Hello to all the amazing women out there! My name is Amanda, and I am excited to make my Vinea debut by sharing my story. While my story is definitely still being written, I wanted to share a small piece of it with you today to exemplify the powerful things that can occur when women come together and support one another. Through my friendship with Shelby Ooten (CEO of Vinea), I was introduced to this incredible idea of bringing women together from all walks of life in order to allow us all to further our professional careers, create a reliable support system, and hopefully gain long lasting friendships in the process. Although it is a new program, just the concept of Vinea has already begun to make its impact in my life simply by making me take a step back and consider my own situation. It is no secret that women face their own unique challenges when it comes to the workplace and life in general, and I am no exception.
Through the vision of Vinea and my friendships with the team behind it, I recently found the courage to make some incredible life changes. It seemed that every time my friends and I met for brunch, a hike, a cycling class, or whatever, that we would inevitably have vent sessions about things in our lives that we were struggling with (as many girl outings tend to be like!) What I noticed was that my friends ended up being the much-needed mirror into my life that led me to question my goals, my happiness, and the things holding me back. So, as I dared to brave the uncertainty of some major career moves, we all kept thinking, “this support system is what every woman needs.” Without my friendships with these likeminded female professionals (who have truly been mentors in my life), who knows how long or IF I would have decided to make these big scary steps to a brighter and happier future for myself!? Many women (including myself) are perfectionists, people pleasers, and not willing to gamble when it comes to pursuing our dreams in fear of failing. While those attributes can sometimes be beneficial, they can also act as a double-edged sword to our future goals. The hope of a program like Vinea is to provide a vital stepping stone that all women can use to get out of their own way and better find that path to success.
So what did this process look like for me? To paint a picture for you, I am a veterinarian and have worked in small animal general practice for about six years. For the most part, I have LOVED my career. Through these past six years, I have learned so much about the ever-changing world that is veterinary medicine, developed incredible relationships with my clients and patients, and discovered a love for veterinary dentistry. When I was younger, my goal was to become a veterinarian and make a huge impact saving lives and being there for my clients no matter what. Now, I can honestly say that I have achieved that goal and find myself at a point in my life where I am wanting more. More flexibility to do what I love (dentistry), more leadership responsibility, and more work life balance. Over time, I realized I couldn’t accomplish this by working full time at my current practice. Most veterinarians would argue that the job is never “done” even if all appointments have been seen and our doors have closed. Many of us are managing cases overnight, constantly researching to help decide the next best step for our patient, etc. With all that my full-time position demanded, I often found myself to be in poor mental health trying to juggle it all along with attempting to pursue new ambitions (dentistry, teaching, and Vinea). Although I love my patients and clients fiercely and the thought of not seeing them on a regular basis made the decision extremely difficult, I knew I had to pursue other opportunities.
I discovered a love for veterinary dentistry while pursuing continuing education after veterinary school. This is an important area of veterinary medicine which is, unfortunately, not well taught in most veterinary schools. Along with attending structured continuing education courses, I have studied this subject feverishly on my days off (I am a true nerd to the core). This new knowledge combined with my love for surgery and high-quality medicine made my skillset as a veterinarian very unique. I work at a busy practice and have had a hard time keeping up with the demand of patients in need of this particular service along with all the other patients I continue to see on a routine basis. As this continued, I found that I was stretching myself too thin and burning myself out.
For those not in the health care field, you may not know about the extremes that our careers often push us to at the detriment of our mental health. In 2016, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported health care professionals as one of the top 3 occupational groups with the highest rate of suicide. In 2014, the CDC sent out an online survey to 10,000 veterinarians and found that 1 in 6 had considered suicide. Recently documented in the Boston Globe is that veterinarians suffer from feelings of hopelessness, depression, and other psychiatric disorders two to three times more often than the general population. Two studies published in the British Veterinarian Association’s journal, The Veterinary Record, found suicide rates are double or more than those of dentists and doctors, and four to six times higher than the general population. Reasons being: burn out, compassion fatigue, insurmountable school loans, clients that expect us to be available twenty-four seven, and complaints of treatment costs that are often out of our control. I, along with so many of my colleagues, have suffered through this quite a bit. Often silently.
In order to take better control of my life and prevent the burn-out I felt approaching, I made the decision to pursue and create other opportunities I was passionate about despite my gut-wrenching fear of rejection and failure. You all should know, this girl has bills to pay and a large amount of student loan debt to pay off. Considering my stable job at a well-regarded practice with great benefits, I often found myself asking “Is it smart to rock this boat?”. Regardless, I knew I couldn’t be the doctor I wanted to be if I stayed in my current situation, so I rocked it. And it was every bit as terrifying and frustrating as I thought it would be. With each idea, I would gather up the courage to make a change… only to find that plan ultimately failed. So, I brainstormed every single day to come up with a solution that would work for me at my practice. With constant struggling and tears over several months, I still chose not to give up… my life and my future are too important for me to give up. Through this perseverance, I am now happy to say, that I am taking those necessary steps and finding success through my failed attempts. It is a work in progress, but I am immensely happier that I am finally working towards that light at the end of my tunnel and finding what works for me. And if it wasn’t for the encouragement and meaningful advice from my friends, I would still be stuck dreaming about that light rather than progressing towards it.
Aside from my veterinary career, my other passions include helping and learning from other strong women and making more of an impact in my community. When Shelby came to me with this vision, I reacted with happy tears at the chance to turn this passion into a reality. I am so passionate about what Vinea can become and what it has to offer that I wanted to be available to throw my all into it. This new opportunity has awakened my creative side and brought even more meaning to my life.
I am here to tell you…. life is too short to be stuck in a career that doesn’t fulfill you, that doesn’t challenge you, and that doesn’t show up for you. Failure happens, and with recent career moves that I have made, I may still fail….. and that’s ok. However, with surrounding myself with strong women, my chances (AND YOUR CHANCES) of failing are much less! Let’s stand up for each other, share our struggles and passions, and create the life we are meant to live! Think of all that we could achieve… if instead of always trying to get a leg up on our own… we become each other’s cheerleaders?!
Amanda Ensor, DVM
Vinea Board Member