As a relatively seasoned veterinarian, I have to say that I’ve had quite an interesting ride. I’ve had a front-row seat to observing several changes in veterinary medicine and the privilege of wearing many professional hats along the way. The changes in practice management, transitions to corporate ownership, pharmaceuticals, technology, and client interactions (on some levels) have been rapid. They are, of course, still evolving and charging forward like a freight train, for better or worse.
The weight we carry
Like so many of our colleagues, I have also experienced all the emotional baggage that veterinary medicine has to offer. It’s not all negative, but the down parts provide quite a buffet if you think about it – stress, anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, burnout, etc. As a profession, we have quite a variety to mix and match from. Combine that with a group of people who already tend to lean toward the spectrum of being empaths, then gently stir in all that emotion and general shenanigans of just being a “human” who wants to go home at the end of the day to “normal life.” That formula makes it easy to understand why our souls are often so tired!
Again, like many in our profession, I pursued this career attached to the cliché of “I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 5” (I did, by the way) and remember with great detail the day I received the acceptance from my school. The tears of excitement and joy were truly overwhelming. Fast forward nearly two decades, and that celebration has dissolved into something I couldn’t fully digest or understand. I found it quite unsettling to realize that after pursuing and living my lifelong dream, I felt incredibly melancholy and confused by the recognition that I didn’t have the fulfillment I expected at this career stage. To be honest, I was actively trying to find a role in the profession OUTSIDE of clinical practice. After all the years of clinical care, my brain just needed something different. Unfortunately, that transition was not easily made considering my family’s needs, so my options were limited.
Moving from unfulfilled days to life-changing freedom
I cannot recall how I initially heard about IndeVets, but it was definitely a random finding. It took me a few months to reach out, and when I finally did, it was with tremendous skepticism.
After having done relief on my own, I had a really hard time believing this could actually be life-changing. Listen up, reluctant colleagues – this was THE best thing I could have done to save my mind and career path in clinics, and I really wish I had looked into it sooner.
After several years of being an associate for individual practices and never genuinely having control of my life, the concept of actually choosing my own schedule was truly remarkable. To this day, I am blown away that for the first time in 20 years, I was able to take the week off between Christmas and New Year’s because it was in my control to do so. Granted, I was stuck at home with no power during a blizzard which was less than desirable. Still, I was safe with my family and thankfully didn’t leave anyone hanging as I was unable to get out of my home for several days. I’m hoping to do it again next year (preferably without the blizzard), as it was amazing to just be with my family.
Others in my IndeVet family have previously shared their experiences of a better work-life balance. Please know they speak the truth! I have tremendous gratitude for the changes this has allowed in my life. While I have a few sites I visit more routinely, I find more joy in shaking it up from week to week. Ironically, I actually find the lack of continuity in my schedule to be less stressful because I’m able to avoid any internal personnel struggles for any one location. In short, I don’t have any drama by moving around!
Solidarity and support
The final observation I will share tying into moving around more often is that I can share the sentiment that “we are all truly on the same hamster wheel.” For any IndeVet stepping into a clinic, it’s easy to observe how busy each staff/facility is working to keep up with the day. I’m not particularly a “misery loves company” kind of person, but I’ve found that at times of peak stress, communicating that ALL our colleagues are feeling the same heavy load creates a feeling of solidarity. More than that, it is very helpful to share this thought process with clients as a visitor. I have a hard time believing I’m the only one listening to client frustrations with “how long they had to wait to get in.”
I graciously point out that I am visiting for the day to help their veterinarian either take a much-deserved day off or work alongside them in support so they can help more patients through their day.
Beyond that, I explain that I do this in multiple locations, and their experience as a client is similar to other clients with other hospitals. I’ve observed that this communication helps bring some grounding to their expectations, encourages gratitude for the fact that they are being helped at all in that particular moment, and with any hope, cultivates patience for future interactions.
I’m not sure where my road leads, as it’s had several twists along the way, but I am so very thankful for having the opportunity to be an IndeVet. I cannot see any alternative for my personal career path if I am in clinical practice, and I look forward to continued efforts to help as many as I can, all while maintaining control of my quality of life in the process.