When the going gets tough: 4 ways to persevere in veterinary medicine


Check out these useful strategies for building resiliency so you can thrive and not just survive during adversity.

resiliency plant

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It’s no secret that veterinary professionals are resilient. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the profession was confronted with significant challenges but adjusted to sudden, drastic changes and propelled forward to meet the new and growing demands.

“Our profession is resilient, and if our profession is resilient, that means the professionals within the profession are resilient,” said Kara Burns, MS, MEd, LVT, VTS (Nutrition). “If we’re resilient it means we [have] recovered from [things] and learned to change course and move forward.”

When faced with adversity because of a worldwide pandemic or a challenging situation in the clinic—having the right tools to help you maintain resiliency is crucial. During her talk during the 2021 virtual Veterinary Meeting & Expo (VMX), Burns shared 4 strategies for persevering in veterinary medicine during adverse times.

Why resiliency matters

Burns told attendees that resiliency is a significant trait to possess in veterinary medicine because it:

  • Provides you with the emotional strength needed to cope with trauma, adversity, and hardship.
  • Allows you to work beyond setbacks and not let them deter you.
  • Makes you less likely to feel overwhelmed or helpless.
  • Helps you avoid unhealthy coping strategies (eg, avoidance, isolation, and self-medication).

1. Prioritize self-care

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (ie, getting adequate sleep, eating well, and exercising) is key for maintaining resiliency.

Additionally, Burns emphasized that veterinary team members have experienced enormous loads of stress during the pandemic, so practicing these healthy habits is vital for your overall mental and physical health.

2. Nurture close relationships

Fostering close relationships with immediate and extended family, team members, and organizations is crucial when trouble arises. Along with having a solid support system, it’s essential to practice effective communication. Let people know when you’re on the brink of burning out and lean on the people you love and trust during those challenging times.

“We’re going to nurture these close relationships and have these relationships there for when something bad, something tough, something difficult comes up,” Burns said.

3.View failure as a learning opportunity

Failure is inevitable. While it can be frustrating and even discouraging, it can help you grow personally and professionally. A crucial element of being resilient is accepting that it’s OK to make mistakes.

“Failure is not fatal—we learn so much when we fail. As long as we are failing forward, taking that failure, taking that feedback from our failures, learning from it, and then applying and moving forward then we truly aren’t failing,” said Burns.

4. Maintain a positive outlook

When things aren’t going your way, staying hopeful can promote resiliency, Burns said, adding that optimism empowers you to expect good things to occur even when there’s a storm around you. Burns also suggested visualizing what you want.

“Studies have looked at visualization and it really does make a difference; it changes your mindset maybe even on the subconscious level," she said. So seeing the outcome you want is the first step to altering your reality, she explained. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back, she added.

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