Transitioning out of Lockdown as a Veterinary Leader

“The attributes of liminality are necessarily ambiguous…neither here nor there; betwixt and between.”

Victor Turner

This is a quote from anthropologist Victor Turner, the author of the seminal work Betwixt and Between (1967). As we emerge from the midst of the pandemic, his work seems resonant. As a veterinarian, you may feel ‘neither here nor there’, somewhere ‘betwixt and between’, working in your practice but not as you know it. You may have a vastly reduced or dramatically changed work load or pattern, and clients are almost angry with worry on the one hand and those that have completely fallen off the radar on the other. You may even feel vulnerable in your job security. 

What can you do to transition out of the lockdown period successfully (if, indeed, we are even out of it)?

Believe it or not, our lives are defined by the transitions, and true success stems from how you can handle these transitions: when you started vet school, when you graduated from vet school, when you decided to specialise, when you became a veterinary leader, and so on. However, the current transitional period we find ourselves in – the pandemic – was not planned. In the face of such an event, you might begin to feel helpless. Particularly as it seems not to have a clear end in sight.

Bruce Feiler, author of Life is in the Transitions, eloquently explains that whilst we have agency over 47% of the changes that occur in our lives (we decide to take that new veterinary job), 53% of changes are totally involuntary and life decides to throw us a curveball (take this pandemic, for example). Undeniably, we must all encounter transitions in life, and are all going through one right now. 

In the following, we go through three methods of dealing with a transitional period that will help you turn chaos and fear into growth, creativity and renewal:

Reach out to your network

Keeping up the communication is vital in any transitional period in your life, and especially as we emerge out of lockdown. If you are a practice owner or team leader, ensure you have clear communication channels where all staff can voice their concerns and you can effectively convey any new measures that will be in place. Similarly, if you are a vet, make sure you raise any anxieties with your manager, whether this be over PPE, issues with childcare, or changes to work practice. 

Emerging out of lockdown is a ‘collective transition’, meaning that we are all going through the same thing. Reaching out to the veterinary community is the best form of support you can get, where experiences and solutions can be shared. 

Consider joining the VetX online community. 

If you are a veterinary leader, you may consider giving something back to the profession during this transitional period by becoming a mentor. New vets are entering a stressful job at one of the most stressful times. If you have the time and capacity, becoming a mentor is an incredibly valuable way of supporting new vets during this time.

Retell your Story

We are led to believe that life should be a continuous linear progression: we will go to vet school, become a successful vet, and then become a successful leader. However, modern life is distinctly non-linear, and will involve many more transitions than the idealised trajectory we have in our heads. Often, we will need to take a step backwards or will find ourselves on paths we didn’t initially expect. Learn to retell your story, and accept that progression is not linear. Your life is better thought of as chapters than one single narrative.

Indeed, modern life has witnessed the rise of the portfolio career, showing that progression is no longer one-dimensional. This is easier said than done, but don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t ‘progressing’ right now. 

Work on your Non-clinical Skills

If you are feeling motivated, embrace this period of transition to work on your own personal development. This will help you to build resilience before we return to a new ‘normal’ and is a chance to complete those training courses you’ve been putting off.

If there is something you know you need to improve, such as client communication skills, now is the time to tackle it. This will ensure you enter the next chapter with a sense of renewal, rather than falling back into old habits.

At the same time, dealing with stressed out clients and treating essential cases during this period can be taxing. Make sure you take the time to practice self care. Remember, self care is not about indulgence, but building resilience so you can enter the veterinary practice with vitality. Simple things like staying hydrated, eating healthily, getting at least seven hours of sleep per night and meditation are sure fire ways to build resilience. 

Let us know what your transition out of lockdown looks like – is your practice in full or partial operation at the moment? How are you coping during this period? Have you taken up any new skills? Join the VetX network here.

If you found this post useful, you may benefit from the free VetX Career Roadmap. Use this as you transition out of the lockdown period to help you plan and set your goals – whatever curveballs life may throw at you!

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