A practice that celebrates diversity among clients and team members will be more successful—it’s that simple.
Working in a veterinary practice, you’ll come in contact with clients and team members who have a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, beliefs, and perspectives. Embracing that diversity and creating a positive environment will develop better relationships with clients, attract better talent to your team, and generate new ideas that will improve performance.
Now more than ever, individuals are encouraged to look inwardly at how we can make the world a better place for everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, class, or culture. The same should go for the environment and relationships we build in our practices.
Dr. Zenithson Ng is a clinical assistant professor of the Community Practice Service at the University of Tennessee. He talks to Dr. Natalie Marks in a Quick Cup of Knowledge interview about his passion: bringing more diversity awareness to veterinary practices and studying how human-animal bonds are different across cultures.
As a first-generation Chinese-American born in New Jersey, Dr. Ng noticed while growing up that his parents’ view toward animals was different from that of some of his friends and their families. He was always aware of the deep connection he had with animals despite his parents not liking animals all that much. Because his parents grew up in China with a different perspective of animals, they did not develop that same feeling.
Going to veterinary school and working in veterinary practices allowed Dr. Ng to meet many people who developed remarkable bonds with their animals even though they weren’t exposed to animals growing up. These observations initiated Dr. Ng’s curiosity in cultural affinities toward animals and the cultural influence in the human-animal bond.
Embracing Diversity with Clients
No two clients are the same. Creating an environment where they feel comfortable and where the conversation about pet care is done with their individual circumstances in mind is something the veterinary community should focus on, according to Dr. Ng.
For example, the way one culture expresses love for their pets may differ from another. Opinions regarding letting pets sleep in bed with you may range. The client's cultural background may be helpful in guiding the conversation about diet or lifestyle.
Welcoming diversity will affect the relationship you have with clients and may help inform the solutions you recommend for better patient care.
Embracing Diversity with Your Team
While there aren’t many resources in veterinary literature on the topic of diversity, there are plenty of studies that support the idea that diversity leads to innovation and the ability to solve problems faster. Companies (or practices) that place emphasis on diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above the industry median.
According to this survey by Glassdoor, 67% of people consider diversity an important factor when deciding where to work. Embracing diversity to create a positive work environment will make sought-after people want to work with you.
Dr. Ng says celebrating diversity starts with simply listening to each other as teammates. Whether your practice is diverse in cultures, perspectives, or skills, sincerely listening to each other creates an environment of creativity and growth. Especially as we’ve seen the transition in veterinary medicine from a male majority to a female majority, listening to one another’s perspective and being willing to compromise is crucial to having a positive work environment.
As we pay more attention to the different cultures, perspectives, and talents around us, our veterinary practices become places where everyone feels comfortable and where they want to be. This will lead to better practice-client relationships, a better team, and better care.
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