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The Struggle Within: Reviving the Culture of Veterinary Medicine

The Struggle Within: Reviving the Culture of Veterinary Medicine

In the ever-evolving landscape of veterinary medicine, we are confronted with an array of challenges that threaten the very core of our profession. The veterinary industry, once a sanctuary for the compassionate care of animals, has found itself entangled in a web of stressors, from veterinarian shortages, corporate buyouts, and non-competes to soaring student loan debt, understaffing issues, and tragically high suicide rates among our colleagues. 

As leaders within the veterinary community, it's our responsibility to foster an environment that not only nurtures our own well-being but also encourages the growth of our colleagues and staff.



In this blog post, we will explore key ingredients to rejuvenate the veterinary industry, taking a closer look at the hidden traits that can reignite our passion for this noble profession.

1. It Starts with You: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Imagine yourself as a Ferrari of the veterinary world. Just like any high-performance car needs premium fuel and regular maintenance to function optimally, you must prioritize self-care. Your well-being directly impacts your ability to be a leader and care for your patients effectively. Eating right, exercising, and practicing self-compassion are not luxuries; they are necessities. When you treat yourself well, you become a better version of yourself, capable of showing more patience, understanding, and resilience. Remember, if you don't respect yourself, no one else will. You are the driver of your own success, so make sure you're in top gear.

2. Leave Your Ego at the Door: Humility is Key

It can be tempting to showcase our achievements, flaunt our skills, and boast about our accomplishments. However, true leaders understand that humility is the key to success. Instead of sharing your proud moments, take a moment to pause and reflect. Ask yourself if sharing this information will truly benefit the person you are telling. In most cases, the answer is no. The veterinary industry is already competitive enough, so let's not add to the noise. Share your accomplishments and successes with your loved ones instead. Be so humble that others have no idea about your accomplishments, and let your actions speak for themselves. True confidence doesn't require bragging.

3. Tempered Drama, Not Toxic Drama: Respect the Clinic

Let's be honest, conversations happen. Even in the most well-functioning workplaces, individuals will still engage in private discussions outside of the group. It's a natural part of how we express ourselves and share our thoughts. Consequently, drama is an inherent element that can either be tempered or toxic.

Tempered drama occurs when individuals discuss matters related to the practice in a private setting away from work. These individuals understand that discussing these issues within the workplace is inappropriate and detrimental. They demonstrate respect for the clinic and its staff by avoiding such discussions.

On the other hand, toxic drama often stems from leadership positions within the practice. Veterinarians and managers who engage in gossip and set a negative example for their associates and staff contribute to this toxic environment. This behavior can lead support staff to believe that if leadership engages in gossip, they can too. It's important for all of us to share things that are important to us, but we should do so respectfully, outside the clinic.

Respect the clinic, the program, the team, the goal, the vision.

4. Judge Your Staff by Effort and Attitude, Not Just Skill

Too often, talented individuals are marginalized and isolated within a team because they may lack the same level of experience or skill as others. They may take a bit longer to master certain tasks or procedures. While efficiency and a sense of urgency are highly valued and essential skills, it is important not to judge new or existing employees solely on these factors.

veterinary-team-doctors-working-2021-08-27-23-46-33-utc-2Instead, we should focus on effort and attitude. Individuals with tremendous effort and a positive mindset are like hidden gems. Effort and attitude are choices, choices to show up every day, work hard, and approach challenges with a smile. Skills can be developed over time, but effort and attitude are the foundation of a successful team. Recognize the value of employees who bring their best selves to work every day, and invest in their growth.

5. Build Trust Through Open Communication

Have you ever experienced a heartwarming moment with a young child who, after making a mistake, opens up to you about what happened? Sometimes, they may be hesitant to share the truth, fearing they will get in trouble. In those moments, as a parent, you can create a safe space by reassuring them that they won't face any consequences for being honest. This release of pressure allows for an open and non-hostile conversation, where you can teach and guide them without judgment. Surprisingly, similar emotional events occur among adults as well. When there is open communication about potentially challenging or unsettling topics, the results for both parties are often positive. We should foster a culture of honesty and open communication in our clinics.

For example, we all need personal time for ourselves and our families. However, in the veterinary industry, where staffing is already limited, requesting time off from your boss can feel daunting. But when there is a foundation of open and honest communication, asking for time off is usually met with approval. It's when we avoid discussing our needs and try to handle things behind the scenes that unhealthy issues arise. By consistently communicating openly and honestly from the beginning, the manager or owner feels respected and appreciated that the employee has informed them, almost as if they are asking for permission. As a result, the employee often receives their requested time off, as long as it is not being abused.

Encourage your team to speak up about their needs and concerns, and be receptive to their feedback. When employees feel safe discussing potential issues, the results are often positive, benefiting both parties and the overall harmony of the workplace.

6. Make Confronting Easy: Set Agreements from the Start


Creating an environment where confronting issues is easy starts with setting an agreement from the beginning. Establishing a practice of open and constructive dialogue allows all employees and leaders to understand that discussing problems is not a confrontation, but a way to find solutions together. By normalizing this habit from the early stages, both the boss and the employee benefit. The boss is relieved from procrastination and the employee feels that the boss genuinely cares about the success of the organization. This win-win situation fosters a culture of mutual respect and problem-solving.

7. Allow Autonomy to Build Trust

One of the most valuable gifts a boss can give an employee is the power to take control and the inspiration to reach new heights. It's that moment when you realize you can do something you never thought possible. Suddenly, going to work feels like a joy and not just another task. As a leader, it's your responsibility to discover the passions and talents within each employee, finding the duties and skills that bring them fulfillment. Burnout in the veterinary industry often stems from repetitive tasks without the opportunity to pursue what truly excites them. Allowing employees to pursue their interests, not only gives them the patience to handle less enjoyable tasks but also fosters a sense of trust and empowerment. When employees are able to focus on what they're passionate about, micromanaging becomes unnecessary. Create a culture of trust, empowerment, and uplifting moments by giving your employees the autonomy to be powerful, unique individuals.

8. Give Credit Where It's Due: Share the Success

You may have played a significant role in a successful deed or accomplishment within the practice. You may even recognize yourself as the foundation of that success, and that's great! However, it is important to understand that solely thinking this way won't inspire your staff members to fully invest themselves and put in the same level of dedication and energy that you do.

To foster a sense of shared accomplishment, it is crucial to always give credit to others for any success that is achieved. When individuals feel acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions, they are motivated to continue providing the same level of dedication and effort. Recognizing and praising others in this line of work is vital, as everyone wants to feel like an important factor in the success of the clinic. Make it a point to acknowledge and give praise to your team members in front of clients and other staff. As a leader, owner, or manager, when you receive praise, find ways to diversify that recognition and share it with your team members creating a culture where everyone feels valued and motivated to continue making significant contributions.

Leadership in the veterinary industry goes beyond technical skills and expertise. It's about nurturing a culture of respect, humility, and open communication. By investing in the well-being and growth of our team members, we can create a veterinary industry that thrives on passion, compassion, and a commitment to excellence. It starts with us, and together, we can revitalize and elevate the entire profession.



Meet Fred Gomalak, DVMFred Head shot

Dr. Fred Gomalak, a distinguished veterinarian, embarked on his journey in the world of veterinary medicine when he graduated from the prestigious University of Edinburgh in 2017. His unwavering passion for animals and a thirst for innovation set him on a remarkable path in the field.

Championing Diagnostic Imaging

Early in his career, Dr. Gomalak's fascination with ultrasound technology ignited. Within a mere six months of entering the veterinary profession, he took a bold step and initiated a SVS Imaging, a mobile ultrasound service in Southern Wisconsin. Today, this visionary endeavor has flourished into a network of five remote locations, serving the needs of over 250 veterinary clinics. Dr. Gomalak's commitment to excellence in diagnostic imaging has revolutionized animal healthcare in the region.

Telemedicine Trailblazer

Not content with traditional boundaries, Dr. Gomalak extended his reach even further by developing a cutting-edge telemedicine service. This service connects referring veterinarians to specialist expertise 24/7, ensuring that pets receive the best care at any hour of the day. Dr. Gomalak's dedication to expanding access to veterinary knowledge is reshaping the industry.

Creating Solutions and Cultivating Excellence

Dr. Gomalak's greatest joy in veterinary medicine is the process of innovation, from conceptualization to realization. His unwavering focus on nurturing a culture of excellence and delivering exceptional service paves the way for a brighter future in veterinary care.

Connect with Dr. Fred Gomalak today and experience the transformative power of his pioneering spirit in the world of veterinary medicine.