Overcoming Feelings of Failure

Feelings of failure can overwhelm, whether you’re working in a practice or another area of veterinary medicine. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were all good all the time? That your experience always produced happy clients, healthy patients, and positive outcomes? As Veterinarians, we must be mentally prepared for the challenges. We must be ready for the natural flow of negative feelings that flood our brains, crushing our confidence when things spin out of control.

In a profession with many moving parts, complications and poor results are the norm. Sometimes clients experiencing grief and anger, will blame you for what has happened to their pet. They may even call you a “bad doctor.” You know you aren’t a bad doctor, but you still blame yourself. You replay key moments, wondering where things went wrong. Did I miss something? What could I have done differently? How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

The perception of failure challenges the ego and kills confidence. It’s also easy to respond with fear and avoidance, affecting the way you practice. For example, if a surgical case didn’t go as planned, you may avoid surgery. If you’re dealing with a complicated medical case with an unexpected outcome, you may refer the next one to a specialist to work up. Your fear of failure may take over, sounding all alarms and defense mechanisms. Is this a normal response? Yep! But is it a healthy response? Probably not. Giving in to your feelings of failure and building a wall of fear, may cripple you and your career unless you address it.

They Didn’t Prepare us for This!

Vet school prepared us for many things. Unfortunately, developing coping skills and learning to manage emotions was not part of the curriculum. Thankfully, the conversation over the past few years has evolved and the climate is changing. Schools are beginning to prepare students for the emotional roller coaster that overwhelms this profession. 

Young Veterinarians are now encouraged to find jobs that offer mentorship. Finding mentors outside of the workplace is also recommended. Mental health professionals are in the conversation more than ever. Veterinary support groups and social media platforms provide outlets to air fears and perceived failures. This can be done anonymously if desired. These efforts are usually met with support, encouragement, and enthusiasm from the veterinary community. The emotional toll the profession inflicts on many Veterinarians, is finally part of a larger discussion.

Taking Charge

If feelings of failure and doubt are creeping in, here are some helpful strategies to consider:

  • Share your feelings with other Veterinarians. This can be done in-person with trusted colleagues, on social media pages, or in online support groups. Get those feelings out into the open.
  • Find comfort in knowing you are not alone. This profession is unpredictable. Every Veterinarian at some point has experienced feelings of failure. 
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Reflect on the situation and don’t blame yourself.
  • Learn different approaches. For example, discussing cases with colleagues may reveal a new perspective and boost your confidence.  
  • Practice, practice, practice! Fine-tuning your skill set will strengthen your confidence and set you up for success. 
  • Seek professional help if these feelings are affecting your job performance, relationships, and overall self-esteem. If you’re not sure what type of support you need, please schedule a DISCOVERY SESSION with My Vetamorphosis, and we will help you move in the right direction.

Can Anything Good Come from Perceiving that you’ve Failed?

Yes, trust me I’ve been there. Some of the best lessons come during these times. New perspectives can emerge, and attention to detail can be enhanced. If the same issue resurfaces, you will approach it with more certainty and understanding of the outcome. You’ll have lots of wins, and some losses. You’ll do your best to make good choices with the information you have. But sometimes mistakes will be made. It can’t be avoided. Just know there are many unknowns in this profession. So, knowing how to manage your expectations, and following the above strategies, is how you will overcome feelings of failure. Don’t forget that every effort you make is an achievement. And, above all, learning and growing as a Veterinarian is always a win!

About the Author


Dr. Nia is a Mom, Veterinarian, Career Transition Coach, and Pastry Chef in her head! She was born and raised in Chicago, has lived in a few places in between, and now currently resides in the Atlanta area. My Vetamorphosis, is a coaching practice established exclusively for Veterinarians. Its main purpose is to help these amazing humans discover the career of their dreams so they can live more and stress less!

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