Today's Veterinary Business

FEB 2019

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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40 Today's Veterinary Business Community Practice owners and supervi- sors need to know, understand and appreciate the challenges of being different when clients, and even fellow colleagues, discriminate against veterinary professionals from underrepresented backgrounds. Discrimination Makes Us Sick According to Merriam-Webster dic- tionary, discrimination is a "preju- diced or prejudicial outlook, action or treatment." Certainly, a great deal of evidence reveals the long-term systemic and institutional effects of discrimination, but we often stray from an adequate understand- ing of how discrimination affects individuals. In a culture quick to label those who are offended as "snowflakes," it is important to break down just how interpersonal discrimination affects us. A large body of literature shows that continued exposure to indi- vidual episodes of discrimination is correlated with lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, psychological distress and life satisfaction. Indi- viduals experiencing discrimination have a higher incidence of next-day depression, and when the discrim- ination is persistent, the ability to recover on a day-to-day basis — the bounce back, if you will —is muted. Numerous findings indicate an ongoing vigilance for prejudice or discrimination and how this emotional state triggers threat emotions such as anger and hostil- ity. In attempts to reduce opportu- nities for exposure to discrimina- tion, individuals might withdraw whenever possible, which limits discrimination exposure and opportunities for intervention. A 2014 study found that discrimina- tion had a strong negative overall impact on well-being. The effects of discrimination are not just related to mental health. Over the long term, discrimination has measurable physical health impacts as well. A 2012 study found that merely anticipating prejudice triggered increased cardiovascular stress. Emotion- ally internalizing discriminatory behavior also can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, higher risk of substance abuse and reduced immunocompe- tence. In fact, the well-known and well-documented health dispari- ties seen in minority communities around the world are believed to largely stem from long-term exposure to discrimination. Discrimination Leads to Big Problems This is not your parents' or grandpar- ents' discrimination that was clearly documented in history books. Dis- crimination in the practice setting can be less overt, more passive- aggressive and, to untrained eye or ear, nothing to fret about. The reality Community DIVERSITY TOOLBOX is that many do fret about it, and it is affecting their work. Think of the client who insists her dog does not like black people. Or the colleague who insinuates that someone's admittance into veterinary school displaced a bet- ter qualified student. It might show up at the staff meeting where no one seems to hear the comments offered by the veterinarian of a dif- ferent race. It could be the happy hour that includes everyone at the practice except the gay colleagues. It could be the off-color jokes casually and routinely circulated around the office. It could be a lack of awareness that leads to numer- ous incidents of microaggressions or small, indirect, subtle insults that focus on areas of difference. All these things add up to an undesir- able work environment. If employers allows discrim- ination and prejudice to persist unchecked, you can expect to see the development of a toxic work environment. These environments simply do not work well. Here is why. A lack of trust among co- workers will flourish. Why I read a blog post by a Hispanic veterinarian who shared her experience of navigating racial and gender discrimination in practice. I found myself nodding along at her story and pondering all the similar stories I have heard over the years from practitioners who said clients told them their animals "didn't like [insert group of people here]." The stories often contained some humor focusing on how silly they were, but the veterinarians and team members who shared them experienced negative impacts from the interactions. By Lisa M. Greenhill, MPA, EdD 1 Practice without prejudice Discrimination in the workplace takes many forms and is destructive emotionally, mentally and physically.

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