Creating a 21st Century Integrative Veterinary Medicine Practice to Improve the Well Being of Your Staff, Patients, Clients, You and Your Family
The integration of mind body wellness medicine allows us to create a healthier, happier, practice environment for all. My approach is based on incorporating the latest research in neuroscience and quantum physics with the human animal bond and veterinary practice management. Practical approaches that you can immediately integrate into your practice and life will be discussed.
The current state of veterinary medicine has created such high levels of stress, pressure and anxiety among veterinarians and their staff that veterinarians have reached the dubious notoriety of having the highest suicide rate of medical health care professionals, surpassing dentists who previously held that record. This is the current state of affairs in our profession. An innovative, transdisciplinary approach can help us evolve and create a more expansive view of what it means to be a veterinarian and where we can go in co-creating healing practices for the 21st century. This approach is based on integrating neuroscience and quantum physics with the human animal bond and veterinary medicine.1
For four decades my practice philosophy was that no one form of medicine has all the answers and we should explore all diagnostic and therapeutic options to assist animals under our care to be able to heal as much as possible.
As I studied other approaches, I began to recognize the importance of mind–body medicine and took advanced training at Harvard Medical School in their Department of Mind Body Medicine (MBM). I began to incorporate that into everything I did in my practice and my life. I continued to take further advanced trainings in MBM and integrated these approaches into the way I was with clients, patients, staff, colleagues and family. Some of the most beneficial and practical approaches are described in this paper.
Mind/Body Medicine Approach (MBM)
Mind/Body medicine (MBM) is a rapidly expanding field in human medicine and its applications for veterinarians are just beginning to be explored. In its simplest definition, Mind/Body medicine is the use of our mental activity, thoughts and feelings to help prevent and treat various “diseases”. Studies in MBM document the effects of thoughts on the release of various neurotransmitters and neurohormones and the impact that has on our physical, mental and emotional health.12 I have found that integrating various practices of MBM into a comprehensive integrative approach is beneficial for veterinarians as well as their staff, family, clients and patients. Extended workshops in MBM training are offered through my Center for Integrative Animal Health. MBM can be of benefit by creating an atmosphere of calmness, compassion and mindfulness when working with animals and their human caretakers. It can help prevent compassion fatigue and burn out for veterinarians and their staff.
Research from the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard University compared the most ancient and the most recent approaches to meditation and found two simple steps that they all incorporate. Dr. Benson at Harvard calls this scientific approach “The Relaxation Response.” This technique will be practiced as part of the lecture. MRI studies on freshman college students evaluated by Dr. Davidson at the University of Wisconsin Neuroscience laboratory have shown that simply taking ten minutes a day to focus on quieting the mind and then on compassion for all beings actually stimulates areas in the prefrontal cortex for joy. Practicing this approach for only two weeks actually stimulated positive changes in the brain. Approaches on integrating this into your practice and life will be discussed.
Research at the HeartMath Institute has documented the electromagnetic field emanating from the human heart and how that field impacts on others. In my last book, The Compassionate Equestrian,2 I discussed the potential impact that these various studies can have on human–animal interactions in animal hospitals, shelters, horse barns and anywhere animals and humans interact. I proposed two new theories integrating the latest neuroscience research, quantum physics and electromagnetic fields with a new possibility of human animal interactions. This theory is called “The Trans-species Field Theory” (TSFT). Essentially, I propose that the multitude of human/animal interactions at animal hospitals or shelters creates an overall energetic field that manifests every day. The second theory I propose is called “The Compassionate Field Theory.” This theory states that by incorporating a conscious intention into the field, one can have a beneficial effect on the entire field. The neuroscience research at the University of Wisconsin neuroscience lab offers us an approach to create a happier mental state by integrating quiet focused intention on compassion for all beings one can create a more conscious energetic field in your veterinary practice and your life. By integrating these practices into your veterinary practice and your life, you can improve relationships with your staff, colleagues, clients, patients and your family. This is one of the foundation approaches to creating a happier, healthier 21st century integrative practice.
Another approach to mind body medicine focuses on sound healing and the latest research on the effects of sound on brain function.3,4 Different binaural sound frequencies have been found to quiet the brain, stimulate alpha, beta and theta waves, decrease stress and increase sense of well being. These sound healing techniques can be very beneficial in decreasing stress at the end of the day.
Various sound frequencies and music have also been found to be of benefit to dogs. Veterinary neurologist, Dr. Susan Wagner, authored a book, Through a Dog’s Ear,5 on how sound can improve the health and behavior of dogs and created a cd of classical music that has been clinically demonstrated to soothe a dog’s nervous system.6 This CD seems to be quite beneficial for animal shelters, animal hospitals and for patients with separation anxiety.
Recent research on the need for quiet, contemplative time in a busy schedule and life and the implications are updated in the book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Cannot Stop Talking.7 I sense that many veterinarians tend to be introverts. I know that personally, I related to many of the stories in the book. In addition, an eastern tradition offers the prescription of “The Three Precious Pills,” which will be discussed here as well.
We as veterinarians are in a unique position as caretakers of animal companions, which inherently assist in opening the hearts of our clients. I propose that veterinary medicine may be a much broader field than we ever imagined. Perhaps veterinary medicine can be even more expansive and that each animal care location can be a place for expanding compassion in each and every community and thereby be a vehicle for making the world a happier and healthier place. We have the ability to be of so much more benefit to the world by being and expressing loving kindness and compassion in every thought and action we take. This is one example of how the integration MBM into our veterinary practices and lives can be of immense benefit to the entire world.
The future of veterinary practice continues to evolve. Stress appears to continue to increase in our practices as well as throughout the world. A new world view of how veterinary medical practice can be of benefit to all beings in our community and society based on the integration of mind body medicine is open to all of us to co-create. A new concept of how veterinary practices can become centers of compassion in society and be of practical benefit to all living beings can be shared and co-created between all of us.
1. Schoen, A. Mind/Body Medicine for Veterinarians and Applications in Clinical Practice, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Annual Conference Proceedings, CVMA, July, 2013.
2. Schoen A, Gordon S. The Compassionate Equestrian, 25 Principles to Live by When Caring for and Working with Horses. Trafalgar Press, VT, 2015.
3. Harris B. Thresholds of the Mind. Centerpointe Press, Oregon, 2002.
4. Hemisync. Monroe Institute, www.monroeinstitute.com (VIN editor: Link was not accessible as of 9-24-2020).
5. Wagner S, Leeds J. Through a Dog’s Ear, Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Canine Companion. Sounds True Publications, 2010.
6. Spector L, Leeds J. Through a Dog’s Ear, Music to Calm Your Companion, Volume 1. Sounds True Publications, 2010.
7. Cain S. Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Crown Pub, NY, 2012.