IndeVet stories: Finding relief from burnout and making time for health
Everyone has a story of how they got somewhere. From surviving college to finding your first job, moving across the ocean to follow a dream, or turning a hobby into a business. This is the story of how I became an IndeVet, during a pandemic.
After graduation back in 2017 from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland I made the long trip back, with my dog in tow, to … drum roll please… New Jersey! As you can imagine one winter later and I was ready to head south.
I found myself in sunny South Carolina by summer. I made the change from equine vet to small animal vet within a year even though I was 100% certain that equine was the way for me during school. Turns out it wasn’t and that’s okay. I figured out the hard way that just because you want something bad enough, a) doesn’t mean its the right path for you, and b) you don’t have to stay doing something you don’t love.
Luckily, I found a job that kept me in a clinical setting. I was now, gasp, a small animal veterinarian! I relearned how to love medicine, my job, my patients, and my life again.
Vet med during a global pandemic
I spent the last 4 years loving on puppies, healing the sick, cleaning teeth, and performing surgery. Being a vet is a hard yet rewarding job in the best of times and when a pandemic hit the world it got worse. More animals, more patients with more problems, and more owners with less patience with the same number of hours in a day. That being said I think I’m one of the few who truly love curbside appointments (I hope it continues forever).
Instead of 10 minutes examining your pets and talking for the last 20 about your friends’ niece’s school play, I now get the whole appointment to spoil them.
To those naysayers who say their dog hates going “in the back” to have treatments done, I dare you to find a nurse who can get a puppy off my lap while I’m typing up notes. I love having them fall asleep on my lap and I have the pictures to prove it. Fear Free and positive experiences for the win! I have so many dogs who used to be scared now love coming to the vet because they know they get treats and cuddle time.
However, as time drew on my clinic started to show the signs of burnout, I lost a lot of good people for other jobs and opportunities. I stayed and fought as hard as I could to keep us afloat, until I couldn’t.
Navigating burnout and health challenges
In February of this year I had my second blood clot. The first happened when I was just 19. This time I was in the hospital for 5 days and have two new stents, for a total of 4, and am now on blood thinners for life.
The moral of this story isn’t that I nearly died again, it’s that I was so invested in my clinic, trying so hard to keep us afloat (down from a staff of 20 to 4), that I was in denial for 3 days that I was clotting again.
I had to work my shifts. I ignored my health for the sake of my patients and my clients. I went to work instead of going to the hospital and that’s not okay. I only left because my Chief of Staff walked in and took over for me. I drove myself to the hospital.
While I was recovering I knew I couldn’t go back to the level of stress and amount work I had been doing. If I had died there would be no one left to treat the animals. I needed a change, but what? Go work at another clinic somewhere else and have the same experiences? Go be a consultant somewhere and not be with patients? So I did what any good veterinarian would do. I started doing research.
Finding relief with IndeVets
I didn’t know what to do until I read an article on a little site called IndeVets. It was about a vet who was working too hard and was diagnosed with cancer who needed a change. That change was IndeVets.
I felt her story resonate with me. She made the change to IndeVets and got treatment when she needed it, guilt free. Unfortunately, I never got to thank her for her words as she passed away this spring.
When I spoke with Dr. Cantor for my first interview she put my mind at ease that having a fulfilling veterinary career while living my life and taking care of myself was, in fact, possible. I learned the hard way that I have to take care of myself first. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
If I had died there would be no one left to treat the animals. Now as an IndeVet I am back to loving my job, my patients, and finally myself.
Thank you IndeVets!
Dr. Lindsay Wolcott is an Associate IndeVet practicing in South Carolina.