I was a recent veterinary school graduate when I met Mrs. Anders and her 11 year-old tabby cat, Beauregard. Beauregard’s regular veterinarian, Dr. Miller, was unavailable at the time of his appointment, and thus I found myself conducting this senior patient’s wellness examination.

 

Beauregard had lost a little weight since his last visit, and I felt that we should do some blood work and a urinalysis to make sure all was well. Mrs. Anders was skeptical and said that Dr. Miller didn’t usually need such diagnostic tests to know what was going on. “Dr. Miller is fantastic and I think, if she were here, she would be interested in having these diagnostics done as well,” I responded.

 

Mrs. Anders considered my statement for a long moment. She then turned Beauregard’s head to look him in the eyes and loudly whispered, “I think we should have waited for Dr. Miller.”

 

At that moment, not only did Mrs. Anders compare me to Dr. Miller, but I compared myself to her. And it wasn’t pretty. I saw her experience in medicine and surgery next to my inexperience, her unflappable nature next to my nervousness and her familiarity with this client next to my position as a practical stranger. Any comfort that I might have acquired in my short tenure at this practice disappeared like homemade brownies in the break room.

 

The upside and downside of personal comparison

As the driven overachievers we are, veterinary professionals are both fanatical and critical when comparing ourselves to others, and we’re highly adept at tormenting ourselves when we don’t like the result. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find others who don’t appear to work as hard as we do yet seem to reap greater rewards. There are always those who recall medical information more quickly, make more money, have more free time, catch lucky breaks, have more degrees, find favoritism in the practice, get more gift baskets from clients or date people who look like underwear models. There are always other clinics with more cars in the parking lot, more fans on Facebook, and nicer equipment than your clinic. As a profession full of type-A personalities, we are naturally inclined to take notice—and to become less happy because of it.

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Originally Published: DVM360 – April, 2013

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