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How a VET Evolved from a Technologist to a Mental Health Consultant

The following is an interview with Coral Doherty as she speaks about mental health and the need for workplace improvements.

What is your name, job title, and name of your session at this year’s Veterinary Education Today?

Coral Doherty, COVID-19 Magnified Existing workplace mental health inadequacies…make way for the new normal.  RVT, CPHSA, QM, Certified Psychological Health and Safety Improvement Specialist, Better Mental Health for the Future.

What made you gravitate from being a veterinary technologist to moving into the mental health space?

I loved working in practice. I spent half of my adult years working within various animal care settings across Canada. Originally a true introvert, as my tech skills improved, my people skills improved too! I really hit my stride about 6 years into my career, and I found that I began to value the people I work with and the clients I spoke to more than I had ever before. Working in the mental health space allows me to use my tech skills to provide excellent people care. I understand the emotional demands of working in a vet clinic. My experience from introvert to extrovert has changed my life. I want to help others develop a renewed sense of self worth and team spirit that helped me become who I am today.

How has that move evolved throughout your career?

My evolution into the mental health space first started as a freelance practice manager. I would help practices improve their businesses by offering services to help day-to-day needs, special projects, or present lunch & learns. Building practice culture is especially meaningful work to me. I was asked to present mental health at work to a rural Manitoba practice in October 2019. As I prepared the facts for the presentation, I was enlightened & energized to protect my teams from the detrimental effects of compassion fatigue, burnout, SVT, and stress. During the presentation, I could feel their pulse begin to beat as one. They felt more connected, understood, and the feeling of being alone was ERASED! I guess you could say, I found my calling that day… preventing harm to our mental health at work by sharing best practices to get ahead of the workplace mental health injuries, one practice at a time.

If you had to pick one mental health practice or “tactic” people can use when feeling overwhelmed, what would it be?

The moment you begin to feel overwhelmed: I have heard people say they notice they feel overwhelmed when they wake up in the morning and “dread” going to work or they “dread” working with a certain person. Once this word/feeling of dread occurs, speak to your manager and/or call a warm line for someone to listen to the situation. The feeling of “dread” means you’re feeling unsafe and need something to change. Unfortunately, I have experienced this feeling and felt it was my responsibility to overcome the situation alone, and I didn’t always have a great experience when I asked for help in facing a dreadful situation. Now, I know the workplace can do more to support and should do more to assist an employee who is feeling overwhelmed and unsafe at work. Now, the tools, resources, and awareness is growing, and more can be done when psychological safety is a priority.

It’s the year 2030, what is the workplace culture dialogue talking about in reference to mental health?

Great question! This keeps me awake at night….

The trend, going back many years, tells us that stigma has cost our profession its attrition. We MUST pivot today, to change the paradigm.

I believe that by 2025, veterinary medicine will value and prioritize psychological wellbeing more than EVER before. Because of this, the workplace culture dialogue in 2030 will center around how amazing the patient care is for animals. Humans will see veterinary medical care as a golden standard of care they value. The reason: because humans at work feel valued, receive job satisfaction, and have become healthy resilient workers that are able to do so!

Who would be best suited to attend your session at VET this fall?

Let’s be honest, we all need to learn more about PREVENTING workplace mental health injuries. Each person CAN create their own bubble of psychological safety when they see their work demands through the lens of psychological safety. HOWEVER, organizational leaders and decision makers CAN do MORE than ever before to PREVENT workplace injuries, they HAVE to attend and take away MICROCHANGES, they can take ACTION!

What are you most excited for at the VET conference this year?

MEETING IN PERSON!!! Feeling the vibe of togetherness with my colleagues!!! I graduated from Centralia College in 1993… WHO WILL I REUNITE WITH HERE!?

Tell us why your session is a MUST-ATTEND event at this year’s VET Conference?

The session I am speaking about pertains to ALL workplaces today. Psychological safety transcends to the core of all humans working together towards a common goal. Trust and feeling safe to be your authentic, honest self at work. To remove barriers that are essential to good two-way communication based on trusting the other person to be curious instead of judgmental. If you want to know how you can ACTIVELY impact workplace mental health, this session is THE one!

Is there anything else you want to share about your session at VET with attendees?

This session will not be a polite glossing over of workplace inadequacies that lead up to our professional burnout and a workforce shortage. It will be realistic. The essence of the presentation is rooted in continuous improvement. This session is a true-life example of failure to boldly bouncing forward to fabulous.

Coral is speaking at the VET conference Saturday, October 28th – Her topic “COVID 19 Magnified Existing workplace mental health inadequacies…make way for the new normal.” Is part of the MERCK Animal Health sponsored track on Well-being and Mental Health.