Veterinary conference anxiety

dvm360dvm360 October 2022
Volume 53
Issue 10
Pages: 74

Marc Rosenberg, VMD, presents a case of how to handle the stress of veterinary conferences

Editor’s note: All names and businesses in this dilemma case are fictitious, but the scenario is based on real occurrences.

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All Pets Animal Hospital has a staff of 7 diligent, hard-working veterinarians, and the administration supports them in every way possible. Continuing education is made readily available, and all team members are encouraged to participate.

Recently, 2 large veterinary conferences were scheduled in the area, and staff were asked to attend to enhance their skills and meet mandatory CE requirements. Dr Kit usually participated virtually. But given that COVID-19 was now under control, a certain amount of on-site attendance was required.

Dr Kit told the hospital manager that he did not want to go in person. When asked about his reasons, he said that they were personal. The manager set up a meeting with Dr Kit, so he could expand upon his reasons. At the meeting, Dr Kit explained that he did not feel comfortable with fellow attendees, who gathered in small groups to discuss complex cases. And the more conferences he went to, the more intimidated he felt, although he is a well-educated physician.

The manager, herself a veterinarian, knew exactly what Dr Kit was talking about and told him that conferences had not really changed in 50 years: the venues were typically large, the exhibit halls cavernous and filled with vendors trying to catch one’s eye and promote their products, and the rooms full of people listening to hour-long lectures. Add to these hundreds of attendees moving from room to room, often in groups.

It didn’t surprise her that Dr Kit felt intimidated, but the secret was to adjust his expectations, she said. The hospital manager told Dr Kit that it was time to let his voice be heard. Conference sponsors and organizers are always interested in increasing attendance. She suggested he let them know that he wants continuing education to have interactive and participatory educational sessions. There is certainly no crime in making continuing education entertaining as well as informative. Additionally, search for available conferences that are trying to put a fresh look and feel on the courses offered to their attendees.

Dr Kit appreciated his boss’ candor and came to understand that his discomfort was based on his experiences as a veterinary student sitting in endless lectures. Given that conference formats were unlikely to change soon, he decided to earn CE credit in person. However, he wasn’t going to blindly sign up for local conferences but would search for innovative continuing education formats. The more he enjoyed his educational experiences the more he was able to assist his pet patients. Isn’t that the end result we all want?

Is Dr Kit’s experience familiar? What are your thoughts?

Rosenberg's response

It is easy to complain about unchanging veterinary conference formats and procedures. Complaining rarely is very productive. Some reasonable suggestions directed to conference sponsors may lead to a more palatable continuing education experience. More interactive presentations with less rigid structure can be both educational and not uncomfortable. Break time with interactive encounters with experts and colleagues can lead to improving the skill base for many clinicians.

The continuing education community is starting to listen. Fetch conferences are changing the roadmap to lifelong learning. Many online courses are now tutorials that allow you to correct errors within the context of your learning experience. Hands on “wet lab training” is no longer limited to surgical or technical skills. Role-playing formats to assist with client interactions or improving the euthanasia experience are on the horizon. Be prepared to enjoy upcoming continuing education experiences, but also remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Marc Rosenberg, VMD, is director of Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. Although many of the scenarios Rosenberg describes in his column are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors, and employees described are fictional.

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