Veterinary Academia in a Time of Uncertainty: COVID-19 Special Blog Post

I have to admit, almost all of the reading I have done the past week has been about the stock market and COVID-19.  I’m curious to know about what’s going on, and, although we have a lot invested in the market, I’m primarily bemused because I understand how the market works (Just stick to your pre-established investing strategy; the market goes up and down and buying as it goes up and down will work out great).  Nonetheless, the world is not business-as-usual right now. My posts here tend to ignore trends, holidays, etc., but I thought a post addressing the epidemic was relevant for my readers. How do you handle your professional progression in the face of COVID-19?

  1. Don’t panic.  “That’s easy for YOU to say, you have a job and aren’t worried about graduation or getting into vet school or an internship!”  I’m not saying not to worry- these are scary times. Having an emotional response is perfectly fine. I’m saying not to PANIC. You can make good, healthy, important decisions for your life and career, but not if you’re panicking.  So, step one is: don’t panic.
  2. Be an RFHB.  Don’t yell at the airline counter agent about a cancelled flight.  Don’t yell at your physician or veterinarian for not being able to see you RIGHT NOW.  Don’t yell at your pharmacist for following insurance company regulations. Don’t yell at the admissions counsellor at the vet school.  Treat people with respect. We ALL have challenges right now.
  3. Get information.  Things are in constant flux, and it’s difficult to know what will happen with the future.  The more information you can get, the more in control you will feel (even if that’s just an illusion).  A lot of information may not be available, but get what you can. Find out what the plans are for exams in your classes, when the plan is for graduation or starting an internship.  If information isn’t available, go back to step 1.
  4. Go on a news diet.  I’m not suggesting cut off all news, but a lot of the news is repetitive or filled with unhelpful, fear-inducing information.  Unless you can look at the new with bemused wonder (as I do), I suggest dramatically reducing your input. Maybe check things out once a day. The Up First podcast by NPR gives news highlights in about 15 minutes, so it’s a great way to accomplish that. 
  5. Reach out to others, even remotely.  Sometimes sharing our fears and concerns with friends, colleagues, and even strangers can help.  Reach out to friends and family. Ask questions on internet forums and Facebook groups. We are all going through this together- sometimes just knowing someone else is facing your troubles can help.
  6. Focus on your circle of control.  What CAN you control? You can’t control if graduation will happen.  You can’t control students being dismissed from clinic rotations. You can’t control the epidemic.  You CAN control your emotional response. You CAN control your planning. You CAN control your own social interactions to minimize spread of infection.  When faced with a troubling obstacle, ask yourself what you can do about it. If the answer is, “Not much”, then shrug and move on.
  7. Try not to worry.  We’re all fairly reasonable people in veterinary medicine.  We want the students to succeed. We want the best candidates for vet school, internship, and residency.  We want to support our students and colleagues. WE WILL FIGURE IT OUT TOGETHER. Believe that the people and institutions want what’s best for you and them, and we will come up with reasonable, balanced solutions.  If a school you applied to isn’t doing interviews now, try not to worry that they’ll overlook your application. They will figure out a fair system. If you got admitted to an internship in the US and live in an infected country, we will figure it out.
  8. Life has challenges and isn’t fair.  Although we are going to figure things out together, sometimes the outcome may not be what you wanted.  Maybe you don’t look good on paper but interview amazingly well, so missing an interview opportunity means you don’t get into vet school.  What’s the alternative- to maybe infect dozens of interviewers and other staff for your benefit? Maybe the internship in the US you got into says they won’t take any students from highly infected countries.  What’s the alternative- to maybe infect the whole hospital for your benefit? Sometimes decisions made are not in your personal best interests. So, you need to consider: what do you do if the worst professional outcome happens?  Do you rend your clothes and curse the world or do you get back up and try again?
  9. Keep your health.  “Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.” – Count Rugen.  As long as you have your health, your friends and family, and your basic finances, you will be in a much better place to succeed.  If you let stress get to you, and this compromises your immune system, you will be in a much worse place and have further to go. Try to relax, follow physical distancing, eat well, and take care of your mental and emotional health.

Above all, trust that whatever happens, you will get through it.  We all will. Be excellent to each other.

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