Waiting for change in vet med is like waiting for my horse to pay his own bills

Read about recent change makers and their stories, and thoughts about how change happens whether you're an employer, employee, or head honcho leader.

Posted: 06/04/2023

Read Time/Watch Time

5 minutes

Who should read this?

veterinarians, vet nurses, vet techs, employers.


Melanie Barham


Global content

Waiting for vet med to change is like waiting for my horse to pay his own bills

Recently, I shared how I hate hearing talks bashing millennials.  As tired as I am of bad mouthing “kids these days”, I’m more tired of waiting for change in our profession to happen spontaneously. 

Burnout, mental health issues, overwork, debt, a veterinary shortage, economic challenges… we have a long list of presenting complaints that gets longer by the day.

Last week, I pondered our long list of problems as I got lots of emails from people responding to my thoughts on millennials.  At the same time, I was frustrated beyond belief last week at a tough situation, and I wanted to go hide under my duvet. I realized (sigh), that no one was going to solve my problem for me, or swoop in and be the boss. Adulting sometimes really sucks right?

So, I let myself feel all the anger, frustration, and all the things.

Then I let a singular question come back to me: “I wonder if…” Applying this question is what I’ve seen change makers do as they conquered impossible problems.

Here’s what I’ll say about waiting for change: our profession, our workplaces, our career satisfaction… these things will only change if we (that’s me, you and every individual involved) make it happen. Change happens in many ways. It can happen through small actions, and through big groups and grand gestures. It can happen with a small group with little power, or with a large group with a lot of power, in institutions and in tiny, lesser known corners of our profession. It can happen when we demand change from leaders, and when we ask nicely.

But change never happens if we wait. It never happens if we ignore the nagging question, “I wonder what if…”, and definitely never if we listen to the voice that says, “People will think…”

Change ONLY happens if we act, if we try, and if we can start to see opportunity and imagine a path for those people too downtrodden to imagine it themselves.

There are about 50 or more models of how change actually happens, and frameworks of how to make change happen. Malcolm Gladwell (incidentally Canadian and from the town adjacent to mine) wrote about the idea of a Tipping Point. There’s a theory of the circle of influence, where we can each have impact even if we don’t have a leadership title.

The point I take from all of these change theories is that you never know where you are on the change model until the story is part of history.

Your small action, your small act of kindness or support or telling your story, or your small idea that you saw some success with… it could be part of a domino effect of influencing other change. It could actually be THE thing to tip the scales in a landslide of change. I have seen it play out so many times, and I’ve felt it.

The person who listened to my wild and crazy idea to write a blog about veterinary career paths, when I was so afraid it was a terrible idea that I couldn’t even talk about it and make eye contact, well, their kind encouragement fanned a spark that became a fire.

Here’s 4 change makers I LOVE to share the story of:

  • The DVMoms group and including moms at conferences: moms in their audience complained at major conferences that there was no place to nurse, that they couldn’t pump, there was no childcare. With their lack of inclusive thought, conferences did not accommodate or welcome moms. This group of leaders said, “I wonder if…” and made their own conference that was AMAZING and also considered the needs of parents. Now, major conferences include these amenities as a given. These leaders asked nicely and didn’t get what they needed. So they made their own arena, and changed the game.
  • Trillium Equine: Dr. Jenna Donaldson saw a need for equine vets to do less on call. She wondered, “What if we could…” and started Trillium Equine, and on-call only business. Going strong into 2023, she proved the model could work in Canada.
  • Flexee: Dr. Silvia Janska saw how much flexible work was valued. Applying her scientific knowledge and methodology, she developed tools and data on how flexible work CAN work in the vet profession.
  • Vital Animal owned by Dr. Lisa Coder: Lisa had a vision for how a clinic could work, how it could be a pillar of the community AND be inclusive. An opportunity presented itself, and within 30 days, she had a clinic and started a whole new era in her town.


There are SO many more outstanding people to share. These people are just like you and me. Just regular people who put on our pants one leg at a time. Your actions and ideas, and ability to see what MIGHT be possible will be the difference between whether our profession looks the same in 50 years or not. Let’s not wait for the big solution or the big leaders to solve it for us.

Let’s do this together, and explore the potential together.

“You can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark” – Bruce Springsteen

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