Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Effective Communication Strategies for Veterinarians

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I have always bristled at any suggestion that males and females fit into boxes based on separate, distinct gender-specific traits.  So when I heard the suggestion that the gender pay gap between men and women may have to do with differing communication styles between the genders, of course I threw a fit.

Then I started researching…and writing.  Is it true??  It seems as though it kind of is.  But there are more variables than gender, and, I was happy to find, communication differences do NOT divide neatly between gender lines.  We are, in fact, all unique and valuable individuals who do NOT fit neatly into little boxes.  *phew*

Effective Communication Strategies for Veterinarians

Shawn Finch, DVM

Are gender-communication differences contributing to the gender-pay gap?  In the June 2008 Veterinary Economics article “Are Women Tough Enough?” Jan Miller explores the role of communication style differences in the revenue discrepancy between male and female veterinarians (20 – 30% on average according to a 2005 AVMA-Pfizer study!)  Are women and men in our profession communicating differently?  Are our differing communication styles affecting our salaries?

Donna Zajonc and David Womeldorff, in the August 2006 workshop entitled “Emerging Perspectives on Feminine and Masculine Leadership Styles-and Why We Need Both” explained that the only area in which males and females tend to consistently differ in the Myers-Briggs personality assessment is decision-making function, with two thirds of men assessed as thinking and two thirds of women assessed as feeling.

According to Zajonc and Womeldorff, “Some of the key aspects of ‘thinking’ relate to an emphasis on objectivity, logic, clarity, justice, consequences of action and being firm and fair.  Some of the key aspects of ‘feeling’ relate to an emphasis on values, interpersonal relationships, harmony, mercy, empathy and compassion.”

They assert that leaders need to be able to utilize both decision-making styles.  While I agree that we need to be able to function as both “thinkers” and “feelers,” I believe improvements in our communication abilities will be best achieved if we identify how we tend to make decisions, and focus on strengthening that tendency.

If you tend to make decisions based on thinking, you may need to consciously convey compassion, but do not try to negate your “thinking” tendencies.  Clients are confident in medical care of their pets when they know that you are absolutely sure of your recommendations and can firmly lead them through difficult decisions.

If you tend to make decisions based on feeling, nurture that tendency.  Beware of the potential of becoming emotionally over-invested in patient care, which may increase your risk of burnout.  Protect your compassionate nature, but allow it to emerge when communicating the importance of your medical recommendations.  Clients are reassured when they know that you are recommending for their pet what you would do for your own.

We are not women in a man’s career (or men in a woman’s career).  Neither is a feeling or thinking-based mode of decision making superior to the other.  We are called to the care of people and pets, and have been endowed with different yet equally valid strengths to assist us in fulfilling our calling.

As we improve our communication skills, honing our strengths and bolstering our weaknesses, client confidence will improve, which will allow our patient care to improve.  As we all approach our highest potential as communicators, perhaps the gender pay gap in our profession will begin to narrow as well.

This was first published at The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on August 3, 2010.

The Year in Review – Veterinary Medicine in 2010

Monday, February 21st, 2011

This was meant to be a summary of veterinary medicine in 2010 in 500ish words – ha!  I picked some highlights.  What would you have added??  If I talked about my personal year as a veterinarian, that would have been a completely different article.  This was very fun to write.

The Year in Review – Veterinary Medicine in 2010

Shawn Finch, DVM

Stem cell therapy has become fairly common, the melanoma vaccine is being used in dogs with great success, Proheart returned to the veterinary market, we were all affected by the melarsomine shortage, the balance tipped from a majority of male veterinarians to a majority of female veterinarians…2010 has been quite a year to be a veterinarian!

This year has seen exponential growth in veterinary internet involvement.  We started out dealing with the internet “defensively,” trying to undo problems created by false information.  We quickly learned to proactively add our voices as reliable authorities on animal health issues.  We have had to deal with client feedback in a more public way than ever. As disconcerting as that has been, we have handled it with the prompt attention and grace that we always have.

The increase in online interactions between pet parents and veterinarians has raised many ethical issues.  We can put all sorts of medical information onto the internet, but we still cannot diagnose or treat without a valid patient-client-doctor relationship firmly in place.  We have the ability to post patient pictures and cases onto the internet in full view of the world almost instantaneously.  We have shown tremendous restraint in doing that only when we have permission from our team leadership and clients.  Clients know that in this age of instant information, they can still trust us completely with their privacy and that of their pets.

Many of our veterinary journals have become accessible online.  As much as I have enjoyed the internet explosion and accompanying learning curve, I still request paper copies of my favorite journals.  I will probably be among the last of us to give that up.  Just admitting that makes me want to plant a tree.

We have always advocated humane breeding practices.  As restrictions on high-volume puppy sellers have tightened in the United States, international puppy sources have become more popular.  Our next battle may be assuring that the puppies imported into our country are shipped humanely and legally and enter the country free of contagious and zoonotic diseases.

A second report on veterinarians and suicide was published in England earlier this year.  The authors’ first report revealed that we are much more likely to commit suicide than people in the general population.  Their second report explored the reasons this may be true.  Everyone is an individual, and the sample size was relatively small, so we are not doomed.  Do keep a caring eye on your colleagues though and take good care of yourself.

Finally, the United States Congress recently proclaimed 2011 “World Veterinary Year” in honor of the 250th anniversary of our profession.  The resolution was introduced by the two veterinarians serving in Congress and passed with support from veterinarians across the country.  2010 was quite a year to be a veterinarian.  I am excited for what is to come, next year and beyond.

This was first published at The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on December 28, 2010 as “A Great Year for Veterinary Medicine.”

Changing Times

Monday, February 21st, 2011
Almost 80% of new veterinary school graduates are now female. Fewer veterinarians are going into large animal practice.

Fewer veterinarians have practice ownership as a goal.

Many have speculated on how these changes will affect our profession overall. I can not speak for all veterinarians, or even all female veterinarians of course.  But I can, as a female veterinarian, give my perspective on some of the issues we as individuals and a profession have before us.

I will start with what I know best, my own present experience, and work backwards to when I first knew I would end up here, though I did not know exactly what this would look like.  Today, I am a female veterinarian in my thirties.  I graduated in 1998.  I am a wife and a mother of two daughters.  I love our profession.  I love my part time job and the family-friendly hours that I work.  I need you to understand that I am as hard-working and dedicated to veterinary medicine as you are.

I am a small animal veterinarian in the city.  I apologize for not being the buyer for the practice on which you are relying for retirement.  I apologize for not taking over the care of the large animal patients you now tend, or being there for the small town whose veterinary needs you have met for all these decades.  I need you to figure out a Plan B.

I am home with my newborn on maternity leave.  It is my first time away from full time veterinary work since I started my career.  I need to be included in team meetings and continuing education opportunities, and to be kept up to date on cases we treated together, and told about new cases you are seeing.

I am only a few years into practice and considering starting a family.  I need you to consider flexible schedules or job sharing or part time employment as I look forward to my new life as both a mother and a veterinarian.

I am a veterinary school graduate searching for my first job.  I do not expect you to ignore the possibility that I may decide to procreate at any time, but I do not want to be interrogated about my family plans or asked to make promises that have no bearing on whether I am the best person for the job you have available.  I need you to believe me when I say that I will give your practice my very best if you hire me.

I am a twelve-year-old girl in your waiting room with my sick friend in my lap.  I want to be like you when I grow up.  I need you to tell me that even though you do not know exactly what that will look like, you do know that it is possible.

I am the future of veterinary medicine.  We are the future of veterinary medicine. I need you to walk through this new chapter of our profession alongside me.  We will combine our strengths and work through the upcoming challenges, making our profession better than it has ever been.   Even though I do not know exactly what that will look like, I do know that it is possible.

This was first published at The Wagging Tail for Veterinary Professionals on March 31. 2010.