Monday, September 5, 2011

The hardest part of my job?

You would think that the hardest part of being an ER veterinarian would be say...the hours. Or maybe the working holidays and weekends. Or perhaps the dealing with gravely injured and ill animals and their distraught owners. Sure, all of that is challenging. But those things seem like a cake walk to me compared to the real challenge - interpersonal work relationships.

I am a difficult person. I am Type A+. My job is something I take very, very seriously. I pay close attention to my patients and try to always, always do the right thing - whether that be easy or exceedingly difficult. I demand perfection from myself and never achieve it, of course. My expectations for those I work with are very high. And in one area, I constantly find myself lacking - I am terrible at managing interpersonal relationships.

First of all, I am not a warm and friendly person. I try to keep my personal life to myself for the most part. I don't like to talk about personal problems at work, and I don't seek the advice of other people regarding personal unhappiness/problems. As a result, I don't like to hear about other people's problems. My approach to work is to go to work, do my job to the best of my ability, and go home at the end of the day. This aloofness never wins any popularity points. When I first found out about my gestational diabetes, I had no intention of sharing that with anyone at work. Only when insulin became a necessity did that information come out.

Secondly, I abhor gossip. As a result, I do not engage in it at work, and I expect my coworkers and colleagues not to engage in it around me. You'd think it would garner respect, but actually, it probably sets me further at odds.

Lastly, I am very blunt. I say what comes to mind, and while I never intend to hurt people, I've been told my forthcomingness can be hurtful. It is never intentional, but it's there.

There is no single aspect of my job that I struggle with as much as dealing with my technicians. I hear again and again from them that I am a great doctor, that I would be the first one to whom they brought their personal pets. Then I hear again and again how difficult I am to work with.

It has truly become a source of frustration for me in that I cannot get a straight answer on how to improve this. The technicians seem unable to clearly voice a reason, so I am left with vague answers and no real way to improve. I WANT to improve. I WANT to be a good doctor to work with and for. I don't want to be difficult. If only I knew how...?

The weekend was a very busy one, as holiday weekends are prone to being. My technicians were tired and cranky and over it. I was tired and cranky and over it. My blood sugar has not been cooperating so well this weekend, and I can't help but think that the stress, late nights, and sporadic eating have had something to do with it. I'm also having a hard time telling when to take insulin (on the very bright side, my recent growth ultrasound estimated the baby in the 47th percentile for weight, i.e. perfect, and all of my non-stress tests have been great - so everything is perfect at the moment).

At any rate, one of my techs and I sort of snapped last night and had words.I had to force her to go outside to calm down and talk about it rationally. It was a productive conversation in that she told me useful ways that she perceived I could improve. Some of the points were valid, some were not. In the end, I hope it smoothed things out, but I suppose we'll see.

Honestly, I sometimes think I will have to give up clinical medicine and become a teacher. I love teaching, and I wouldn't have to interact on a boss/subordinate level. I could just do my thing and go home at the end of the day.



VetVoyeur said...

Next to childrearing, I believe maintaining a relationship of any kind, is the most difficult job in the world. I hope you will think about seeking some counseling in regard to communication. Surgery is a skill that needs to be learned and skillful communication can be learned also. Trust me, I have had to learn the skills and communication is a large part of what I teach in my work. I know it can be frustrating, but getting better results is really worth it. VV

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

Very interesting. It is a major source of concern that the brains needed to get through the training often lead to the selection of personalities that are not suited to working with people - a major source of issues re complaints concerning vets here in NZ and a problem for the happy working life of a good clinic, filled with techs wo are usually empathetic and pleasant ( yes there are exceptions!)
It also makes me wonder about Aspergers.

I am a vet that has been teaching since 1997 after 20 years in clinical practice. It has been a huge eye opener and the communication and pastoral care involved has been huge - massive - and the most interesting part of my job. The involvement with the students - the time outside class - the caring aspects have been essential to ongoing success. A distanced and uninvolved lecturer would be impossible - and there is no escaping either - calls, texts, facebook, twitter and evening occasions are always there.

The holidays were nice though - although they are trying to reduce those further and further! Lots of time is spent researching for any teaching into degrees too.

Anonymous said...

I only just started reading your blog...and i have only worked for 2 vets in my entire (though admittedly short) life...the easiest one to work with took his job incredibly the point where he would scream and rage like an angry bear at the techs if they did something that would in some way harm the patient or that could lead to something going wrong...but as a person he was laid back and had a policy of not taking himself as a person too a vet...very a person not serious at all...he would poke fun at himself, and take shit from all of us working for him (and dish it back in a friendly way)...we know when it was time to be serious and when it was ok to joke...there were clear boundaries and at the end of the day even if we had been yelled at and wanted to quit, we would go home and then come in the next day and find that he had bought lunch for everyone on a whim...

the other vet i worked for was "the uberbitch from hell"...she took herself too seriously and expected more of me than i could actually give...i had NO training and by the end of the first week she expected me to be perfect...i was her only employee at the time as did not go over well at all...i quit the same day she fired the end of exactly one week working for a part time employee making $9 an hour i made over $400 in a week...and i hated every minute of it...she treated her patients well but had no idea how to manage employees or train someone...i still have dreams about strangling her with one of her blue was that bad

from this are somewhere in the middle...clearly you are not an "uberbitch from hell" but you aren't a cuddly bear either...the only thing i can think to say to help you out is that maybe taking your SELF less seriously while still taking your practice seriously might move it in the right direction

its hard to be a people person when you aren't a people person...and its awesome that you are trying ^_^ if i was in your area i would probably take my animals to you knowing that you take your practice so seriously...but the commute from New Zealand is a bit far

-prospective vet student

Nicki said...

I'm pretty laid back at work. Most staff seem to enjoy workig with me. Generally I only get uptight about about things that can harm or compromise patient care. Most other things are not worth getting too upset over. And even then I don't yell but I make it a point to explain why it's a big deal. I see though, in your situation where patients are critical there is not as much room for error that it would be harder to maintain that calmness.

Anyway, good luck with it, but for now, focus on your coming baby!