Work Life Balance In The Veterinary World
When we say balance we aren’t talking about holding a puppy in one arm, a medical chart in the other and a capped syringe between your teeth…
We’re talking about finding a work-life balance that allows you to thrive in every aspect of your life. For pet care professionals like Veterinarians, Vet Nurses and Practice Managers setting boundaries can be a huge challenge. People who are drawn to being Veterinarians and pet care professionals have an innate need to help others. You aspire to make life better by providing a great quality of life for our pets. While your motivation is noble, and to be admired, it also sets you up for work-life balance issues.
You already know that by dedicating your life to the well-being of pets that working 9-5 is not very realistic. It’s not uncommon for Veterinary professionals to put in long 10-12 hour days on a regular basis. There is always one more thing to do, whether that means completing a patient record on a procedure you did first thing in the morning, or calling a client to check on a patient you saw days earlier. These little, but important, tasks eat away at the morale and the overall mental health of veterinarians and pet care support staff.
After work, many Vets or Vet Nurses will field calls, texts, emails and social media questions about their friends and family’s pet’s health too. It’s not uncommon for a Vet to get a call from a friend in the middle of the night seeking advice. Each time a question is asked our dedicated Vet friends provide helpful guidance, regardless of the impact these requests may have.
Many Veterinarians will tell you they don’t mind and are happy to help. And it’s true, they probably don’t mind and are happy to help. But as we all know the more you chip away at one thing, the quicker it will fall. As a pet care professional you love what you do, and you should. The work you complete is important. It provides comfort to animals and humans alike. But that doesn’t mean you should stop caring for yourself.
In the end, although you know that you are responsible for establishing a work-life balance that allows you to thrive, many of us don’t notice until it is too late. So, it’s time for an Intervention. Here are some tips to help you get started:
It’s okay to work late, once in a while. And it’s okay to help friends and family with their pet related questions. What’s not okay, is doing those things all the time. Establish how late you want to stay at work, and keep that schedule. No more fourteen hour shifts. Much of the work you are doing can wait another day. If you are to inundated with clients, speak to your practice manager about adjusting schedules. Cutting back on patient visits by one or two will be better for the practice in the long run as the vets will be better rested and therefore more productive. Let your friend know that you are not free for advice on Fridays through Sunday night, barring a real emergency. It may be hard to establish boundaries, but in the long run you’ll be glad you did.
Make use of your smart phone’s smarts
Take a 30 minute crash course from your niece or watch a YouTube video on how to control and manage your smart phone notifications. Set your self a work “window” and then program your phone to switch off all email notifications outside that window, and also only allow texts and social media contacts from your small circle of close friends (who don’t have a pet).
Besides being a veterinary, what else do you love to do? Find time to read a little each day, paint, draw, hike, watch a movie. Connect with the things that fill your soul for a just a little each day and you’ll see in no time, that you feel more balanced and relaxed. Think about learning to meditate – it really does help.
Have a good laugh
Bad days at the clinic are par for the course. You can cut back the stress and pain of those days with a good laugh. Find a comedy pod cast to play in the treatment room. Find a book of jokes and randomly recite one to the team.
Take your lunch outside
Everyday thousands of veterinarians down their sandwiches and salads in-between seeing patience, swapping out bandages, and before prepping for surgery. They scarf their food down without taking a breath to enjoy what they are doing. Stop that. You need to take a break; lunch is a perfect conduit for that. You need to take thirty minutes or an hour, and adding in a fifteen-minute walk around the block could be exactly what you need to get your head back in the game. Plus, the fresh air is a great mood lifter.
Book a holiday
Believe it or not, you are not irreplaceable and your practice will survive without your being there for a week or three, but it will have less chance of surviving if you end up leaving through exhaustion, stress or even self harm. Choose a location you have always dreamed about and a friend or life partner to travel with, and book it a prepay it 100%. By taking a travel buddy and parting with your money in advance it will make it really, really hard to cancel.
Now is the time for you to become a master of Work Life Balance. It won’t be easy. And you’ll have many setbacks. But in the end it’s critical that you set boundaries to keep you sane and working in the industry you are so passionate about now.
The industry needs you, not only to provide great Pet Care, but also to nurture and mentor the next generation of Vets, Vet Nurses and Practice Managers. But to retain your sanity and your well-being, and to ensure you stay in the industry doing the work you love, it’s time for some self-applied tough love and to make time to love yourself.
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