Welcome to There, I Said It- a column where we give you, the reader, a chance to get something off your chest in an anonymous fashion. Be it embarrassing, frustrating, or just something you didn’t want to admit out loud, it still might make someone else having a bad day feel just a bit better. If you have a story of your own, unburden yourself at TISI@drandyroark.com.
My most recent job has left me scarred. It was both the best and worst position I have ever had. I was still working on my certification when I took this position and it was a new and exciting type of medicine to practice. When reading back over the notes I noticed a lot of initials of staff that had come and gone and could not understand why anyone would not want to do this work. There were experienced people around me that I was hoping to learn from as I completed my coursework. The clients were mostly very pleasant and grateful for the services they were receiving. I thought I would be there for many years.
I moved to a new state for this unique job opportunity. When I first took the position I noticed that the staff was at best cordial, but often just cold. They were friendly among themselves but not towards me. I tried to shadow and ask questions to learn but would receive either one word answers to my questions or just be ignored altogether. I felt anxious as if I was doing something wrong (which is possible since I was just learning this type of practice) but no one would tell me what.
I soon had my own patients and began to learn a routine for myself, and over time my schedule was filling up to the point that I was booked from open to close. Some of my clients were complaining that if they didn’t keep appointments scheduled for at least two weeks ahead that they couldn’t get in to see me. To me this is a sign that I was doing something right, but aside from a text once telling me that I was doing a great job, I got no feedback. There was still very little socialization with the staff, not even normal work conversation, and I felt like a leper. Because I was new to the area and did not have any friends, the loneliness at work began to weigh on me.
After work there was the breakdown of the clinic, laundry and floor cleaning and room organization. Often the staff would hurry to do the minimum and then leave with the intention to finish the rest the following morning before the clients came. Once the staff left I could relax, because the energy would change from heavy and negative to just quiet and peaceful. So it became my routine to finish as much of the clinic chores as I knew how to do (a good hours worth of work after everyone left) and then sit for the next 2 hours doing my notes and looking up the patients for the next day to prepare their treatments. Thus I was working 13-15 hour days routinely.
The staff began to have some light conversation with me about six months after I had been working there, but much of this was used to discuss patients. Every conversation was about something that was wrong or annoying. All this negative talk gave me a constant stomachache. I tried to point out positive things but no one ever had anything nice to say about anyone.
I remember a client who had been with the clinic for years sitting on the floor with her dog one day after we were done. I was cleaning up but eventually I made my way over to her to see if she needed help. She told me that she was waiting to see the person that she normally worked with because she had decided to euthanize her dog and wanted to say a last goodbye. I sat on the floor with her for about 20 minutes discussing end of life issues and euthanasias while she held her baby. Finally, she decided to leave.
Once she left the person she was waiting for came out of the office expressing frustration that she had to “hide” from that client for so long. Her insensitivity towards a longtime client who was wanting to share the last hours of her pet’s life with us was beyond my ability to understand or accept. This was just a minor example of the contempt that the staff seemed to have for the majority of clients and patients.
I finished my coursework and studied for and passed my final, achieving my certification. I was exhausted from the continuous running around all day , the appointments running over, and the draining atmosphere with all the negative and sarcastic conversation. The overall morale in the clinic deteriorated to the point that we reached out to the boss to ask for some encouragement. Instead of the “yea, go team” talk that I expected, the boss expressed anger and frustration at the staff in general.
Instead of having any patience for me or addressing any of the concerns I had about the work situation, I was told that “my therapies were an insult to the other therapists” and that I had been doing a poor job since I had been hired. I asked for specific examples but none could be provided to me. That night my frustration bubbled over and when everyone else left the clinic I stood in the middle of the treatment area and screamed at the top of my lungs. I became certain that if I stayed my health would start to suffer, and so I gave my notice.
I have over a decade of experience as a clinician and yet have never worked so hard to gain approval and be a good employee. This job has left me anxious and insecure. I have been unwilling to even apply for another veterinary job and as a result I am probably going to lose my house. I confess my experience here because I cannot understand how we can have so little care for each other- how employers can have so little care for the employees who are busting their butts making money for them and instead of building the team up, are very content to try to tear them down.
I have experienced this before, but never to the degree that I did in this position. Yes, there are employees who have problems. Yes, there are employees who need a lot of hand holding. But these are people! How can we claim to love animals so much and be so hurtful to each other? While fear or intimidation can be great motivators, they will not create a sustainable staff and it certainly creates a horrible work environment. I urge everyone to look at the energy that is created in the workplace and see if it is something that you would be proud of. Why should an emotionally abusive work environment be part of the dark side of veterinary medicine?
The views and opinions featured on There, I Said It are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.