Dr. Bill Wagner
Keep the Fire Burning: Celebrate the Wins
Topics like burnout, compassion-fatigue, and endemic poor mental health in the veterinary profession have pushed their way to the forefront for good reason, as we’ve discussed in previous blog posts.
Systemic problems require systemic cures, which is why AVP chose to become a corporate sponsor of Not One More Vet in and support them in their mission to create a profession of greater wellbeing. However, there are things that can be done at the individual practice level to help veterinary healthcare teams stay connected with the passion that attracted them to the profession in the first place.
Celebrate all the Wins
In high-functioning careers, it is easy to fall into the habit of setting the bar for expected performance at “exceptional”. The average veterinary healthcare team does exceptional work every day and delivers consistently high-quality care to their patients resulting in excellent experiences to their clients. When the base expectation is that everyone will perform “exceptionally at all times”, the unfortunate consequence is that feedback tends to skew negative. In the average practice, any performance that is less than excellent receives feedback, but excellent performance typically doesn’t receive feedback since it is considered a base expectation.
Feedback that skews negative or lacks any positive feedback can lead objectively great team members to question their competency and eventually fall into impostor syndrome.
Put simply, just because someone is expected to do consistently great work doesn’t mean it isn’t important for them to periodically be reminded that the work that they’re doing is great. Just as we discussed in another blog post about how goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound), so should our criteria for positive feedback. Presenting the team with specific examples of what they’ve done well gives them a clear and actionable barometer for what it means to be good at their role on the team and balances out any constructive feedback that they will inevitably need when performance occasionally lags expectations.
Don’t take it for granted that your MVPs know how good they are! It is often the best performing team members who are prone to excessively self-auditing, underestimating their own performance and capabilities, and internally amplifying any negative feedback that they receive.
Wins aren’t always measured in outcomes
Last year I gathered the entire team that I was working with to celebrate a win. Two patients had arrived concurrently earlier in the day with severe emergencies. Both cases were quickly triaged by the CSRs, technicians promptly placed IV catheters and started oxygen for one of the patients who was cyanotic, and assistants quickly collected histories and established CPR codes. I was able to manage both cases effectively as the team responded to delegated tasks rapidly and competently. Because of the work of the team that day both patients were set up for success as much as possible. Unfortunately, both patients had presenting concerns beyond possibility of medical management and both required euthanasia.
It certainly didn’t feel like a reason to celebrate, but this was a win that deserved to be highlighted. They executed our emergency triage protocols perfectly. Every factor within their control was handled well. There’s a lot that we can do with modern medicine, but we don’t have the power to fix all problems or indefinitely prolong life no matter how well we practice. For this reason, it is important to think of wins and losses in terms of actions rather than medical outcomes. Excellent care will sometimes lead to undesired results, and that still should be celebrated. Many patients will recover regardless of the quality of our interventions, so we shouldn’t always conflate outcomes with quality.
Cheering the wins is a supplement to, not a substitute for, creating a workplace environment that promotes wellness
You can’t grow a garden in sand! A culture of positivity can only thrive when an employer has done their part in setting the team up for success. What it means to have a “workplace environment that promotes wellness” is far too large of a topic to cover in a single blog post, but we have tackled several aspects previously such as establishing a healthy employer-employee relationship, work-life balance, managing challenging employees, and managing challenging clients.
At AVP we serve the people who serve pets. If you’d like to find out more about how we support our partner practices and set our teams up for success, please contact me at email@example.com.
Go celebrate some wins and keep that fire burning hot!