efficient. Your work life balance is also a lot better when you’re not stuck at the clinic hours after your shift. Find some great tips HERE.

5. Give up your bad attitude about money. I graduated 20+ years ago with 6-figure debt. I get it. It sucks. It’s stressful. But dude, you can’t just blow it off. If you have six-figure debt, you need to have a plan. You can’t just bank on marrying rich, PSLF, or for it to go away on its own. VIN has great resources on YouTube, but when in doubt, consult a financial advisor or an expert in this area. My philosophy is honestly different from those out there in vet med, as I HATE having the chronic burden of stressing over debt for 20+ years. I’d rather skimp and save and live like a broke veterinary student for as long as I can while aggressively pay off my loans so it doesn’t chronically stress me out. Ultimately, crunch the numbers and weigh the “stress factor” for you. But don’t ignore it. Some great resources are listed here in my webinar on How Not To Be a Broke Veterinarian. I also love reading Suzy Orman (The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke), David Ramsey, or the The White Coat Investor: A Doctor’s Guide To Personal Finance And Investing. One of my veterinary ER colleagues even wrote a book about it for his kids here (Dad’s Guidebook: Finance: A Kid’s Guide to Saving and Investing).

6. Give up poor self care. We don’t like to be “selfish” as caregivers. It feels dirty. But if you want to survive, you’ve got to invest in yourself and care for yourself. Poor self care is not drinking enough water. Not eating real meals. Not getting at least 20 minutes a day to have some type of physical fitness (e.g., speed walking counts!). What are my secrets towards good self care? Splurging on my high intensity training gym. Splurging on a nice Hydro Flask water bottle so I stay hydrated. Splurging on things that help me have better sleep hygiene, like a sleep mask with Lavender Aromatherapy. I splurge on certain essential oils that I love (AVEDA Calming Oil). I spurge on facials and massages, and self care items because it makes me a better, happier parent, spouse, and colleague.

7. Give up on ignorance. You survived 8 years of advanced training – between undergraduate and veterinary school, you learned a lot. But never stop loving to learn. That’s honestly why I created VETgirl, because I’m passionate about delivering clinically relevant, practical CE that’s going to help save a patient’s life. We all have to continue to grow as as person – once we stop taking the time to learn and grow, it may be time to take a break.

8. Give up negative energy. As a busy small business owner and veterinary mom, I don’t have a lot of spare time. But the time that I do have, I want to be present. And happy. And stress-free. I don’t want extra stress in my life. And I definitely don’t want negative mojo. If watching the local news or CNN is stressing you out before bed, give it up. If you find yourself wasting hours of time scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed, only to see how beautiful and fit and happy everyone else is, unplug or unfollow them. If you find your family reunion stressful due to all the negative energy and bickering, it’s ok to skip it. My philosophy is to ask yourself “Does this spark joy?” (philosophy from this book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“), and if it doesn’t, skip it or triage it out of your life.

What tips do you have for your fellow veterinary colleagues? Comment below!

  1. Would you have a source to say that INTJs are overrepresented as veterinarians? Perhaps it’s just a cultural difference in different countries, but by far the most common types I have worked with are ESFJs, ISFJs, ESTJs and ISTJs (I know they’re more common personality types overall anyway, but the INTJ profile certainly isn’t what I picture when I think of the “usual vet profile” I see on a daily basis either). Obviously INTJs tend to have the intelligence and thirst for knowledge that helps to become a veterinarian, and just like any personality type they can succeed at the job if they work hard enough at it. But I would think they would also make up the highest proportion of vets leaving the industry (at least partially) onto other creative enterprises (like running VETGirl, for instance) – most are on the extreme side of introversion, there aren’t many (if any) career advancement opportunities at most clinics, and they’ll get frustrated when they want to use their Ni to solve systems issues in the clinic (or in the wider industry), but everyone else is happy to keep ignoring them. INTJs tend to like learning absolutely everything they can about every aspect of their profession until they’re experts, which is incredibly difficult to do as a general practice veterinarian, and this would constantly lend itself to imposter syndrome. Plus the daily schedule or plan can get completely thrown out the window at any moment, which drives the majority of INTJs mad. It would be interesting to find out if there was a difference in veterinary personality profiles between different countries, perhaps driven by different societal representation of the profession in the media internationally.

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