Love the One you're With! - Job Crafting for Veterinary Teams
Chances are, your ideal day in a veterinary hospital looks very different than mine. You might thrive on a busy I.C.U. shift or enjoy the adrenaline rush of emergency care – or it might make you want to crawl under the table and vomit. I find great reward in companioning clients as they say good-bye to their pets during euthanasia visits, whereas these emotional appointments make other doctors feel drained for days. Some veterinary workers are bored by wellness care, others see it as a chance to let their client education skills shine! I hate mayonnaise; you hate mustard; we both like pickles. C’es la vie . . . right?
You might be saying to yourself right now: veterinary medicine is not a sandwich. You don’t get to simply order it up according to your exact tastes, when there are pets that need your help. Sure, you shouldn’t choose to work in an E.R. if you hate emergencies. But beyond that, you might feel you have little choice in the types of cases or tasks that are placed on your plate each day. Plus, no one wants to be seen as the co-worker who doesn’t pull her weight on a team that’s already stressed. Some days in veterinary medicine feel more like the grade-school cafeteria – shepherd’s pie is being placed on your tray whether you want it or not!
It’s no secret that working hard day after day, on tasks that drain you, is a recipe for burnout.
Fortunately, veterinary medicine doesn’t have to be that way. You can take the job you have, and shape it to make it more meaningful to you! This is called job crafting, and in our field, where the average technician leaves the profession after 4.5 years of work, and doctors are burning out more quickly than ever, job crafting is an idea whose time has come!
Job Crafting is the practice of customizing your job to leverage your strengths
Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, American psychologist and professor at the Yale School of Management, has been writing about job crafting since 2001. She pioneered this field, and now 20 years later, there is ample evidence to show that job crafting helps workers in all fields to increase their performance, boost their morale, and enjoy greater satisfaction at work. Dr. Wrzesniewski breaks job crafting down into these three major areas:
· Task Crafting – changing your tasks at work
o Increasing or decreasing the number of tasks
o Changing the types of tasks, or the scope of your tasks
· Relational Crafting – changing your interactions at work
o Increasing/taking on more mentorship of others
o Seeking different kinds of mentorship from others
o Connecting with clients in new ways
· Cognitive Crafting – changing your perception of your tasks
o Changing mindset about specific tasks
o Changing mindset about your job as a whole
This doesn’t have to be formal! If you know your co-workers, you can probably already identify your co-workers’ strengths and favorite tasks – now you just have to tap into their strengths and yours.
For me, as a doctor who hates emergencies and excels at emotional conversations, it was as simple as making eye-contact with my E.R.-loving colleague as a hit-by-car came in, and hearing her say: “I’ll take the crashing pet, you take the crying people!” And then, seeing how well that worked, we agreed to keep tackling emergency cases like that in the future.
I’m no Amy Wrzesniewski. But as a life, health, and team coach, and a DVM with over 10 years of veterinary practice experience, I would like to offer my two cents on how we can make job crafting work for us in veterinary medicine -- and why it’s time to start job crafting in our practices NOW!
Generalism is so last-century!
Many of us probably grew up reading James Herriot’s books. (If you didn’t, he was the rural British veterinarian of the late 1800’s whose stories of doctoring all species of animals in the countryside inspired generations of veterinarians.) He really did have to be a jack-of-all-trades. But we don’t have to do the same. Most of us work with multiple co-workers, and most of us actually have the autonomy to play to our strengths, if we’re willing to be creative.
We enjoy things we do well, and we excel at doing things we enjoy
It really is that simple. I won’t bore you citing all the positive psychology research that backs up a fact you already know intuitively. Good coaches will tell you this: you will get FAR MORE mileage out of leveraging your strengths than you ever will out of trying to improve on your weaknesses. Embracing job crafting does not mean you don’t want to grow, or that you don’t have a growth mindset. It means you can choose to grow in a direction that will bring YOU satisfaction and meaning! And, because you’ll be great when you choose to improve skills you already enjoy using, your patients and your clients will be better off, too.
Veterinary workers are the most resourceful people in the world
And job crafting is all about resourcefulness. Ever made a splint out of a popsicle stick? Have you fashioned a tiny endotracheal tube out of a giant urinary catheter? You, as a veterinary worker, are eminently qualified to use job crafting to make lemonade out of lemons, every day of the week. You don’t need any special training or resources to craft your job to suit you better – all you need is your brain.
Leveraging the strengths of individuals makes the whole team stronger
While it’s true that good teams are cross-trained, and no one ever shies away from helping one another – those cross-training strategies are best left in the tool-box to be employed when the chips are down. On a good day in your clinic, everyone should be allowed to use their strengths for the betterment of the whole team. Think about a sports team. On a soccer pitch, you wouldn’t put your goalie on the offensive line. On a baseball field, you wouldn’t ask your pitcher to play first base. So . . . why are you making your brilliant, introverted anesthesia and surgery technician do client education in exam rooms half the week? Of course she may have to do that sometimes, but if she excels in surgery, she should be there most days.
Passion is contagious – and everyone wins
Let’s start an epidemic of engagement. When a cat is diagnosed with kidney disease and prescribed a kidney diet by her veterinarian, and the client walks to the hospital exit to pay: imagine that client is met by a Customer Service Coordinator that loves pet nutrition, has attended continuing education on pet nutrition, and loves collaborating with the nutrition company representatives. In this situation, everyone wins. The cat’s owner is met with options, rather than obstacles, in caring for his cat. The hospital wins because the client buys food from the clinic. The cat fares better because she gets the care she needs. And the CSC is happier because she got to do what she loves at work, while making a difference.
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Job crafting is powerful, and it is possible. You can customize your job, leverage your strengths, engage your passions, and be happier at work – all while increasing your hospital’s financial success, creating better medical outcomes for your patients, and making your clients say “wow!” It doesn’t mean that every day will be good or easy, but it means that you’ll go home satisfied more days than not. This tool is already in your hands; it’s time to put it to use. Craft away, dear colleagues!