By Jess Ayers
Two years ago, my Lead DVM gifted me a beautiful Amaryllis for Christmas with the instructions of “Keep the roots in water but don’t mess with it otherwise. When it dies, let it dry out. Next year, put the roots in the water again and it will come back. Easy!” For the next few weeks, I enjoyed the beauty of this flower daily. When it withered and died, I took solace in the fact that the next year, I’d be able to relive the joy of successful plant ownership. Sadly, my reality was not quite so seamless. Though I kept the roots in water the following year, all that was produced was a super foul odor. I didn’t dare tell the DVM that gifted me her prize Amaryllis, though to be honest, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise – my many desktop succulents in adorable planters have become somewhat of an office cautionary tale.
Fast forward to yesterday: while visiting a colleague in her new hospital, I noticed a cute glass containing a bulbous plant with super long roots suspended in water and beautiful green shoots coming up. Immediately, I recognized this as an Amaryllis in progress. When I commented on the plant, she told me that her new lead DVM gifted her the plant on her first day, telling her, “We’re going to grow together.” What a beautiful sentiment!
While washing dishes this morning, I stared at my glass votive housing the Amaryllis bulb wondering why it didn’t thrive. I gave it water but didn’t over nurture it. I encouraged it daily. It had good roots… So why wasn’t it growing as expected?
I pondered the subtle differences in the two plants:
- The bulb on her plant was similar to the inside of an onion. The brown dry layers had been peeled away, revealing a shiny, vulnerable layer. My own plant, while bigger, had a bit of fungus and rot beneath the layers, from years of experience.
- Her root system was clean and tidy as if any debris had been scrubbed away. Mine were muddled, murky and stinky.
- Her housing was supportive and shaped in such a way that allowed for the roots to grow long and deep.
The similarities between my plant and new support staff in the veterinary settings across the world aren’t lost on me. So often in vet med, new teammates come aboard, having been trained elsewhere. They have the experience, so when they arrive at our door, they’re tossed in to “sink or swim.” We find ourselves frustrated when they’re not performing to our expectations and either cut them loose or slightly resent them for not being the teammate you were hoping they’d be. Have we peeled back those layers to see what’s underneath? Have we cleaned up their root system to allow them to really thrive? Are we providing a supportive environment for growth?
While these are things I’ll certainly keep in mind as when bringing new teammates on board, there's also some value in “peeling back the layers” and “cleaning the roots” of my current team, to see what we’re really working with. Who knows, maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Unchartedvet.com editorial team.
Jess Ayers is currently the Hospital Manager of Bonnie Brae Veterinary Hospital in Columbus, NC. Like many, she was given a two day introduction into the role and has been doggy paddling her way through veterinary medicine for 10+ years.
When she isn't working, she enjoys fresh air, rewatching Harry Potter, Buffy or West Wing with her puppies and spending time with people that make her laugh.