How are you doing? I don’t know about you, but I’m finding this phase of the process quite tough, as the world starts to move through lockdown and beyond (or back into it in some cases…).
It’s reminding me of a particular time when I was in practice, just before I made the decision I couldn’t carry on vetting as I was anymore and HAD to do something different.
At that time, I had absolutely not a clue what that was going to be, which felt like a big gaping hole in my plan – I just knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing.
I’d always wanted to specialise even before I went to vet school. Back then as an enthusiastic teenager, I’d thought it was going to be in equine as I was horse-mad.
As it turned out during my student years, I found I was less drawn towards equine vet work and really enjoyed smallies, so then my focus turned to surgery.
During my first couple of years in practice, I grew in confidence surgically. I was finding general practice stressful for a lot of the reasons outlined in my last blog (Houston, we have a problem) and thought that going down the specialist pathway would be the solution.
Get really, really good at a narrower range of knowledge. Perfect!
So off I went down the internship pathway. That in itself was an exercise in resilience, as it took me three rounds of applying before I finally got my place back at the RVC three years after graduating.
Having battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at school for three years, dropped down a year in sixth form as a result, and then had to do A-Level re-takes to get my vet grades, I was no stranger to doggedly pursuing a long-term goal and I’m sure many of you will have similar stories of the persistence required to get into vet school!
My time on my internship feels like it draws quite a lot of parallels with what I’m hearing of some people’s experiences of lockdown.
There were some real benefits and experiencing things I hadn’t had the chance to before that really opened my eyes.
There were also some tough bits that ALSO made me realise what I was probably never going to enjoy again.
Vetting as an intern in a referral institution, where you never have ultimate responsibility for the case you are dealing with, always have the back-up of specialists and working with clients who already know they are looking at a whopping bill is a VERY different creature to first opinion practice.
There are downsides and challenges as well of course, but for me at that stage of my vet career, it alleviated many of the aspects of first opinion that I’d found so challenging.
Particularly my incessant need to feel like I was getting it ‘right’ and making the correct and full diagnosis at all times – a mindset I’ve now realised is not always that helpful for general practice work where the end goal isn’t only or always to make a diagnosis, depending on the owners’ budget or how far they want to go.
However, aspects like the low pay were worsening my student debt problem, and I started to see the writing on the wall in terms of the sacrifices to life balance and having a fulfilling personal life outside of work that continuing onto the residency pathway would cost me.
In fact, it cost me my long-term relationship as my partner at the time was a year or so ahead of me on the residency trail, and it had to come before absolutely everything, even us.
As I was already a couple of years older thanks to my CFS situation in school, and already significantly in debt, I realised that specialising was not going to be the right option for me.
I dusted myself off as best I could, nursed my newly-single broken heart, tried not to look at my bank balance and headed back into general practice, thinking I could specialise in a way by doing a Cert.
I committed to the practice I joined that I would stay for at least 2 years and registered onto my Surgery Cert (back in the days before Cert AVP…).
Within two weeks of being back in general practice, I knew in my guts and heart that I absolutely couldn’t face general practice for the rest of my career.
The internship period had highlighted for me what parts were amazing about vetting and which bits I had been dreading going back to.
With the benefit of my 44yr old retrospectoscope, I can clearly now see how much a part my own mindset was playing in the bits I didn’t enjoy, and if I knew then what I know now, I might very well still be in practice!
However, 29yr old me didn’t have those mindset bits in place, and that meant that vetting wasn’t for me at that point.
- And yet I completely buried that thought as it terrified me!!
- I’d just committed to the practice for two years.
- I’d enrolled on my Certificate.
- I’d told everyone that was what I was going to do.
- I’d tried something else (i.e. specialising) and it hadn’t worked so my brain’s conclusion at that point was that I was clearly the problem, plus I felt I absolutely couldn’t let anyone down.
So I tried to bury those feelings as deeply as I could and just crack on.
I managed to limp on for another eight months, having known within 14 days of returning to general practice that it wasn’t right for me, until my mental health and body said NO and my wheels started to fall off again.
When we ignore our internal guidance and intuition, often our brains and bodies have to let us know in increasingly less subtle ways that we have wandered off our path!
It was at that point that I took the first step that would put me on my diversification journey that has led to where I am today. But that is another story for another time.
Highlighting some stuff that you want, or didn’t realise how much you needed – either to do or NOT do.
It may have also highlighted things you’d really like to change, and yet at this point you may have absolutely not the faintest clue how to go about exploring those changes or making them happen.
Double that if you’re geographically fixed, have tight financial requirements and are juggling parenting as well.
If this is you right now, then you do not have to navigate this alone, and for goodness sake do not bury it and try to ignore it if those feelings are pretty constant and insistent and not just intermittent when you’re tired or have had a bad day.
I’ve been down that road and it leads to burnout!
Get help and support, gradually and within your financial means so you can start figuring this out.
This is my area of expertise and my superpower, navigating people through these sorts of crossroads and I’m going to be re-launching my group course again this autumn, plus adding more aspects to my one-to-one coaching, AND producing more lower-cost or free tools and techniques so there’s something for everyone, no matter what your stage or budget.
I’ve got slots available at the moment for one-to-one, and will be opening the waiting list for my group course in the next couple of weeks.
If you’re not sure what you need or even IF you need any help, then click here and read more about grabbing a free 45 minute Exploration Call as sometimes just talking to someone who gets where you are right now can be a real boost, even if you don’t then go ahead with any coaching. I’m a good listener. 😉