The world of veterinary medicine can be both rewarding and challenging; we all certainly know that.
As we progress in our careers and build experience, it's important to equip ourselves not just
with clinical knowledge and skills, but also with self-efficacy. If you haven’t heard of this term
before, you’re in the right place.
In this blog post, we'll delve into what self-efficacy means and explore ways to build and nurture it, offering you actionable insights and top tips for your professional, and personal, growth.
This post is brought to you by Vet Empowered, a personal development and coaching
movement, co-founded by myself, Katie Ford, and fellow vet and coach Claire Grigson. Our
passion is to remind professionals of their value beyond their job titles, their potential and that
building a self relationship is key. Self-efficacy is a huge part of this, yet we don’t see it
What is Self-Efficacy?
Self-efficacy is more than just a buzzword; it's a concept that holds immense potential impact for those in the veterinary space and beyond. Coined by psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy refers to your belief in your own ability to achieve specific goals and overcome challenges. In simpler terms, it's about having confidence in your capacity to handle demands, challenges and opportunities, in professional life and beyond. Self-efficacy is different from arrogance or being overconfident, instead it is a clear and conscious appreciation of the skills and abilities that we might have otherwise overlooked. In the context of a self-relationship, this is us actively appreciating where we use our skills, using them with intention, backing and acknowledging ourselves.
Why Self-Efficacy Matters in Veterinary Medicine (and life!)
1. Bouncing Forward: Self-efficacious individuals tend to bounce forward from setbacks and
adversity more effectively. In the world of veterinary medicine, where every day can bring
unexpected challenges, this is a valuable trait. This isn’t about never struggling, but identifying
our needs, our support systems and our strengths to see what will help us.
2. Improved Problem-Solving: Believing in our ability to solve complex cases and make sound
decisions is pivotal. High self-efficacy encourages a proactive approach to problem-solving, as well as being aware of our limitations, seeing these as opportunities for potential growth rather than faults.
3. Increased Motivation: When we're confident in our skills, we're more motivated to take
action and continue to practice, growing even further. This drive can lead to improved patient
care, personal and professional growth. When we notice our abilities and gain intrinsic
satisfaction from a task, we are likely to be more motivated.
4. Reduced Stress: Self-efficacy may mitigate stress and anxiety levels. We often face
emotionally charged situations, and building confidence in our abilities can provide an anchor.
We also know that several studies note that higher self-efficacy may be linked to reduced
incidences of imposter syndrome (McDowdell et al, 2015).
Building Self-Efficacy: Top Tips for Veterinary Professionals
Now that we've explored why self-efficacy matters, let's delve into actionable insights to help
you build and nurture it throughout your veterinary career, and beyond.
1. Embrace a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort and
practice, the work of Carol Dweck. Cultivating a growth mindset can boost self-efficacy.
Understand that challenges and mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth, not
indications of failure. Embrace the journey of continuous improvement.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Keep a journal to reflect on your experiences, highlighting your
achievements and areas for growth. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small. Maybe aim
to write down 3 things that went well at the end of the day and that you’re choosing to celebrate.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Break down your aspirations into smaller, achievable goals; this doesn’t mean we think small,
we just make the actions doable and with intention. Whether it's mastering a specific surgical
technique or learning a new non-work related skill, setting realistic goals provides clarity and
direction. Start with small wins and gradually work your way up. When we set a goal with
intention, and follow through with that, we can consciously see the evidence that we can make things happen. At Vet Empowered, we do love to focus on the process too, rather than just the outcome; we think of setting goals as opportunities to grow, learn more about ourselves and do things differently along the way.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Ensure that your goals are specific and measurable, with a date on if
you wish. We know from work at the Dominican University of California that we are 43% more
likely to hit a goal if we write it down, and 76% more likely if we have weekly check-ins with a
3. Seek Mentorship and Guidance
Mentors and experienced colleagues can provide invaluable support in our journeys to
self-efficacy. Don't hesitate to reach out to them for advice, guidance, and insights; let’s not be
the ones to say no to ourselves. Their wisdom and encouragement can bolster our confidence, especially when we realise that they were once at the same stage as us.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Approach potential mentors with a clear plan of what you hope to learn or achieve through the mentorship, be prepared and have questions to ask.
4. See Upgrading Skills & Knowledge as an Opportunity
As a veterinary professional, staying up-to-date with the latest research, treatments, and
techniques is vital. We are always presented with new opportunities to learn more. Let’s
embrace these as just that - opportunities.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Create a professional development plan that outlines the skills and
knowledge you want to acquire in the short and long term. Regularly revisit and update this
plan, chat with mentors and look at how you’re choosing to encourage yourself along the way.
5. Build a Supportive Network
Surround yourself with a supportive network, whether veterinary related or not. Sharing
experiences, setbacks, and triumphs with like-minded individuals can provide a sense of
belonging and boost your confidence. At Vet Empowered, in our Signature Programme, the
power of being in a supportive group is one of our community’s favourite things; they also have the added support bonus of weekly coaching.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Consider who’s in your circle. Who adds to your support system? Who would you like to spend more time around?
6. Find a Coach
Consider seeking out a professional coach; many find it helpful if they work with veterinary
professionals. A coach can provide personalised guidance and strategies to boost your
self-efficacy. They can help individuals to identify strengths, address challenges, and to set clear career goals. A coach can be a valuable cheerleader and compassionate challenger in your journey to self-efficacy.
Top Tip: When selecting a coach, jump on a few discovery calls and feel out the vibe of an
individual. The most important thing is that you feel there’s a connection with your coach.
7. Embrace Self-Care
Self-efficacy is closely tied to our overall well-being, and it makes total sense; if we are
constantly doubting ourselves and our abilities, we will feel less fulfilled, and conversely if we’re exhausted, we may find it difficult to find the time to acknowledge ourselves. Let’s prioritise self-care practices that nourish your physical and mental health. A rested mind and body is more capable of tackling challenges with confidence.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Spend a little time to be curious on what helps you to feel cared for
and how you can set yourself up for success moving forward. Don't hesitate to seek
professional support if you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
8. Find & Create a Supportive Workplace
Studies have shown that those workplaces that individuals rate as highly supportive with see
improved levels of self efficacy, as well as reduced incidences of imposter syndrome
(McDowdell 2015). A highly supportive workplace included regular feedback, transparency, clear communication, plans for professional development and fairness, alongside many other things across the literature that come under ‘perceived organisational support’. What support looks like will have nuance and difference for each of us, even if there are common themes. Our workplace can make working on self-efficacy easier, or more difficult, depending on the level of support.
Vet Empowered Top Tip: Consider what types of support you need to help you to thrive at work. How might this affect you if this was possible? How might this help you to show up differently
and contribute to the team? Are there any conversations you could have to make positive
Let’s bring this back to the start…
In the realm of veterinary medicine, nurturing self-efficacy is not just a professional aspiration;
it's a cornerstone of your fulfillment and well-being overall. Remember that building self-efficacy is an ongoing process, and setbacks are a natural part of the journey; sometimes we will forget to reflect, or we might get drawn into stories. By embracing a growth mindset, setting realistic goals, seeking guidance, continuously learning, building a support network, celebrating achievements, and practicing self-care, you can empower yourself moving forward. Importantly, as we will always remind you, you are valuable and worth getting to know.
It’s never too late to start to build self-efficacy in our lives, whether personal or professional.
If you’d like to know more about what we do at Vet Empowered, head to
www.vetempowered.com, or drop us a follow @vetempowered.
McDowell W.C., Grubb W.L., III, Geho P.R. The impact of self-efficacy and perceived
organizational support on the imposter phenomenon. Am. J. Manag. 2015;15:23.