“Fake it till you make it” was the response I got when I asked one of our soon-to-graduate students how she would cope with general practice – with knowing everything in theory but having to get to grips with the practical stuff on the job, as it were. This phrase might have its roots in Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Faking It” from 1967, but the line is actually “And I know I’m fakin’ it, I’m not really makin’ it”, which has the opposite meaning, in my mind.
In The Gospel of Relaxation (1922), William James wrote: “To feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all our will to that end, and a courage-fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.” If we act as if we know what we’re doing, we will encourage others to think we are in control. We might even convince ourselves that we know what we are doing, which is the problem, of course. If you tell owners that what you are doing is the best thing for their animal, sound convincing and they’ll believe you. But are you really making it or simply faking it and convincing yourself that you are?
My students make me reflect on what I’ve done and whether I could do it better far more than I would do if left on my own
This is where having veterinary students working with you is really valuable! “Why did you decide to give that drug?” and “What made you choose that surgical technique over another?” are questions that shouldn’t be answered with “It was the one that was on the shelf and didn’t need adding to the next drug order” or “I’ve always done it that way”. My students make me reflect on what I’ve done and whether I could do it better far more than I would do if left on my own.
Thank goodness we are now teaching new graduates to reflect on what they have done each day! Never mind that you can’t fill in your online CPD these days without reflecting on what you have learned and how it will impact your practice. With the word “reflection” in mind, it has always amused me that we are always practising but never quite reaching perfection. Instead, we’re always learning and improving, hopefully.
Confessing that you don’t know it all is the other side of the “fake it till you make it” coin and a better one to turn to in many cases
For me, the most difficult thing to do, especially with 35 years of veterinary work in hand, is to tell an owner that I’m not quite sure what is going on – that I need to ask for a colleague’s assistance or check something in a book. Confessing that you don’t know it all is the other side of the “fake it till you make it” coin and a better one to turn to in many cases.
Let’s face it, quite apart from the fact that continually “faking it” might well persuade you that you’re “making it” when you’re not, it doesn’t help you get better at what you’re doing. There’s a happy medium between appearing confident to give the owners you’re dealing with the confidence that you have their pet’s best interests at heart, and admitting that you don’t know everything. It’s like phoning a friend to make sure, where possible, or even asking the audience.
I regularly say that I may be an eye “expert” – though “ex” is “past it” and a “spurt” is a drip under pressure – but the client is the ultimate expert on their own pet
I regularly say that I may be an eye “expert” – though “ex” is “past it” and a “spurt” is a drip under pressure – but the client is the ultimate expert on their own pet. They see the animal on a daily basis and they know its usual behaviour at home, away from the stresses of the veterinary clinic. Caring for the animal is a team effort of my experience and expertise (hopefully) and their love and care for their animal.