By Vickie Byard, CVT, VTS (Dentistry)

This morning, I stared out the kitchen window as the coffee brewed.  I was struck with the way the light played off the leaves of the trees as the sun broke through the crisp, early fall cloud cover.  That awareness alone made me run for my camera.

Light through the dark

After the coffee was brewed, I grabbed one of my freshly baked, gluten-free, chocolate chip cookies and moved to my favorite morning resting place; the sun room.

I sat in silence, entranced in an activity that I really try to refrain from; reviewing the past and anticipating the future.  The light playing off of the softly dancing leaves had me thinking deeply about practice life and work relationships.

The organization that I work for has been embroiled in an uncomfortable experience for the better part of a month.  I floundered in the fear that this discomfort could be that which would divide ranks and relationships.  As we all know in practice life, when working closely with a large group of diverse people, discomfort can come in many packages.  The details of the discomfort are not important at all. They never are!

I got my camera out and sank into the refreshing waters of the moment. As I witnessed how this light affected all of Nature that was shrouded in darkness only minutes before, an overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over me.


In that moment when my pupil focused in the camera lens while taking the image above, I was aware of what is lost when we allow the darkness to obscure the light. Navigating darkness is always a head game.  The scary movie we create in our minds of the impending doom that lies before us will obscure the reality.  In that darkness, we make up monsters and landmines.  But, life ebbs and flows and the light inevitably returns.

I realized that the gift of this moment applied to me and our practice team.  When I remember to turn the light back on, I am reminded that our organization is special. We are not perfect and we have our warts.  And, I hate to be the barer of bad news, but no practice is perfect.

As I often have said before, veterinary medicine is a calling.  We have chosen a career that is dirty, smelly, noisy, hard work, late hours, high risk, often challenging and few are adequately compensated in comparison to other similar medical careers. Statistics show that veterinary technicians do not remain in the field long as compared to others (on average less than 10 years).  So, when I meet a veterinary technician, veterinary assistant,  kennel manager, customer service representative or some other veterinary employee that has remained for 15, 20, 30 years at their place of employment…I always inquire as to; what is their secret?  The responses are almost always the same. The secret is that their work environment offers the things that matter the most…even more than money in many instances.   So, what constitutes the light in practice life?  It is respect for each other regardless of position.  It is connection. It is support for each other; professionally and personally.  It is understanding. It is the knowledge that each are heard.  And, forgive me for getting all warm and fuzzy, but it is our individual willingness to see the light in each of us when we are experiencing moments or times of darkness.

And…The secret solvent that cuts through all the seriousness we all find ourselves in, at work, is fun.  We have to embrace the fact that practice life MUST be fun.  We have to dare to be vulnerable with each other.   The following video was the result of a lot of fun and wholehearted creativity of the spectacular, talented team I have the honor of working with.

I watch that video and I am bathed in the knowledge that little can hamper the connection that we all share.  I am reminded that what we have organically created and nurtured can not be eclipsed by outside forces.  If you read this and are in a practice that has not yet managed to create a light work environment, I would encourage an investment in the team.  Team building can be fun and invaluable.

Last weekend, I was at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY at the Women and Power Retreat Brene’ Brown was one of the speakers and she is well known for her TedX talk on vulnerability and wholehearted living.  As she I listened to her I was reminded of a quote from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.  In that book, she states, ““The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”