Merry Christmas from Ilana and the VetPrac team!

Dear Colleagues,

I’m floating with happiness!

Its that time of year where everything gets reflected upon and I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how appreciative I am of you.
I can imagine that some readers to this might roll their eyes. “She doesn’t know me, how can she appreciate me?” Well, let me try to explain.

At the moment, I’m not a practicing vet and I feel a little guilty.
I love practicing veterinary science. Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing an animal return to health. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than helping a sick animal be relieved of its suffering. And to be restricted from doing that due to circumstances of my current life is a challenge. My mother says I am happiest when I come home from a long day in the clinic. I have stories to tell and I seem to bounce around like I used to when I came home from primary school, or collapse in a heap from exhaustion and overwhelming emotional experience.

As someone not currently in general practice, I’m a little jealous of you. You are so lucky. And I am so thankful that you are out there. Without you at the front lines of our community, battling for the rights of animal health and welfare the world would be a dismal place. Wave after wave of ignorance and curiosity would inspire pet owners and animal production/race carers to perform all sorts of acts on their charge without understanding how or why they are doing what they are doing. They would neglect their pets from ignorance. They would attempt to treat their own pets out of love, and in return cause them more harm than they could ever imagine. But most of them don’t because most of them have you. How lucky are they!?

People know that they have to take their animals to the vet. And we can proudly stand on the claim to be the most knowledgeable and practiced group people on the planet with the knowledge to help them. That is no small thing. Yet it is often forgot. And to gently remind people through our professional services marketing strategies is a good idea. So, people don’t forget.

You stand at the foot of the waves, whether small or big, not knowing the rhythm or current beneath and you face disease, pain and injury everyday. Thank you.

And while I can’t practice in clinic with you at the moment, I can be apart of the mission through VetPrac and that makes me so happy, I’m floating.

VetPrac serves to assist you. It exists to give you the skills to face your challenges with confidence so you can bridge the gap between learning and doing.

When you come to a VetPrac workshop I feel great joy. It gives my life and work meaning to see you learning and developing. I know that when you have a new skill you will use it for a good cause. You will go back into practice and “smash it”, fixing patients and situations for the rest of your career like you were born with it. And clients will be in awe of you, for your abilities. You are the superheros of the animal kingdom. Maybe that sounds a bit over the top… but I don’t think so. When I see the light bulb moments that go off in a VetPrac workshop as you “get it” I get tingles. I know that feeling, and it’s addictive! I am so happy that you get addicted to it too. It changes lives for the better.

The more we learn, the more we grow. And the more we grow the more capable we become. And the more capable we become the better equipped we are to face the challenges of chaos and misunderstanding that plaque the earth. During the holiday season, I think a lot about that. About time honoured celebrations that often rise out of a successful fight against oppression, evil, chaos and torment. In those situations, animals are often the last considered, and we as vets are the first and most capable responders. We have to be very compassionate and understanding to do what we do. Its not easy, and we do it with dignity. I love that about our community.

2017 was a great year at VetPrac. All of our workshops were full and fantastic. Every participant attending reported that the skills they learned would be immediately applicable to practice and that our programs are good value for money. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Except maybe an update every now and then… I’d love to get a message from you with a photo of your patient sometime telling me how you’ve used your VetPrac acquired skills. That would warm my heart and give me tingles.

We ran orthopaedic, soft tissue and dentistry and animal handling practical skills workshops. We also successfully launched our internal and interpersonal skills programs. All of these will continue in 2018 as we focus on offering you the best training in Australasia. I hope you will join us on this journey.
We love connecting with you and working together to give animals a better quality of life. Thank you for your support.

I am so happy to be able to share with you another end to another year. Thank you for being a part of this journey.

We wish you and your families and loved ones a safe an happy holiday season and we look forward to seeing you in the new year.

Lots of Love,

Ilana Mendels and the VetPrac team! xx

Don’t delay – start today! You can change a habit of a lifetime.

There is a lot to say about the culture of workplaces and the impact that the workplace can have on the mental health and well-being of its workers. This talk is absolutely true and if you would like a summary article reviewing the research on creating mentally healthy workplaces, please click here. But there is something even worse than an unhealthy workplace culture… and I am going to go out on a limb here…. because I think that for veterinarians, the problem which is bigger than workplace culture is the culture of the veterinary industry in general. Large chunks of our industry have a nasty, smelly culture – a culture of overwork. This culture is embodied in individuals and it can come to infect whole workplaces if the practice leaders allow it. It is visible, it stinks and in my opinion, it is burning veterinarians in large numbers. Have you tried to employ an experienced vet recently?? If so, you will know what I mean.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the people in the veterinary industry. When I left clinical practice, I took six months off to be really clear about what I would miss and what I wanted to do next. It soon became apparent that I didn’t miss the animals but that I did miss the people – the clients to a certain extent, but even more so, the veterinary professionals. We are amazing – down-to- earth, intelligent, efficient and effective, and awesome at caring for our patients and their owners.

So where are these awesome people going wrong??

The truth is that it probably started way a long way back, before university, when we had to study super hard to get into vet school. We put everything else to one side as we focused on perfection in our year 12 studies so that we could achieve the goal that many of us set ourselves as young kids. I AM GOING TO DO WHAT IT TAKES TO GET INTO VET. Then we became one of maybe a hundred uber-intelligent, hard-working and dedicated veterinary students facing a jam-packed curriculum. The unbalanced life continued as we did what we needed to do to get through the course. I AM GOING TO DO WHAT IT TAKES TO GET THROUGH THIS VET DEGREE.

Aha – we thought as we breathed a big sigh of relief on graduation. Now, I will be happy, now I will be balanced. We start our first job only to find that, despite all those years of studying, we are facing a huge and steep learning curve. Applying our academic knowledge to practical settings is harder than we think and having the buck stop with you is a scary responsibility that many of us don’t feel ready to accept. The unbalanced life continues whilst we seek to master the skills we need to feel successful in our job. I AM GOING TO DO WHAT IT TAKES TO SURVIVE MY FIRST TWO YEARS OF PRACTICE.  Can you see the pattern here? It is a pattern of overwork. It is a pattern of delaying happiness until a certain goal is reached. And it is not sustainable. Of course, there are times when we have to dig deep and push on through. Of course there are. But this has to be the exception not the rule. We are not computers. We cannot be switched on at the beginning of a working day, work at 100% all day without a break and then turn off and go home, ready to come back and do it again tomorrow and the next day and be on call and… Cardwell and Lewis wrote in their article this year, that veterinary students appear to accept the lack of balance between work and relaxation, thinking this can be remedied in the future.

I think that is what many of us thought. We thought we could change our approach to life in the future.

And some of us can and have. But others amongst us, can’t. As McArthur et at (2017) reported, vet students “establish self-care and coping patterns that are likely to persist into their professional careers.” 2 YES – we develop neural pathways of overwork – overwork becomes our normal. Over time, we learn to be validated and derive our sense of self-worth on the basis of our achievements. I DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW HOW TO LIVE A BALANCED LIFE ANYMORE. If we haven’t burnt out by the time we finish our first couple of years in the industry, then we set ourselves new and more goals – thinking I will eat healthily, exercise, do some personal development etc once that’s done. We don’t focus on our well-being or balance or personal growth and the pattern of a life-time continues. When exactly do you think you are going to prioritise looking after yourself and personal development? When is this this magical time going to occur? Is it after you complete that distance education course, when you get the next vet up and running or when the breeding season is over? Will it ever come? Or do you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel before you make a change? This blog has been brewing in me for a while. Can you guess what the catalyst was for getting it out? I am not sure that you can – the link may seem tenuous. I was sitting reading the paper last Saturday morning and read an article about another of these famous TV personalities who was allowed to behave in a predatory and disrespectful way to women for most of his career. Now that the lid had been lifted, many women, famous and respected women, related stories of their run-ins with this TV presenter over the last couple of decades. And it seems that everyone knew. Everyone knew and nobody did anything about it. Why is that so? Why did they suffer in silence? Why did they think it couldn’t be changed? That’s what it sometimes feels like for me in the veterinary industry. We think that it is acceptable to work this hard. We think this is just what we have to do to get ahead. We might think that it is only us that is struggling – that we are not good enough, that we can’t cope. Other people might look like they are doing it easily. Nah ah.

You don’t have to work this hard. There is another way. There is a better way. The first step is recognizing that your current life is not working as well as you would like. The second step is choosing to live your life differently, choosing to take action. We can approach work in a more balanced and sustainable way. Our neural pathways around work and the validation we get from our achievements can be changed. But it takes work and it takes support. You may be able to do this by yourself – but ask yourself, how long have you been working like this and how has balancing things by yourself been working for you so far?

Why don’t you give yourself a Christmas present and start the New Year in a different way?
VetPrac and Make Headway offer group courses that provide the knowledge and the support that will help you to make changes in your life. We have been running these on-line groups for 18 months now and they work really well. You could join our High Achievers course and take the opportunity to do a bit of a rain- check of your life and decide what is working for you and where you want to focus more and less of your time and energy. Or you might be a new or recent graduate (or a boss of the same) and want to set yourself up to thrive in the profession – if so VetSupport is the program for you.

If not now, when? The future is in your hands. Don’t delay – view the brochure here or sign up today.

Written by Dr. Cathy Warburton @ Make Headway


1. Cardwell and Lewis (2017) Vocation, belongingness, and balance: a qualitative study of veterinary student well-being. JVME 44(1);29-37
2. McArthur et al (2017) The prevalence of compassion fatigue among veterinary students in Australia and the associated psychological factors. JVME 44(1);9-21

I’m being kidnapped!

Seriously – My fiancee told me on Friday that I’m to pack for hot and cold weather and that I’m going on a plane. I don’t need a passport and the baby is not coming. My mother in-law is looking after her for 3 nights and 4 days.

VetPrac will be cared for by my trustworthy assistants and I’m to close down my computer and turn my mobile phone off – I’m terrified!

I haven’t had a holiday for almost 2yrs and can’t remember what it feels like. I’m scared of that state of not knowing whats going to happen. I’m scared of having no one depending on me. I’m scared of losing my purpose – for just 4 days.

Isn’t that weird?! Isn’t it awesome?!

After a year of including well-being workshops into the VetPrac catalogue of practical skills training for veterinary professionals, I am being fed a dose of my own medicine. Gosh it’s hard to swallow! You really do have to practice life skills!

When you love what you do (despite the difficulties of it), “the doing” becomes addictive. With each success we want more. The high we get from that feeling of achievement is ecstatic. And knowing that the effect of it is truly making a positive difference to the world of animal health and welfare and to the lives and successes of people who care for so many animals every day is an inspiring driver to my motivation and the motivation of my team.

But what I’ve learned is that we all need to recharge. My basic human physiology is not unique. Neither is yours. We all need to eat. We all need to sleep. We are not magical beings who can recharge by plugging into a battery at 2.4v instead of 1v thereby requiring less time to heal than our counterparts. In this basic need for rest and recover – we are all the same. And because I love what I do more than I love resting – I’m being kidnapped.
My assistant Jessica will be looking after most things this week and I am contactable by text on my mobile for urgent matters. I am full of nervous excitement!

With the Holiday season almost upon us, I invite you to take a moment while you read this. If you need to be kidnapped for a while, from the things you love to focus on yourself and other things you love – let someone know. You might have too much on right now to stop, but have a think about when you could stop and start telling people. By setting an intention and verbalizing it to others it will happen. The universe will conspire to assist you.

Set yourself up to win, by preparing yourself for a little rest and recovery. Because you’re worth it. Because you deserve it. And because you will be a better person if you do it.

Warm Regards,
Ilana Mendels