Welcome to our new blog series: Inside Veterinary Blogs – How you can join the pack. In this new series you'll get to meet the people behind some of my favourite veterinary blogs and find out how and why they do what they do. Thank you to Dr Anne Fawcett for agreeing to take part and being our inaugural post!
What is your blog all about?
Smallanimaltalk is about the veterinary profession and companion animals, but also touches on broader issues like the wellbeing of the veterinary profession and the welfare of animals more broadly.
Why did you decide to start writing it?
I got a bit over the us:them division. Blogs aimed at vets were often negative about clients in general, and blogs aimed at clients are so often dumbed down. It made little sense to me. I am a veterinarian and companion animal guardian/steward(whatever appropriate word you wish to use) and so I consider myself in both groups. I too use veterinary services.
Recently there’s been a lot of work in the welfare sphere and an increased emphasis on recognising positive emotions (aka affect) in animals as well as what the world is like “from an animal’s point of view”. So one aim was to bring this to a wider audience (vets and non-vets). I also wanted to discuss two other subjects of great interest to me: continuing education (aka CPD – continuing professional development) and reflective practice. Reflective practice is not about being a perfectionist or a self-flagellator – it’s about reflecting on how you might have done things differently, with the benefit of hindsight and a bit of distance. I will never be the perfect vet, and don’t think anyone can. I think people can be better vets.
I think you can only grow as a professional if you have the space to do so. Becoming a veterinarian involves quite a lot of stress, fear and anxiety in terms of doing well at school, uni and getting everything “right” – but you can only grow if you have space to reflect honestly and without fear on your strengths, weaknesses and how you can improve. So it’s also about not being judgemental.
How frequently do you blog?
Too often! Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays although occasionally I struggle and a post is missed. I don’t beat myself up about it. But blogs are content-eating monsters. When I miss a post the visits drop.
How much time do you think it takes up? How do you find the time?
Um, loads. However the subject matter is the stuff I live and breathe, I am studying and teaching in this area also. It’s something I am interested in so somehow I find the time. I don’t have human offspring, I don’t watch much TV, I have worked out how to take my laptop into the bath without being electrocuted.
How do you come up with topics?
People suggest them, I come across them in my reading or studying, or they emerge from online news, shared posts and links from colleagues, or (occasionally) eureka moments. Most ideas come when I am in the shower or walking, i.e. not sitting at the computer.
How did you set up your blog?
Got onto Blogger (although everyone else in the blogging universe seems to like WordPress), went to some blogging workshops, refined it, enlisted the services of blogger Sarah von Bargen (of yesandyes.org) to review the site and provide some tips and just did it.
What goals do you have for your blog? What are your aim/s?
The aim is really to discuss issues around companion animal welfare, veterinary continuing education and reflective practice – and to try to explore human-animal interactions. I like disseminating academic research to a wider audience. You can publish in journals with huge impact factors but it doesn’t mean that this will impact the wellbeing of actual animals. There’s also not much room for humour in journals and yet being a vet wouldn’t be what it is without humour.
How has your blog supported or complemented your practice/business?
It’s motivated me to reflect more on what I do, encouraged me to interview lots of people and given me an outlet. I do a bit of freelance writing so occasionally requests come through the blog, but more often than not I get an email from someone around the world who wants to use some of the images in their conference presentation.
And I don’t mind when people ask, it’s lovely to know that I’m providing something useful.
I try to promote academic research – so for example if someone is running a survey on canine behaviour or cat welfare, I post it to promote this work. I think lots of people who share their lives with non-human animals enjoy feeling like they’re contributing to this.
What has been your most rewarding blogging moment?
There have been a few. A newly graduated veterinarian approached me and said my posts about being a new grad helped them a lot. A senior colleague told me that a post I’d written on burnout prompted them to see a counsellor, and they ended up going part-time and feeling much happier.
Has your blog helped you to build connections in the pet/vet community or meet people you may not have otherwise met?
Definitely. Strangely enough I’ve ended up reviewing quite a few books and interviewing authors which is fantastic. And I do get emails from overseas from people I’d not have otherwise contacted. It’s also motivated me to get out and cover events that I think would be of interest, so occasionally gives me the illusion that I have a wild and exciting life 🙂
What is your favourite thing about having a blog?
Being able to provide useful, original content in the age of information overload. It’s hard and sometimes I have my moments of doubt and think, “am I just contributing to all this white noise?” But it’s lovely when someone drops you a line saying they enjoyed it, or asks a question, or tweets a post.
If I could presume to give advice to other would-be bloggers, it would be:
- Read blogs.
If you’re not reading and enjoying other blogs, why have your own? I use bloglovin to keep track of blogs I enjoy.
- Don’t be a negative blogger.
There are sites which are all about vets or nurses or vet techs bitching about clients. I don’t think that helps anyone and it's actually impossible not to let that toxicity seep into your own soul. We all do dumb things once in a while, we’re all capable of being clueless about something or other, and any of us can panic when the wellbeing of our loved one is at stake – even if that concern turns out to be baseless. The net is so full of trolls, there’s no need for more. If I’ve had a challenging or bad day, I don’t blog about it. I ring my long-suffering mum. Or a friend.
- Use images.
I use images with every post, even if the non-humans I cohabit with are pictorially over-represented. It’s more engaging. I do censor surgical images because I am aware I am very desensitised, but where I do use them I try to use them responsibly. Always ask permission if you want to use someone else’s images. Usually they say yes but it’s important to check.
If you have any questions you'd like to ask Anne, just add them into the Comments section below.
Anne and Phil by Pierre Margaga, My Dog's Territory
Anne and wonderdog by Jane Ion
Anne Fawcett is a companion animal veterinarian, academic and writer with a special interest in animal welfare and ethics. She "can't get enough of the vetty stuff", which is why she is compelled to constantly share knowledge with colleagues, students and the wider animal-curious community. She completed a degree in philosophy before becoming a veterinarian, so she enjoys asking the big questions. She cohabits with several guinea pigs, two cats, and one very small dog with a big personality that everyone knows as Phil.
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