Two things that hurt veterinarians

March 29, 2017
Kimberly Pope-Robinson, DVM, CCFP

CVC educator and new author Kimberly Pope-Robinson, DVM, CCFP, talks about the dangers of and misconceptions abouttwo big parts of many veterinarians' psychology.

Empathy: It's not what you think it is

Empathy doesn't mean taking ownership of other's emotions and all the crazy things that happen every day.

"We believe being empathetic means giving all of ourselves in all of that moment, and we own it," Pope-Robinson says. "But what I've grown to realize is, that's not what empathy is."

When a pet owner can't afford treatment or your very best medical work still doesn't save a patient, empathy doesn't mean you're 100 percent responsible for what's happening. You don't control pet owners' finances and choices. And you don't control life and death.

"Empathy is just connecting to that individual, being present in the moment and being mindful," she says. "Have that conversation and then move forward. We don't need to own it, we don't need to control it, we don't need to have it live with us for the rest of our day."

Pope-Robinson echoes self-help author Brene Brown, who thinks "true empathy and true vulnerability and true connection comes from being able to set boundaries."

See her thoughts in the video below.


Perfection: Between a rock and a hard place

It can be hard to get into veterinary school, hard to graduate and hard to practice veterinary medicine well. So, let's admit it: Perfectionism, striving to do better, can help you. But, boy, can it hurt.

Pope-Robinson gives two examples of its worst manifestations: perfectionist paralysis and cognitive dissonance.

For perfectionist paralysis, she uses herself as an example: "People kept asking me to write a book, but I'm dyslexic. I hate the written word. It scares the living bejeezus out of me. It's very, very difficult for me to write something on paper, so I sit there and I don't do it, because my perfectionism tells me I can't do it."

Because she takes her own advice-don't fear making a mistake that you get nothing done-she finished that book.

For cognitive dissonance, Pope-Robinson uses the example of physicians years ago realizing they could save lives by washing their hands between handling sick and dying patients and delivering babies. The response from some? It would take too long to do it.

"If you agree that [the other person's] right, it means that whatever you've been doing for however many years was wrong," Pope-Robinson says.

That other side of perfectionism coin keeps people stuck in their ruts and making the same mistakes over and over again because they're too attached to being right-being perfect.

See Pope-Robinson talk it out below. And see her this year as a featured educator at CVC Virginia Beach, Kansas City and San Diego.