Jenny is a former small animal emergency vet, who left clinical work in 2008 to pursue an interest in leadership and management within the veterinary profession. Her passion has always been in coaching and supporting people so after taking a break to start her family, she launched her own coaching service for the profession, Vet Harmony. She lives in Devon with her husband, daughter and a huge ginger tomcat!
Tell us about a daily habit or routine you practice that contributes to your productivity and fulfillment?
Each morning I do a 5-minute energy routine tapping on various acupressure points, followed by a 10-minute meditation. I guide myself in my head starting with the body scan first, then a 5min stress clearing visualisation and then I imagine breathing beautiful white light coming from the earth up into my body, over my head and then around me in a protective bubble. I then fill in my gratitude journal with 10 things I am grateful for followed by some free-writing or affirmations. It’s a lovely way to start the day and I always feel better when I do it.
What was a major setback that you learnt the most from, or actually turned out to be a success?
One of the most painful things to happen in my childhood was being badly bullied at boarding school aged 10 – 13. At the time it destroyed my confidence and self-esteem. I lost touch with myself as I quickly learned it was safer to become what I needed in order to fit in than to be truly me. However, that ability to morph into what other people needed meant I really fine-tuned my listening and intuition towards people. This became super-useful in consults as I could easily connect with all types of clients. Thankfully I have since restored my self-love and acceptance, and the extra empathy abilities have been super useful.
When you start to doubt your own ability, or are having 'a bad day at the office', how do you get back on track?
Speak to someone you love, who loves you, who is part of your tiny inner ‘tribe’ of friends or family members you trust completely. Choose the person most on your wavelength, who really gets you on a deep level. By talking to them, being listened to and really ‘seen’ for who you are and loved fully, you can easily restore your faith in yourself. They see you without being hampered by the limiting beliefs about yourself that you hold therefore they see the true picture and can mirror this back to you when you’re experiencing self-doubt.
What have you got better at saying no to? How did you realise this and how has it benefitted you?
Saying ‘no’ assertively and releasing any associated guilt has been one of the most transformational processes I’ve ever learned. I learnt time and energy management techniques that allowed me to understand the reason for always being exhausted and in total overwhelm was due to saying yes to everyone. I realised how precious and finite our time and energy is, and also that if you don’t have your own vision and proactively identify what’s important for YOU, then other people will decide for you and you’ll always be overwhelmed and time-poor. Benefits: WAY more time to rest, play and be with the people I love. Priceless.
If you could gift a book to all vets at graduation, what would it be, and why?
The book that most helped me as a new grad was the cheerfully titled: Companion Animal Death by Mary Stewart. Sadly it’s not in print anymore but it was so useful to really understand the human-animal bond plus the stages of grief and how they related to pet loss. It also covered how the practice team could best handle euthanasia practically and emotionally both for the pet owner and the team. Putting its recommendations into practice meant I came to find euthanasia consults really rewarding and a privilege.
Tell us about something you are currently a fan of?
At the moment I am exploring energy medicine and the growing body of research and evidence into how our own electromagnetic fields affect us. So that’s working with modalities such as Emotional Freedom Technique, the Energy Alignment Method, Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine and much of what the HeartMath Institute in the US is working on. To quote Minouche Shafik, Director of London School of Economics, “Businesses used to be about muscles, now they are about brains, but in the future they will be about hearts.”
What purchase of less the £100 has most positively impacted your life in the last 12 months?
My spiraliser! I’m trying to reduce the amount of wheat in my diet and the spiraliser has been great for finding inventive ways of using vegetables to create noodles or pasta – also good for disguising vegetables from a toddler by making them fun to eat!
What advice would you give veterinary graduates about to begin their careers?
Judge yourself on your clinical decision-making process and your client communication skills, NOT solely on your clinical outcomes. General practice is a very different environment to academic and referral practice, and it can be easy to compare yourself constantly to specialists. Each owner has a different set of values around their pet and their budget, and while obviously offering gold standard is good, it’s about working with that owner to find their unique set-point clinically and financially and then accepting and letting go of any limitations this puts on clinical outcome rather than absorbing the full responsibility yourself.
What is the worst bit of advice you hear regularly in our profession? Why do you feel it is bad advice?
Probably the blame-game! i.e. The advice that the problems we are having in the profession are the fault of any or all of the following: dinosaur old male vets, pesky millennials, greedy corporates, annoying clients etc. I see a lot of blaming of external groups or factors happening as vets try to ease the emotional stress they feel from their career and it’s completely understandable. Blame eases pain and allows certainty: it’s that person’s fault.
An alternative solution would be working on our levels of compassion – towards self and others, and a shared common humanity that we’re all in this together.
If you could send a single text to every vet around the world simultaneously, what would it say?
I am in awe of the work you do every day. You show up and are there for animals/clients even on days you don’t feel like it, you work hard and long hours, you face uncertainty and a level of chaos on a daily basis that most people would never tolerate. You have to be brave enough to make decisions every day that affect the lives of pets and owners without any guarantees they will work and that takes immense courage. THANK YOU for everything that you are and everything that you do to help the pets and owners you serve. You are amazing. xx
Have you been inspired by someone in your career? Or know someone in the veterinary profession who has made a positive impact on you?
There are no strict criteria for contributors or mentors, other than that they are positive, supportive members of our profession.
If someone you know springs to mind, or you have any feedback or ideas relating to our Vet Mentors project, please get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org