How to Master Change in Equine Veterinary Practice

AAEP Convention keynote speaker Cassandra Worthy explains how you can skillfully adapt and use this proficiency to your advantage in equine practice.

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Meeting the needs of practice employees can help increase employee retention and patient welfare. | Taylor Pence Photography

In equine veterinary practice’s current climate, veterinarians and practice leadership must choose whether to embrace change or reject it. Although it can be challenging, embracing change causes veterinarians to thrive and improves the way patients can be treated, while rejecting change often leads to burnout and mental health concerns for veterinarians and their support staff, said Cassandra Worthy, founder and CEO of Change Enthusiasm Global. Worthy delivered a keynote presentation on the subject at the 2023 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 29-Dec. 3 in San Diego, California.

The number of veterinarians who choose to enter and remain in equine practice is declining due to the demands of the occupation, the poor return on investment of the cost of education compared to other veterinary practices, and the negative effects that equine practice can take on veterinarians’ mental health. “There is a deeply held belief and bias (about how a practice should be managed) that needs to be uprooted and shifted to rise to the needs of employees, while still driving the needs of the practice,” said Worthy.

Change Enthusiasm in Equine Practice

Worthy recommends practitioners (or anyone dealing with change) adopt a mindset that she refers to as “change enthusiasm,” which involves three steps:

  1. The signal. This typically includes strong emotions when you detect change such as fear, frustration, and anxiety. “Allow these to exist,” said Worthy.
  2. The opportunity. In this stage explore what is possible if you were to embrace the change, how it would affect your current role, and weigh all options.
  3. The choice. “This is where you make a conscious choice to inspire a better feeling and result,” said Worthy. “This is where you will feel growth-sustaining emotions such as hope, ambition, and gratitude.”
Cassandra recommends combating resistance through curiosity. | Courtesy Cassandra Worthy

How to Inspire Change Enthusiasm in Others

“Empathy is one of the most important factors when inspiring others to embrace change,” said Worthy. Researchers have shown that 78% of working Americans more readily adapt to change if they feel they can share their true emotions and are both heard and understood, she added.

One way she recommends combating resistance is through curiosity. Surveys have shown that 41% of Americans self-assess as being resistant to change, but Worthy said an attitude of curiosity can allow for more open exploration of change, without bias.

“Establish strong two-way communication with employees and colleagues,” she said. “Leadership should provide regular and clear progress updates and have established avenues for employees to provide feedback.” By empowering veterinarians and their support staff to be authentic in their interactions with others, she added, there will be less resistance and more collaboration when changes are proposed.

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Written by:

Haylie Kerstetter, Digital Editor, holds a degree in equine studies with a concentration in communications and a minor in social media marketing. She is a Pennsylvania native and, as a horse owner herself, has a passion for helping owners provide the best care for their horses. When she is not writing or in the barn, she is spending time with her dog, Clementine.

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