Our series on “Champions for Change” features people of any gender in any role who are making a difference and creating positive change for women in the veterinary sector – enabling aspirations, inspiring and supporting others to grow and follow their passions, and empowering our community.

Gunila Pedersen is a small animal vet and Master Certified Life Coach, whose own experiences motivated her to coach other vets at a high level, offering one-to-one coaching, webinars and workshops. She was nominated as a Champion for Change by fellow vet, Silke Haen, who described how through being very open, Gunila created a business that serves pets the best: vets who love their job and stay in their job.”

Read on to find out more about Gunila’s approach and how she supports other veterinary women to enjoy the career they’ve worked so hard for.

Please provide a brief bio/summary of your career story:

Gunila Pedersen

I became a veterinary surgeon in 2004, and owned my own clinic for 9 years. I got burnt out and left vet med for a year, during which I discovered life coaching. Initially I sought help to become a better mum for my teenage daughters, as I felt our relationship was spinning out of control. The byproduct was that I became so at peace with myself and enthusiastic about life again that I started missing vet med. I became an ER vet and enjoyed it so much that I decided to help other veterinarians fall in love with their career again. I got certified as a life coach, and am passionate about helping others overcome burnout and enjoy life again. I still work in ER and have a lot of fun combining it with my coaching business!

Please summarise how you are working towards change in the veterinary professions and why do you feel this is important?

Vet med is a challenging profession, and we need tools to avoid stress and burnout. The truth is, if you’re emotionally and mentally strong you can deal with anything and conserve your joy and sanity.

Our education system does not prepare us at any point for the challenges of life. Our brains have simply not evolved to deal properly with modern life combined with the randomness of veterinary medicine, and it’s no wonder so many vets struggle with anxiety, stress and burnout. You shouldn’t have a stomach ache going to work, nor lay awake at night worrying about cases and clients, but that is the day to day of a lot of the vets I meet and coach.

Through life coaching we can learn the tools to build emotional and mental resilience, and have fun working in the career most of us dreamt about since we were kids.

How do you feel this is making a difference?

Feeling calm, confident and enthusiastic at work makes all the difference in our perception of veterinary life. This doesn’t mean we don’t need to make changes in the profession such as better working hours, salary, etc., but we don’t need to feel like wrung out dishcloths while we work on those changes! The change truly starts within.

What motivated you to want to change things?

My own burnout, and seeing how much life coaching changed my life.

How have you encouraged other people to get on board with your ideas?

I always try to show people that their current experience doesn’t HAVE to stay the same, that they can feel much better without changing anything in their life. I show through my own experience, and talk about my clients’ journeys.

“Change IS possible, no matter how bleak life seems”

What are the biggest challenges you have encountered in this journey and how have you overcome them?

Sometimes people have been stressed and anxious for so long that they can’t even begin to see that there’s hope and that their experience CAN change. If someone is so stuck that they can’t see the possibility of change, then I can’t help them and it’s heartbreaking. I keep on showing up and giving examples from my own life on how change IS possible, no matter how bleak life seems.

What has most helped and motivated you along the way?

Helping others and seeing their lives change; seeing them take the reins of their life back and enjoy life again is my biggest motivation, every day.

“Your perception of life is everything.”

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or that you would give to someone else, about driving positive change?

Your perception of life is everything. Be very conscious of your thoughts and feelings, know that you are not your thoughts and you can choose them.

What are your next steps to continue creating change for the better?

I’d love to spread the word even more about life coaching for veterinarians as it’s an incredibly powerful tool and literally saves lives.

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2024, we assembled a collection of ‘Champions for Change’ profiles into a free eBook. Explore exclusive stories highlighting inspirational figures driving positive change for women in veterinary.

Our thanks to Gunila for sharing her inspiring story of how she is championing change. If you would like to nominate a Champion for Change or share your story, please let us know.

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