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Welcome 2023 – Where to Start?

Have you ever felt like you just don’t know where to start? Maybe you feel like there are no options, maybe you have a few and you are just not sure which way to go? At this stage in the ongoing recovery from COVID-19, a lot of people feel like it is time for a ‘reset’. They are just not sure what exactly that means.  I was pondering the same thing earlier this year, which is why I wrote the following blog where I work through my own experience.

Welcome 2023 – Where to Start?

Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can – Arthur Ashe

The question for me this year, at this particular point in time, and in my career has been … Where to start? ‘Cause I’m just not sure…

This quote reminds us to “Start Where We Are” – and when I think about that, I am aware of a dissonance that is created in me. Logically, it makes sense!! But my immediate emotional reaction ?? Wait What? Start where I am ??? No, No, No I can’t do that … 

Does the past not matter? How can I start if I can’t see the future?

Oh I see … so this is about time?

The mere fact that the past and the future comes up quickly reminds me of something I am familiar with, and have learned to remember to embrace often. The concept of our time here on this earth being a journey. A journey that I think of as a spiral, a spiral of learning, a spiral of healing. A spiral that can be applied in a lot of different ways, to a lot of different things.

Moving Upward on the Spiral …

The ultimate goal is to continue on an upward journey on this spiral of Life, which is not always easy. Sometimes we take a few steps backwards, and sometimes we get stuck … and sometimes we revisit the same situations over and over again, until we learn all we need to from multiple perspectives. Sometimes, different parts of us learn at different speeds, and learn different things. 

Wisdom of Our Three Brains

In the coaching world we are aware of the fact that we actually have three ‘brains’. Three sources of information that we rely on to make sense of the world, and our place in it. What the culmination of my lived experience allows me to see in this moment, as I contemplate Where to Start – is that my Brain, Gut, and Heart are all involved in this internal conversation. AND my Brain, Gut and Heart all have different signals informing their opinion. AND if I try to listen to all of those messages at once, I quickly get confused and overwhelmed. What I can do is recognize all three brains have important messages for me, and if I want to be effective, dare I say ‘productive’ then all three brains need to be seen, heard, and understood. 

When I am aware of this conversation, I realize something else – I have the choice to keep the banter going … or … I can choose to Stop and Listen.

Be Curious and Ask Each beautiful brain – Brain, Heart, AND Gut

What is important about the past and it maybe not mattering?

What is important about not knowing your exact next step?

When I stop, and I listen … very carefully

I learn how I can lower the dissonance, increase the alignment and what I need to do to take the next step. Once I know what is important, I have insight into what I have to offer:

  • To my brain – I believe you, it makes 100% sense to start here AND there is a timeline … the past matters, and the future is unknown.
  • To my Gut – the blood, sweat and tears you have put in matter, they have made a difference. I see you, I honour you and I offer you Gratitude, Forgiveness and Compassion
  • To my Heart – I know not being sure what the future looks like is scary. I honour you and I offer you Courage to believe that you can Trust yourself, Trust your all of your strengths, lean into your curiosity, passion, openness, and hope for the future. 

2023 Practice Management Wish List

What would make managing a veterinary practice in 2023 easier than it was 2022? Between running my own practices and helping others with theirs this has been a question I have been asking myself constantly. I guess what I am looking for is a 2023 veterinary practice management wish list.

The first is have less people get sick. Recent weeks have been brutal staffing practices with so many people off sick, getting sick again or staying home caring for sick family members. Covid keeps reminding us it isn’t gone yet and all the other viruses we kept at bay by wearing masks and keeping our distance are wanting some attention too.

Less inflation with lower interest rates would be my next wish. I’m not so worried about the impact of them on the day-to-day operations of our practices, but it is really affecting those that work with us, especially in urban areas where the cost of housing makes renting or recent mortgages so expensive. The strain on our staff is worrying when the price of a head of lettuce makes having a simple salad an extravagant treat.

Finally, I wish that some clients would remember their manners and what it takes to be par of a civil society. It is so upsetting that after all the messaging about the high veterinary suicide rate and vets and support staff leaving the profession some people still act like ogres. I’m tired of firing clients to protect my staff, but I’m glad our practices act to protect our staff at the expense of a little extra revenue. Staff comes first.

Some of the above we can’t control, so the best we can do is support our staff. Pay them as well as we can, don’t expect them to work when sick and not tolerating nasty clients can go a long way in taking the edge off of some of the larger challenges we face.

Here is to great health and happiness in 2023.

Staffing Up in 2023

2022 has been called the year of The Shrinking Veterinary Practice. I don’t know one practice owner who hasn’t complained about losing a veterinarian or key support staff this year.

When we meet at veterinary conferences or meetings, we lament that we cannot attract new staff while wishing more of our veterinary colleges would quickly increase enrollment.

Rarely, do we step back and accept that while we have a problem attracting people to the veterinary profession, our bigger challenge is that we have a retention problem.

If we didn’t lose people, we wouldn’t need to replace them. Consider it a somewhat preventable disease.

So how do we prevent people leaving our practices?

The answer is simple, the challenge is getting there.

We need to create a business culture that encourages high employee engagement and develops emotional commitment. Employees with these traits go the extra mile and take ownership.  They are no longer a number and feel the success of the practice is their own.

How do we do this? Develop internal customer service.  Our employees become our first customer.  We bend over backwards to take care of our pet owner clients, and our employees should be given the same consideration.

Just like we have loyal clients that return year by year and tell their friends and family about our amazing veterinary practice that takes such great care of them and their pets, we should try to cultivate the same goodwill with our staff.

Loyal clients visit often and brag about the amazing service they receive from your practice.  We should try to cultivate the same goodwill with our staff. Employees come first. Without them we don’t have a business. Without them we can’t take care of our clients and their pets.

If your staff are happy and engaged, they will go the extra mile.  This sense of ownership develops loyalty, and it will take a lot for them to think of leaving.

Now is the Time to Celebrate RVTs!

RVTs are valuable members of the veterinary team, supporting veterinarians in endless ways such as meeting with clients to discuss pet health, nutrition, and behavior issues; providing pre and post operative care; assisting in surgery; offering intensive care to the most critical patients and so on.  They are the glue that holds veterinary practices together!

Registered Veterinary Technologists and Technicians of Canada (RVTTC) will be celebrating RVTs throughout the month of October. along with BCVTA, ABVTA, SAVT, MVTA, OAVT, EVTA, and ATSAQ.   This year’s theme, “Power your own career!” aims to showcase the many fields of veterinary medicine that RVTs may pursue.

RVTs are formally educated in several areas within veterinary medicine. From anesthesia to dentistry; lab animal research to industry sales; equine to avian and exotics; nutrition to radiology; large animal to shelter medicine, RVTs use their knowledge, expertise, and passion to help provide animals with the highest quality of healthcare.

Posters available from the RVTTC say it best:


Small animal RVTs have a passion for their job, to give a voice to those who don’t have one,

and are committed to offering the best possible care for companion animals.

For these frontline heroes, going above and beyond is just par for the course.


Large animal RVTs meet the call every day and are essential to the health and well-being of

production animals, helping to ensure herd health and food safety. This includes:

• Nutrition consulting

• Herd health monitoring assistance • Vaccinations

• Pregnancy checks

• Surgical Assistance

• Udder health

• Disease monitoring


RVTs working as industry sales representatives are adaptable and resilient, training veterinary

health care teams and ensuring that practices receive the equipment, medical supplies,

pharmaceuticals and resale goods they require, even during supply chain disruptions.


Clients and veterinarians can count on oncology RVTs to do everything in their power to help

animals in their fight against cancer, and to help clients with their emotional needs.


RVTs in laboratory animal medicine ensure that all animals involved receive the best

veterinary medical care and are treated ethically, humanely and with compassion. Happy RVT Month to all Registered Veterinary Technicians across this country of ours!

Mental health crisis afflicting the field of veterinary medicine

You are an animal lover.

You are a veterinarian.

You are struggling.

You are not alone.

There is always someone there to listen.

A March 2021 CBC news article identified that research published a year prior, by the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), indicated that more than a quarter of Canadian veterinarians reported suicidal thoughts in the previous 12 months.  Veterinarians say that the pandemic has added to their stress. Sudbury veterinarian, Dr. Darren Stinson, was quoted as saying, “”Veterinary medicine, unfortunately, has the highest suicide rate among professionals in the United States, and it’s very close in Canada as well.” 

An April 3, 2022, CBC news article further addressed this issue, after series of interviews with Canadian veterinarians revealed that overwork, pet owners, and debt load is leading to burnout of veterinary professionals.  The article revealed that the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 30 per cent of Canadian veterinarians and 50 per cent of vet technicians are in the advanced stages of burnout.

Supply of vets just can’t meet the growth in demand.  There aren’t enough veterinarians and staff to care for pets and livestock across the country, even as the number of pets — and the intensity of people’s attachment to them — grows, the CBC article explained. 

Animal Calling, a short documentary released in May 2022, follows a recently graduated, young veterinarian as she reflects on the mental health issues currently impacting the field of veterinary medicine.  After a calm moment at home in her garden, we’re transported to her place of work and shown the emotional and psychological challenges faced by those working in animal care.

Alongside the short documentary, Animal Calling, stories of individuals who have dedicated their lives to the care of animals, are shared at  The aim is to raise awareness about the mental health challenges the field is facing and to inspire others to share their stories as well. 

A list of links to various mental health and community resources specifically catered towards veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and animal health support staff is provided on the Animal Calling website, including Not One More Vet (, Reviving Veterinary Medicine by Dr. Marie Holowaychuk (, and i matter. ( as well as several others.

I encourage all veterinary professionals to take steps to address mental health issues that may be impacting them personally or affecting members of the clinic team.  Watching the Animal Calling documentary, and utilizing some of the provided resources, is an excellent starting point.  Stay well.