A Veterinarian's Resolutions for the New Year
It’s that time again!
Time to celebrate the drawing close of one year and the simultaneous ushering in of a new one. Time to take stock of where “we’re at” compared to where we “hope to be” at the same time next year. Conventionally, we call this “making resolutions.”
Resolutions are tricky little things. If we uphold them, it’s fantastic! If we fail, we’re disappointed. Often, we wind up tweaking our goals just a tiny bit, so with some minor glossing over of the specifics, we are able to come out on top.
Last year I listed my professional and personal resolutions for 2013. Looking back, I’m satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve gained a reasonable mastering of social media for professional use, I’ve kept promises to friends and family, I’ve maintained my rigorous exercise program, and I’m trying to be gentle on myself in times of excess stress.
Now it’s time to consider what I want to accomplish in 2014. With a mind like mine, it’s difficult to keep the list simple. Nevertheless, building off of my prior objectives (in no particular order) here’s what I hope to achieve in the coming year:
Resolution #1: I will listen more and talk less (in the exam room).
During initial appointments, I spend a great deal of time talking to owners. I go over their pets’ diagnoses and review what I refer to as “what we know, what we don’t know, and what we can do to bridge the gap between the two.”
My objective when discussing the facts in such painstaking detail is to provide each owner a comprehensive basis for knowing everything about their pet’s cancer, from the exact cell of origin to the patterns of spread, to the different treatment options and prognosis.
It may seem intuitive, but I’ve really come to appreciate that different individuals process information differently and I need to adjust my dialogue to fit their needs. I appreciate some “less is more” when it comes to their pets’ health. Likewise, though a picture may be worth a thousand words for one person, for another, writing down a thousand words is the only way to drive a point home.
Resolution #2: I will figure out how to cultivate my creative side while simultaneously working in an overly analytical profession.
It’s a constant struggle to maintain balance between my love of science and my love of art. I’m happiest not when I’m at work, but when I’m creating, whether simple craft projects, decorating my home, or writing freely (and not scientifically).
Veterinary medicine requires constant access to the critical, methodical, and systematic portions of my brain. I’ve argued this before: the medical field is as much of an art as it is a science. But this fact alone fails to satisfy my need to find inspiration in my imagination and to fuel my imagination through the inspiring things surrounding me.
Resolution #3: I will embrace palliative and hospice care for my patients.
Pet owners have access to the most advanced surgical, radiation, and chemotherapy options for cancers that just a few years ago were considered untreatable. However, having choices doesn’t mean we must choose them.
I’m learning to appreciate how important my role is for supporting pets and their owners when we decide to not move forward with intensive measures. In most cases, these are the most important days or weeks of a pet’s life.
Veterinary hospice care is an emerging aspect of our profession. Though we are ingrained to do everything we can to heal sick animals and to relieve suffering when healing is not an option, there is a “gray” area between the two. This is the essence of hospice care, and I recognize I’m just as obligated to work hard for those patients as I am for the ones who follow every treatment recommendation.
Resolution #4: I will work harder to maintain patience on busy days and be cognizant of how the stress of an insurmountable schedule negatively affects my interactions with peers and pet owners and, at times, my capabilities as a doctor.
I’m expected to fit as many appointments as possible into a finite amount of hours of a day and it wears my emotional and physical capabilities beyond their maximum at times.
The bottom line is that the burden leaves me less time to communicate with owners, which reciprocally leaves me feeling less capable and content in my professional goals.
When the day runs smoothly and all patients are healthy and there are no interruptions, my stress levels are minute. This would be the exception to my day, rather than the rule. Inherent to my job are complications, problems, and yes, at times, sorrow.
As long as I work for someone else, I will be expected to maintain a specific workload and produce specific revenue, so finding the balance between efficiency and keeping a soul is remarkably difficult. I’m making the resolution to work on this, but suggestions as to how to effectively implement change are definitely welcome on this one…
Resolution #5: I will finish my book. Yes, the same book I wrote about finishing as my final resolution last year.
The good news is I’ve made significant progress over the past 12 months, completing nearly 50,000 words. Yet, there’s still so much left to accomplish.
The added bonus is combining this resolution with #2 above should make for a much happier year for me!
I wish everyone and their pets a happy and healthy New Year! I’m thankful for all of the support from friends and family and look forward to what 2014 will bring!
Dr. Joanne Intile