Mental Health

Navigating the exciting unknown in vet med

Imagine going through the memories of 2021 as if scrolling down a social media feed. Some recollections play like fun videos, some are still images of loved ones smiling back, and some are eventful live recordings representing various themes: love, adventure, loss, and disappointment. As I now proceed into the unknown of 2022, some of these past experiences lead to expectations for the new year, thereby leaving one inclined to reflect on the lessons previously learned.
Holdin’ a medz,* according to my inner Jamaican, refers to such reflection which highlights the importance of these lessons, in addition to how they facilitate the pursuance of a professional veterinary career.

The world of veterinary medicine is a vast one, expanding across various fields, as if it had long tentacles, allowing it to integrate into others—like technology and the arts. With time, it continues to grow, further specializing in recognition of animal welfare and One Health1. The array of opportunities is endless, and this is exciting. The new year in itself provides a fresh platform upon which to gain new experiences. As such, let’s consider the lessons learned from the past year and how they may be applied, while venturing into the Exciting Unknown.

So, what are these so-called lessons anyway? Well, let’s break the ice real quick.

Imagine, a broken bilateral pinky promise. Yes, total of four pinkies (#TrueStory). That kinda betrayal has the potential to make a person go on the verge of losing faith in themselves; however, in light of such undesirable events, there are helpful and uplifting practices such as inner reflection or holdin’ a medz. This leads us into the first item of discussion: Believing in Yourself.

Believe in Yourself

As mushy as it sounds, it’s true, you’ve gotta believe in yourself. It is a principle which forms a firm foundation. A moment of recollection finds me amidst the company of clinicians and colleagues discussing a patient case. During the discussion, a particular item came to mind; however, try as I might, I could not recall its peculiar name. I even started dropping hints in the hopes that someone would pick up. Alas, to no avail. T’was an uneventful moment and I felt defeated. Nonetheless, I was persistent in finding the answer by scouring old records and doing deep internet searches. Then, eureka! After tirelessly searching, driven by the goal to redeem myself, I found it. A few days later, I saw one of the clinicians in the hallway and shared my rediscovery. Turns out he hadn’t heard of it and thanked me for informing him. We laughed about the incident, went our separate ways and in that moment, I felt peace. No, I didn’t get extra credit and nothing grand came of the situation; but it was gratifying to recognizing the positive impact of believing in and advocating for myself.

In the world of veterinary medicine, persons may experience challenges that cause them to lose faith in themselves. This is unfortunate and it is important to recognize, as our community is plagued with curses such as imposter syndrome and compassion fatigue. Thankfully, organizations such as Not One More Vet (NOMV)2 play a substantial role in the mission to support members of the veterinary community who need to be reminded that they are not alone.

It is certainly easier said than done, but believing in yourself takes certain practices, such as inner reflection, focus, and preparation. Inner reflection allows you to come to terms with your goals and desires while helping to keep you grounded. In this state of mind, you are better able to maintain focus and prepare accordingly. Ways to help transcribe and organize your thoughts of inner reflection includes documenting them in a journal or notebook. You may even express your thoughts creatively by curating a vision board. Inner reflection may even take the form of more physical activities such as yoga, a practice which encourages breathing (the key to life) and has added health benefits.

Pro tip: Vision Boards are a fun tool because they are fun to create and may help provide motivation for the upcoming year!

Self-care may be key, but humans are social creatures by nature (Ebstein, 2010). This brings us to the next principle: collaboration.

Collaboration

Collaboration is Key, also. This principle encompasses the cliché, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” and rightly so. Collaboration may be defined by the action of working alongside another in order to create or produce a result. Any successful framework involves this principle as it allows for efficiency and advancement, while creating space for compromise in the face of adversity. The notion of teamwork also embraces the various aspects of diversity and inclusivity, giving individuals the opportunity to express talents of varied skill, background and importance.

Some collaborations flow like a healthy symbiotic system. However, some interactions have the capability to encourage the feeling of dismissal and even instances of blatant disrespect among parties involved. Therefore, it is good practice to have a positive attitude and be mindful as you never know where an interaction may lead.

Once, I had a practice lab in school where my partner and I worked with artificial models. The lab was fun and provided a great opportunity to practice specialized veterinary skills. Fast forward, I am now in my clinical rotations and would you imagine that, by chance, I ended up working with that very same partner on a live patient case with similar topic focus. We rose to the occasion, recalled some of the skills we had practiced in the lab, and both did well on the case. To put the cherry on top, we got to cuddle cute puppies at the end.

Teamwork plays a profound role in the field of veterinary medicine as it spans all aspects. It ranges from small animal general practice and large animal ambulatory services to zoo and exotic medicine. It may be seen on a personal level such as in the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)3 among a veterinarian, client, and patient or even on a larger scale, such as in the partnership between a veterinary practice and a diagnostic laboratory. In tandem with communication, teamwork has the potential to yield amazing results and discoveries.

Speaking of amazing discoveries, fun fact: did you know that animals may have mental and physical effects on our bodies? Studies show that there are physiological changes associated with human-animal bonding. For instance, pets have the ability to lower blood pressure, raise oxytocin blood levels, and even have possible effects on pain (MSU CVM, 2018)!

The Strength of the Human-Animal Bond

The human-animal bond4 denotes the mutually beneficial relationship formed between people and animals. This bond is dynamic and is represented throughout many interactions: a veterinarian or conservationist with a passion for helping animals, an owner who cares for their pet like a dear family member, or a patron seeking a mood booster at the local cat café. With these bonds, humans may achieve mental and physical benefits while instilling and encouraging advocation for animal welfare and health.

Starting clinical rotations in the year 2021 has been both fascinating and enlightening. Each rotation is focused on a different field of veterinary medicine and yet, the human-animal bond remains apparent. It is evident that animals are not just loving pets. They play a role in public health, the environment and the overall ecosystem. As such, the human-animal bond is an essential and foundational principle in recognition of One Health.

Reminiscing about the past experiences of 2021 yields colorful memories and while some lessons are tough to learn and may cause self-doubt, they are ultimately meant to build character and help bring positive contributions to veterinary medicine.

As I proceed into the Exciting Unknown, I will continue to reach for principles such as believing in oneself, participating in teamwork and acknowledging the human-animal bond as they will surely be applicable this year and beyond.

 

References

*medz – Jamaican slang for the verb, ‘meditate’
1 OneHealth – Organization recognizing the collaborative benefit of veterinary, public and environmental health. For more information, you may visit their website at https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/index.html
2NOMV – Not One More Vet is a non-profit organization active in supporting and providing resources for veterinary professionals and students. Their website may be found at https://www.nomv.org/
3VCPR – An essential relationship that must be established within a veterinary setting
4Human-animal Bond – Officially recognized here: https://www.avma.org/one-health/human-animal-bond

Ebstein, R. “Genetics of Human Social Behavior” (2010) Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627310001376
“The Human Animal Bond Throughout Time” MSU CVM (2018) Retrieved from https://cvm.msu.edu/news/perspectives-magazine/perspectives-fall-2018/the-human-animal-bond-throughout-time
Rault, J-L. (2020) “The Power of a Positive Human-Animal Relationship for Animal Welfare” Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2020.590867/full

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Krystal Bowers is a veterinary student at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Throughout her veterinary journey, she has volunteered, interned and worked in various sectors including animal shelters, the zoo, pet-sitting services, private and spectrum of care veterinary hospitals, as well as her school’s innovative clinical skills laboratory. She is multi-faceted and has enjoyably tinkered in other fields such as film acting, musical arts, theater, fitness, and retail. Her humble mission is to bring awareness to animal welfare, public health, the human-animal bond and how they intertwine for the ultimate benefit – One Health. Hailing from Jamaica, West Indies, Krystal finds beauty in travel and enjoys the simple pleasures of life such as soaking up sunshine, reading and naps. You may find her venturing throughout life’s adventure with her sassy, "detective" cat and her quirky pup.

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