Episode 25 – Setting Boundaries and Reducing Burnout In VetMed with Dr. Danielle Alleman

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Click here to see a full transcript, but please excuse any errors as it was transcribed automatically using Otter.ai!

Stacey Cordivano 0:07
Hey there, it’s Dr. Stacey Cordivano. I want veterinarians to learn to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and more grateful for the life that we’ve created. On this podcast, I will speak with outside of the box thinkers to hear new ideas on ways to improve our day to day life. Welcome to the whole veterinarian.

We can probably all agree that protecting your emotional well being as a veterinarian falls squarely on your own shoulders. We unfortunately aren’t at a place where this is common or encouraged in most workplaces. And so it falls under the never ending to do list of the individual that Yeah, we’ll definitely get to doing that at some point, right. My guest today is going to change that Dr. Danielle Alamin sees wellness initiatives such as boundary setting and prioritizing oneself outside of work as a way to combat toxic workplace culture, she hopes that this will lead to a reduction in the burnout that is so rampant within our profession. Danielle is a small animal veterinarian practicing in northwest Washington State. And as the founder of empathic veterinary wellness, and pafos. That is an online platform for now aimed at bringing awareness to topics around well being and mental health. I had a great time connecting with her. And I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.

Hey, Danielle, I’m so glad we’re finally getting to sit down and chat today.

Danielle Alleman 1:39
Yeah, I’m so excited to do this with you.

Stacey Cordivano 1:42
I mean, I feel like we know each other so well now, but really, it’s just through Instagram.

Danielle Alleman 1:48
I know, I still can’t decide if it’s like a COVID thing, or just that I’m finally meeting people on social media that I just feel have so many of the same values as I do. But there’s like this group of us that I feel like I know really well. But I haven’t actually met any of you.

Stacey Cordivano 2:04
I really do feel like it promotes support, and like continuing to push forward. And I think that’s been an awesome part of Instagram for me that I wasn’t really expecting. Okay, so you formed Empathos Vet, which is an online wellness and practice culture transformation platform in 2020. And I’m curious, I want to hear a little bit about where that came from how you got here a little bit about you?

Danielle Alleman 2:33
Yeah, so I graduated vet school in 2017. I’m a Cornell grad. And during my time at school, I was always pretty interested in wellness type stuff, our student wellness initiative started while I was in school, me and a bunch of other classmates were a big part in getting that going. So wellness and well being and kind of promoting, at the time, student wellness was something that was really important to me. And I feel like I graduated and I felt like, you know, I was going to be well, this had been really important to me during school. And I feel like so many new grads feel this way, if that you just get like thrown out into practice and you like don’t actually, it’s it’s just like,

Stacey Cordivano 3:16
A lot.

Danielle Alleman 3:17
Yeah. Haha. I ended up the first year that I was out in practice like sort of ended up in survival mode and all the things where I was, like, taught myself to be well, I kind of just threw those by the wayside and was just purely surviving. And went through episodes of pretty significant burnout and feeling like, you know, I am one of those people that is wanting to be a vet since they were five, and how could I be so shortly out of school and feeling so overwhelmed, and so burnt out? And I’m a person that’s supposed to be into wellness, and why can’t I do it, it was very much focused on like, what’s wrong with me. And feeling like I wanted to make a change. And then other people were having similar struggles, but just feeling so overwhelmed and like, where to start. And I think you know exactly the things that came together to form Empathos. It was like this small idea in my head that I think I had a lot of extra time during the beginning of quarantine. And about this time last year, I was just sitting there and a name came into my head and I didn’t do anything about that name for about six months. It just was like a little Instagram account. I didn’t post a thing, like it was just sitting there in like hopes that maybe some day I would do something with it. And last fall probably for a variety of reasons, I think my own personal burnout I was experiencing over the summer. And then I actually had a classmate that died by suicide and I think those two things together, were just like, you know what, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where this is gonna go, but I want to do something. And I was like, I promised that I would post something on Instagram twice a week for six months and see what happened. And here we are.

Stacey Cordivano 4:52
That has paid off. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Like you said, we don’t know what we’re doing but we just want to do something to help and I think that that is admirable. And I also think it’s really interesting that you so quickly threw all that wellness stuff out the window. So that was not my experience in vet school. I’m not sure wellness was a word when I was in vet school, I’m dating myself a little bit here. And I’m actually not sure it’s in many colleges. So I think it’s awesome that Cornell has one. But yeah, I think that that says a lot that even though you are so interested in it, just the daily grind of practice and new veterinarian life made you so quickly, kind of throw that out the window.

Danielle Alleman 5:35
Yeah, I think in school, you’re like, vet school is so hard. And I’m just trying to get through vet school and graduate. And then there’s going to be like, this wonderful life on the other side, where I’m not a student and not studying all the time. And I don’t have these really long hours in the hospital. And for me, it was always like, I’m just trying to get to the end of school. And then you get in practice, and you’re like, oh, wait a minute. I have a whole lifetime. Like, I’m trying to figure out challenges and struggles and that kind of thing. That just like did not account for which looking back. I’m like, how did you not? But I don’t know. You’re just when you’re a student. Everything is so what you’re living in at the moment. And I don’t think I really thought about after graduation. I was like, I got a job. I did it. It’s over.

Stacey Cordivano 6:14
It was funny, right? Before we hopped on this call, I was just looking at Instagram, and someone posted, just finished my abs hour in the hospital on my neurology rotation. And I was like, oh, man, they start us off…not well.

Danielle Alleman 6:29
Yeah. Yeah.

Stacey Cordivano 6:31
Do you have ideas on like, if you could wave a magic wand, what you would change about veterinary medicine to make it more sustainable or provide better boundaries and wellness for veterinarians and students?

Danielle Alleman 6:43
I just feel like, and I feel like this is pretty ubiquitous across health professions. But I just feel like looking back, I’m like, there’s no way that I wasn’t going to be set up to not have any boundaries. And we have a lot of us have this dream from when we’re young. And we’ll do anything and everything to get into vet school and get the best grades. And a lot of that, like our perfectionist tendencies are just like, amped up, you know, even before we get to vet school, and then we get there. And it can be pretty competitive. And you always want to say yes to everything, because that’s how you achieve more in our whole life up until you graduate is kind of based on perfectionism. No Boundaries, say yes to everything. And we’re like striving for really good grades, right? Like all these things. And then you graduate, and nobody’s like, okay, but you have to stop doing all those things. Because all of those things are what lead to burnout. You know, us saying yes to every appointment, or every person that calls or, you know, bending over backwards for our clients, when they’re not even really that nice to us, or working in a practice that doesn’t really appreciate you or like, there’s so many things that that made sense in that school, but then it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense in practice. And then we wonder why so many of us are, are miserable in practice.

Stacey Cordivano 8:05
We’ve talked about boundaries a little bit, how do you define boundaries and setting boundaries? And what does that do for a person?

Danielle Alleman 8:12
I didn’t know what the word boundaries meant, like, like, not that long ago, right. And now I feel like it’s like a buzzword, but I feel like it’s good to define it. So there’s a lot of different ways that people define it in a lot of ways that I really like. But when I think about it, it’s just boundaries are the rules that you create for yourself and other people so that you can teach people how to treat you. I think that’s so important in veterinary medicine. And when I started Empathos that was my big thing was like burnout. burnout is the reason that everyone’s so miserable. And then it was like, how how that seems like such a big overwhelming thing to talk about. And when you talk about overcoming burnout, like you can’t, it’s hard to give like tips and tricks and a lot of times the things that people will say to overcome burnout are like, kind of like the fluff

Stacey Cordivano 9:01
well and burnout is like the result, right. You know, like, that’s not the problem

Unknown Speaker 9:05
Yeah, Exactly. I was always like, we’ve got to fix burnout. But it was like, none of the tools like or tips to get there like really ever made a lot of sense to me. And then I kind of I’m not even really sure what stumbled me into boundaries, but it was like, Oh, my gosh, this is it. I have none.

Stacey Cordivano 9:22
and we’re like really taught to have done like you said,

Danielle Alleman 9:25
we’re taught to have none. Yeah, which actually everybody has boundaries. It’s just a matter of if they’re, they’re loose or firm or healthy. And most veterinarians have porous boundaries, which a lot of us think of as having no boundaries at all. I just realized that I was responsible for how other people were treating me, right, my co workers, my boss, my clients, I was setting them up to treat me with not a ton of respect. And I realized it was a lot of my own doing. And then I think the other thing we realized about boundaries too, is people learn about that and they’re like, Yeah, but I don’t want to say no or I feel bad saying no when. So there’s a lot of things that I think we’re taught either in school or just over the course of our lives of like, boundaries make you weak, or you don’t deserve to have healthy boundaries, like you should still say yes. And there’s a lot of that, like people pleasing and and perfectionist tendencies going on.

Stacey Cordivano 10:18
I think one of the bigger statements for me that started resonating was every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. So generally, we’re saying yes to everyone else. But that means we’re saying no to ourselves, or our family or other healthy things like exercise. I mean, I’m still failing in that department. But I mean, it’s no joke. And so part of what you are doing right is helping people learn about setting boundaries, how to do that, right?

Danielle Alleman 10:47
Exactly. Yeah. And for me like that, I mean, boundaries show up everywhere. But I want to help people at work, right? in veterinary medicine, how did boundaries show up for us? What ones are going to be important for you to have firm boundaries? what my boundaries look like, are going to be different than yours. And we’re all different. You know, I can’t give people like you should set these five boundaries, and you’re going to be super happy.

Stacey Cordivano 11:10
Yeah, yeah, that’s a good point.

Danielle Alleman 11:12
everybody’s life and and priorities are different, and that kind of thing. So it’s just like, recognizing what they are, what ones are most important to you? A lot of it’s like how we stand in our own way. And then kind of some of those like, self limiting beliefs to like not feeling deserving or worthy of those types of things. Because I hear that a lot from people. They’re like, yeah, this sounds great. But like, I could never do that. I don’t feel like I’m worth that.

Stacey Cordivano 11:36
Do you have any idea where that comes from? That I don’t deserve to set boundaries.

Danielle Alleman 11:41
I think it’s, I think of vet school, and probably before that, too. But I think a lot of it is like when you’re in an academic setting, it’s like who can do the most who can do the most extra shifts, who can come in on their day off or pick up extra oncall ships, and you’re not really worthy as a student? Maybe. And maybe this is like a story we’re telling ourselves, but this is what I feel like I was believing

Stacey Cordivano 12:07
the stories we’re telling ourselves are what we start believing.

Danielle Alleman 12:09
Exactly, you know, if we weren’t doing the most, we might as well not be doing anything.

Stacey Cordivano 12:15
Yeah. Something else you’ve posted about, which I think is related to this is self compassion, which is also a big learning thing for me in the past year or two. How do you see that integrating into all of this?

Danielle Alleman 12:30
Yeah, self compassion is also one of those things that I was like, I don’t know what that is. And when I heard about it, in the past, I was like, Oh, I just feel like you, you hear about, they’re just like, write a nice thing about yourself on your bathroom mirror. And then like, everyday, look at it. And someday you’ll believe it. And I was just like, I just don’t, I can’t. That’s not going to be for me. I can’t do that. But I like self compassion. And Kristin Neff is I feel like the self compassion expert, and I love her stuff. And I read her book. And a lot of that just made a lot of sense. And I feel like at some point I posted like, there’s so many self blank words, you know, self love, self worth, self compassion, self confidence. And just like, I don’t know what any of these mean, they all sound kind of the same. But I like self compassion, because it didn’t mean that you needed to see things positive all the time, it was very much about like, being honest with yourself, acknowledging that all of your feelings are valid, and kind of meeting yourself where you are. And I exceptionally like what she says about like when you’re going through a hard time trying to pretend that instead of you consoling yourself, it’s you consoling a friend. If a friend came up to you, and was like, This is what I’m going through, you would be so compassionate to them, I’m sure. But then somehow, and that’s ourselves. And it’s the same exact situation where like, suck it up Buttercup type thing, where we’re so hard on ourselves. And I think it was just the realization that like, emotions are okay feelings are okay, meet yourself where you’re at. Because we go through so many hard things, most days in this profession. And we can’t expect ourselves to be happy all the time, or that kind of thing. And so her book that I read, I just a lot of that really resonated with me different than other things in the past that felt fluffy and like things that were never going to work. You know, like, just tell yourself, you’re great every day until you believe it. Yeah,

Stacey Cordivano 14:22
yeah, I can link to some of her work in the show notes for people. Yeah. So what do you have going on currently that you’re offering for veterinarians?

Danielle Alleman 14:33
So right now, I have been working on a lot of like mini courses for both veterinarians and vet students kind of aimed around boundaries around self compassion around just kind of caring for specifically your mindset. I have some stuff coming up about evaluating where you’re at and your job, and if it’s something that you don’t like, should I stay or should I go type thing? Yeah, that’s great. So that’s kind of slowly coming in, and eventually we’ll have more of a library for people to do those kind of mini courses. But the biggest thing I have going on right now is a mastermind, which I feel like I’m just I’ve just been saying this the whole time of like another word that I just didn’t know existed until sort of recently, and I learned about it. And I feel like you did a little mini episode about masterminds too

Stacey Cordivano 15:19

Danielle Alleman 15:20
Which is maybe like, the first time I heard about it, and was like, wow, I don’t know why veterinary medicine hasn’t had this before.

Stacey Cordivano 15:25
So totally agree. They’re very helpful. I found them through not veterinary medicine, but real estate, actually,

Danielle Alleman 15:32
yeah. And they’re everywhere. Like so many professions are just groups of people do them, and I love it. And when I talked to veterinarians, they’re always like, I just wish that I had a group where I could talk to people, and we could provide support. But maybe it wasn’t the group that I was necessarily like, my co workers, you’re describing,you’re describing a mastermind.

Stacey Cordivano 15:50
oftentimes, like your co workers would not like, that would not work. Because trying to like work through a problem

Danielle Alleman 15:56
that’s like, perhaps directly related. So yeah, so right now I’m doing a mastermind that is going to be five veterinarians that are currently in private practice. It’s eight weeks long, and broken up into four sections. Awesome. So there’ll be a call every other week, mostly, because I know that we’re all really busy people. And it’s hard to get a bunch of veterinarians to find the time. And we’re kind of going to connect on different things. It’s about half full right now. So I have a couple of spots still available. But the group that’s coming together just seems wonderful. I’m really excited for it. And

Stacey Cordivano 16:35
that’s gonna start in mid April,

Unknown Speaker 16:37
mid April. Yeah. So April 14, content, the first week, the call the second week, and then kind of go into so I guess, mid June.

Stacey Cordivano 16:44
Awesome. I think that’s a great idea. I think people are definitely going to benefit from that. I’m sure this is gonna continue, because I can’t imagine how well it’s gonna go.

Danielle Alleman 16:54
Yeah, you know, I’m kind of doing what I know best, which is veterinarians and private practice right now. But my hope is to eventually kind of branch out include different people, because I think the power of like connection and community and supporting others, it’s just so powerful. There’s what I can provide. But there’s been so much that we can all learn from each other as well.

Stacey Cordivano 17:14
Oh, yeah.

Danielle Alleman 17:14
And that’s the part that I’m most excited about. That’s awesome.

Stacey Cordivano 17:17
I’m excited. I feel like maybe we’ll have to do another one of these and catch up about how it went. Yeah. All the different awesome experiences people had, if there was something you could leave people with, whether it’s like a tip or a recommendation is there one or two things you could leave people with?

Danielle Alleman 17:35
I would say one of the big things I love to talk about is that you are part of this profession. So you’re a veterinarian, you’re a vet tech, you’re a vet assistant, you’re a vet student. But you’re so much more than that. And I feel like I graduated vet school. And when people asked me what my hobbies were, it took a long time for me to answer that question. Because I just wasn’t sure who I was out of a vet student. That was my whole identity. And I think when we place all of our value, and all of our worth and all of our identity in a career path. I mean, being a veterinarian is so much of who I am. But it’s not all that I am. And I’m so much more than that. And I think the more that I kind of figure out who I am outside the profession, that allows me to get really clear about you know, what boundaries I do want to set and what other interests I have, and what other things are important to me and what my values are, and has just made me a much more well rounded person. And I think there’s a lot of danger and setting all of your worth on one thing, because then if you’re not happy, or if you’re burned out, or maybe you want to do something different, and that’s all you know, and that’s your whole identity, then that’s a really scary situation. So I’m always excited to hear about like, yeah, you’re in the profession. That’s awesome. But who else are you and what else matters to you, and what’s important to you, and that kind of thing. And more than just labels to some people will be like I’m a sister, or I’m a mom, or I’m a brother or whatever. And that’s super important. But like, Who else are you what else makes you tick and gets you excited to get up in the morning?That kind of thing.

Stacey Cordivano 19:09
Awesome. I think that’s perfect advice to leave people with. So thank you. Thanks so much for your time.

Danielle Alleman 19:15
Yeah, this is fun.

Stacey Cordivano 19:16
But I appreciate it. This is fun. And I hope people can dive into your content a little bit more. Where can they find you?

Danielle Alleman 19:23
I’m primarily Instagram @empatho.vet. I have a website and a Facebook presence as well, although a little bit less, but mainly Instagram. That’s where I hang out most of my time these days.

Stacey Cordivano 19:36
Perfect. All right, I’ll link all that in the show notes as well. And once again, thank you, I appreciate it.

Danielle Alleman 19:41
Thank you.

Stacey Cordivano 19:45
Okay, so here’s your challenge. Sit down for lunch without multitasking at least one time this week and let me know if you made it happen. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Dr. Danielle Alleman of Empathos Vet today. If you did, please share with a friend or leave a review on Apple podcasts. The feedback I receive does a lot to keep me going when things are busy and hectic around here. Make sure to follow me @thewholeveterinarian on Instagram and subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date. Thanks again for your time. I so appreciate you listening and I’ll talk to you again in two weeks.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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I’m Stacey

I want veterinarians to become happier, healthier, wealthier and more grateful for this life that we’ve created.

I understand the struggles of a stretched-too-thin veterinarian. I have also learned that with some individual work, there is a brighter side to veterinary medicine. Personal and financial development strategies have helped me find a happier place in my life and in my work. I hope to share resources that will resonate with my fellow veterinarian to allow you to become a more whole person.

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