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One of the things we absolutely love about the people who work in veterinary medicine is their unbelievable work ethic and willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done. We are a profession full of rugged individuals. When it comes to collaboration and effectiveness of our veterinary teams, however, this rugged individualism can become our worst enemy by eroding trust within the team.

Consider what we have learned during our programs aimed at veterinary technicians and support staff. We often ask this question of our participants: what is the most frustrating part of your job? Overwhelmingly, the answer we hear the most is this: I don’t get to do what I was trained to do in my job. At first glance, this answer might seem to indicate a communication issue or perhaps an initiative problem. However, when we ask a few follow up questions and dig a little deeper, we often find that this frustration stems from a lack of trust because the veterinarian will not delegate work to the team.

If you are a veterinary technician or other support staff member and you just read that last sentence, you are probably vigorously nodding your head in agreement and might have a bit of an “I knew it- difficult veterinarians,” attitude. If you are a veterinarian and you just read that last sentence, our guess is you are amassing a list of reasons to defend why you can’t possibly delegate to the team.

Before we get to the reflection questions for you to think about, STOP. Take a second to think about what you are feeling. What is happening in your body? Are you frustrated with me, the writer of this blog, because I threw you under the bus? Are you happy with me because I have validated your experience? Just take a few moments to think about your initial reaction to that last paragraph and write down your thoughts as much can be learned from that response.

Here are a handful of reflection questions to stimulate your thinking regarding your awareness about delegation and trust within your teams, whether you are a veterinarian, a veterinary technician or other member of the veterinary team.

  1. What tasks are solely the responsibilities of a veterinarian and what tasks can be performed by other members of the team?
  2. Are you hesitant to delegate to other team members? If yes, why? If no, why?
  3. What are the qualities in a team member that make it easy to delegate to them? How can you develop those qualities in yourself?
  4. If you feel frustrated because you are not doing what you were trained to do in your job, how do you communicate that frustration within your team?
  5. Identify 2 things you can do within your practice environment that could build trust.

Rugged individualism often serves us well in veterinary medicine because it is hard work and requires incredible problem solving skills. However, it sometimes keeps us from trusting the team. We then end up with team members who are frustrated because they don’t get to work in their strengths and veterinarians who are overworked. Let’s make 2020 the year of trust and delegation!

Betsy Charles

Betsy loves being a veterinary radiologist and trying to make the world a better place. When not reading films, teaching veterinary students, or when she takes a break from trying to make a positive difference for the profession, she enjoys having meaningful and authentic conversation with all who cross her path, developing young entrepreneurs as they pursue their passions, riding her horse Lenny, reading, and hiking with her red heeler, Sadie.

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