A Blog By Saye Clement, DVM

I had a moment of clarity this week while talking to a friend.

We have both been working hard.  Really hard.

And we are both tired.  Really tired.

The interesting thing for me is that I’m not usually afraid of hard work.  I’ve never before resented the need for work, and yet, in this time of pandemic, I do.  Working hard usually doesn’t cause the exhaustion I am feeling.  Am I burnt out?  That would be the easy answer, and yet, funnily enough, no, I don’t think I am.  I think I’m trying to swim upstream.

I’ve been a veterinarian for over 25 years, and I don’t ever remember having to innovate as hard or as fast as I have this year.  I hear the same from many friends and colleagues.  How many times have we been forced to adapt, pivot and change in the last 10 months?

Therein lies the problem.

Usually effort of this kind results in growth and improvement.  Over the last 10 months, this massive effort resulted in us not losing ground.  We were swimming against a current and expending a lot of energy to just stay afloat.  Do you know what?  For times of crisis, that’s totally okay.  During the conversation with my friend, I told her exactly that.  It’s taken me a few days since that conversation to accept that idea for myself.

I do believe in focusing on the good side of all things (Pollyanna is my spirit animal).  So how do we take something good out of the craziest year in recent memory?   Well, let’s start by looking at what we learned.  We learned that change can be implemented quickly when we have enough need to do so.  We learned that change doesn’t kill us (even though we don’t like it very much).

I have come to understand that, for me, there’s a huge advantage to implementing change in the face of overwhelming adversity.  At any other time, if I had attempted to implement telemedicine for 70% of my caseload in just under four days, I would have failed miserably – with both my team and my clients. Instead, I got bonus points for trying my best.  That’s not to say I didn’t get my fair share of complaints, but they were far out-weighed by the people who were supportive, or at least resigned to why we had to make changes.  I’m usually the person who tries to troubleshoot every single last potential snag before introducing a change.  This often leads me to delay implementing projects rather than just trying them.  For the past 10 months, I haven’t had that luxury.  My team implemented quickly and we made changes on the fly.  In retrospect, the gift that I received in all of this craziness, was the luxury of blaming my failures on something other than my lack of foresight.  Who holds it against you if you make an error in this unpredictable roller coaster of a pandemic, where nothing is in your control?  Who would have thought that a pandemic would have made it less frightening for me to make mistakes, and yet it did.  I now have some muscle memory for being willing to take a risk and to implement when something is “good enough” rather than perfect.

And now imagine if we had done all of that in a year without a pandemic. To go back to my analogy, what if instead of a strong current, we had been swimming against a lazy one?  How much further along that river would we be?  How much more could we do?  Could we get the same amount accomplished with less work and have some time leftover for ourselves?  We’ve done all the hard work this year – we’ve trained and practiced and now I’m getting ready for what will hopefully be a lazier current in the upcoming year.  Let’s take the lessons we learned this year and put them towards making our lives better.

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