As an industry, we’re getting better at acknowledging the stressful environment we work in.

With this comes baby steps towards setting a better work culture and realising people need access to support – from good working practices in practice to external professional help. I’m hoping we realise the days of “physician heal thyself” are over.

Individual practices are bound by employment law, but not by any cohesive structure you would find in somewhere such as the NHS. Therefore, creating a positive work culture needs to start from the top of each individual practice and be fully supported by all levels.

I think we all know not every place we could work has a work culture to match what you need. However, there are some little things we can all do to help everyone feel inclusive.

Ditch jargon

Keeping everything in order is nice, but it’s not OCD, says Jane. Image © pixelrobot / Fotolia.
Keeping everything in order is nice, but it’s not OCD, says Jane. Image © pixelrobot / Fotolia.

We are all good at learning veterinary terminology and using it correctly – sometimes to the bafflement of clients. Yet, there is another area where I can, hand on heart, say we are incorrectly using a lot of words.

I find people are still casually using terms that name a mental illness as a type of slang. I’ve listened, too often, to people who like things neat and tidy, referring to themselves – with a sigh and an eye roll – as having OCD. You don’t.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious, debilitating condition where people’s daily actions and ability to function are hindered by their need for repetition and order. Liking the bandage shelf always in colour and size order is nice; it’s not OCD.

For anyone working with this disorder, when you use it in this way, it undermines the seriousness of the condition and makes them feel the genuine problems they have don’t exist. OCD itself becomes a flippant name, not a serious condition. Think of another name – being a neat nurse is great!

Beware of silent sufferers

Anxiety can leave your mind stressing over worst case scenarios that might never happen.
Anxiety can leave your mind stressing over worst case scenarios that might never happen.

I feel people are learning better with the term depression. I find more people are saying they have been a bit down or tired – that’s realistic; we work shifts in a tough job. Having down days is fine and telling people that is great. You just need to be aware if you have people who are telling you they are down all the time then that’s a problem – that’s depression and they need some help.

But, as Nick Marsh’s blog noted, it’s often the last people you would expect to actually have depression. They’re the sort who never want to let anyone down; the lynchpin of the practice. Beware the silent sufferers.

A new word is becoming used more frequently, which has a bit of a reality show/US edge to it. It’s “anxiety”.

We all get anxious – it’s part of life. It can show we care and want to do our best in new situations. However, suffering from anxiety is a different ball game. It can mean you agonise over situations that should not cause you distress.

Your mind can lead you to stress over worst case scenarios that might never happen. It can be very debilitating. It’s not the same as feeling nervous in normal situations, such as a job interview or being in a new situation.

Try saying you are nervous and then saying a reason you shouldn’t be nervous. It is a more realistic term and saying something positive is reinforcing that positivity.

Worry not

If you have read any of these and recognise some of the negative patterns then please don’t add worrying about them to your list of daily concerns. Please find someone to talk to.

The Vetlife website lists a number of services run by itself and others (Samaritans, etc) offering immediate help, or for signposting you to help in the future.

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