Vet Med Talk: You Just Made A Mistake That Harmed Your Patient And The Guilt, Sadness, And Despair Is Crippling. Now What?


First, let’s take a sec to release a bit of that pressure cooker situation you have going on inside of you.

Take a deep breath in, then breathe in a little bit more to fully expand your lungs and then let out a long, slowww exhale. (That's called a physiologic sigh.)

It’s going to be okay.


No matter how perfect you try to be, mistakes are part of the human experience. 

Isn’t it wild how little chemical reactions in your body can create such strong feelings? I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it’s going to be okay. You are going to be okay.

Did you know the biochemical reaction of an emotion only lasts for up to 90 seconds? If you’re up for it, set a timer for 90 seconds and give yourself permission to feel and release whatever emotion needs to come out. 

Now shake it out TSwift style.

Shaking is another great way to release stress sympathetic energy to complete the stress response. 

You might be feeling a little better, but I know this is still stressing you out because of what’s going on in that brain of yours.

I bet your inner critic is having a field day torturing you with all kinds of verbal abuse like, “you’ll never be able to trust yourself ever again”, “You never should have become a vet”, “You will never recover from this”, “How could you be so careless/stupid?”, “You are the worst vet in the entire world”.

Those are normal thoughts to have, but they’re not true or helpful. To tune them out, rub your finger tips together. What pressure do you need in order to feel the ridges of your finger tips?

When you rub your finger tips together that decreases activity in a part of your brain called the default mode network where those unhelpful negative thoughts are coming from and it increases activity in the part of your brain called the task positive network that's associated with a more positive and focused state. Those two areas area are like a see-saw: when you activate one, it decreases the other. Keep rubbing your finger tips together any time your inner critic tries to show up to quiet those negative thoughts.

Now, here’s what’s NOT going to happen:

You’re NOT going to let this ruin your life. Ok? No matter what happens as a result of this, you are the only one who gets to decide how you navigate things moving forward. 

The reason this feels uncomfortable is because you care and it was a mistake. As long as you have your own back, you can make it through any challenge. Be extra kind and gentle with yourself right now.

Repeat after me, “I am going to be okay, because I’m going to take care of myself and get the support I need.”

Part of why this experience was feeling so uncomfortable is because...

In order to become a vet, you’ve been taught that when you are good and “perfect”, you are loved and safe. Mistakes, to your nervous system, make you feel like a lion is about to eat you and you’re going to be abandoned.

But it’s time for your nervous system (NS) to unlearn that. You never should have learned it in the first place. ❤️ You are safe and loved even if you make mistakes. Look at the proof - you made a mistake but here you are, reading this post. You are safe. Now your NS needs to get that memo.

Faster EFT* is one of my favorite ways to tell my nervous system, “I’m safe”.

  • Start by tapping on the top of your head and say something like “I release and let this go” or “I forgive myself”.
  • Now tap between your eyebrows, repeat the statement.
  • Do the same thing tapping on the outside of your eye where you can feel the bone
  • Repeat below your eye where you can feel the bone
  • Repeat on your collarbone
  • Then hold onto your wrist and take a breath in and slowly exhale.
  • Click here for a video tutorial.

Here’s one way to use the tapping to help you move forward: 

Think back to the scenario that’s feeling stressful and as soon as you start to feel that uncomfortable feeling, do a round of tapping. Keep tapping until you feel your body shift into a calmer state.

Notice how even when you feel really uncomfortable emotions there are tools that can help you to shift out of that state.

Want more tools? Watch the “Anti-Anxiety Tools That Actually Work” video that's part of my free 4-part video series: "Beat The Burnout: What We Should Have Learned In Vet School". 

Judgment isn’t going to make anything better.

This really hard thing happened and you can’t change that, but you can make sure you get the most out of this lesson now that you have a new perspective. Judgment only drains energy and leads to dead ends. Curiosity will help you to learn and move forward:

  • How are you going to use this to become an even better vet for all the animals you’re going to help in the future?
  • Is there CE or a new protocol/system that’s needed?
  • What do you need as a person to be better set up for success?
  • Are you putting your oxygen mask on first and speaking up for boundaries so that you can practice medicine in a way that feels good and sustainable?

Save and share this so you have it the next time you or a colleague has one of those days when you wonder WTH you went into vet med.

Looking for more support?

I'm here for you. One of the coolest tools I use as a certified integrative change worker is memory reconsolidation. Basically, I can help you to change the way you feel about a memory.

For example, if you lost a patient under anesthesia and you can’t sleep because it’s just replaying over and over in your mind and the thought of having to do more surgeries instantly gives you stress colitis, I can help you feel the way you want to feel about that event so you can learn from it and move forward instead of reliving that stressful moment over and over. 

With memory reconsolidation, you still remember what happened and how you felt you just won’t feel the emotional charge and heaviness anymore. Maybe you want to feel at peace. Maybe you want to have compassion for yourself knowing that you chose a career that involves really sad cases like this. Maybe you want to be able to forgive yourself. I can help you with that. Typically it only takes one session through a conversation (but of course everyone’s brain is different). 

The work I do is not a substitute for therapy, it’s different. Instead of talking about the thing that’s feeling painful, we talk about it just enough to recall the memory so we can change it and then I help you shift out of that uncomfortable state. Then we can talk about how you want to feel instead and how you can use this to grow as a vet.

Often the biggest relief for my clients is that I get it. It’s really exhausting having to explain to someone why vet med is hard. Unless you’re in vet med, you can’t truly understand the challenges no matter how hard you try or think you understand.

I get it. Which means we can just focus on helping you to move forward and becoming even better at what you do.

And if you decide you’re not so sure if vet med is for you anymore? We can explore that, too. I’ve been there. That’s a decision you want to make because you know it’s right for you, not because you’re in fight/flight/freeze mode and you just want to escape.

Learn more about my programs or apply to work together.

*My teacher, Melissa Tiers created this faster EFT version.


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!

Leave a comment