5 ways veterinarians lead imbalanced lives

July 15, 2019
Shana Bohac, DVM

Dr. Shana Bohac is the owner of Navarro Small Animal Clinic in Victoria, Texas. She has a passion for surgery as well as compassionate wellness care. She has a husband, Brandon, daughter, Aiden, three crazy cats, two dogs and a handful of horses.

I think that we well-meaning, hard-working veterinarians sabotage our own happiness, job satisfaction and personal health by doing these five things.

Every veterinarian understands that the struggle for work-life balance is real. We all know how difficult it is to take time for ourselves and, if we do manage it, we feel guilty about it.

But the solution to the problem isn't just doing more yoga or eating healthier, although those things can certainly help. We talk about work-life balance, but what does it really mean? Is it more vacations, fewer work hours, not as many commitments? What makes you happy?

Millennials (I'm one) have been stereotyped as lazy. The reality is, we just want more out of life. We don't want to spend our entire lives working just to find out at age 65 that all we have to show for our hard work are a broken marriage, kids who wished we would've been there for them, two houses, a few new cars and a big retirement account we can't enjoy because we now have health issues or can't get around like we used to.

Mistake No. 1: Don't do what makes you happy in practice

The ideal way to be a happier veterinarian is to do what makes you happy. Of course, that's easier said than done. We can't avoid every blocked tom (my nemesis) that walks through the door. But we can focus on our favorite things and be the best we can be in those areas, in practice and our private lives. You'll get a reputation for excelling in these areas and enjoy that aspect of the field more often. On the flip side, you also may want to take time to learn more about the things you don't like so much. (Editor's note: Say, at a conference.) You may find you like these areas of practice more once you learn more about them and build more confidence.

You are allowed to spend time with your family and have a life away from work.

Mistake No. 2: Refuse to face your imperfection

One thing I've realized is that it's OK to not make everyone happy. We are not perfect, although we may strive to be. You don't need to accept offers to be on every board, volunteer for every event in your area or take every emergency call that comes in. You are allowed to spend time with your family and have a life away from work. It's OK to work to live and not live to work.

Mistake No. 3: Spend time with people who make you feel bad

Surround yourself with people who build your confidence, not tear it down. Find a great support system. Unfortunately, this isn't always family because family may not understand fully the struggles we face. A mentor or old classmate is the perfect person to confide in when work or life becomes challenging. You can mull over that dog with pancreatitis that just won't stop vomiting or discuss the challenges of working for a baby boomer. Sometimes we just need to remind each other that we're good people and good veterinarians and that we have each other's backs.

Mistake No. 4: Skip sleep

Find a way to leave work at work. Restless nights spent worrying about cases are only going to make you exhausted the next day. You owe it to your patients to be on top of your game, and lack of sleep is not going to help anyone.

Of course, getting a good night's sleep may be much easier said than done. Cut your caffeine intake early in the day. Turn off your phone or TV well before bedtime. If worries keep you awake at night, set time aside in your schedule to go over events or stressors that occurred throughout the day. Avoid large meals and alcohol in the evening.

Mistake No. 5: Stay in a terrible job

If you are truly unhappy in your work situation, then change your situation. Don't be afraid to make a move. We are constantly concerned with our patients' quality of life, yet we often forget about our own.

Are you an associate?

You don't like your job? You know, the world is your oyster right now.

If you're put in a situation where you are unable to practice the type of medicine you feel is best for your patients, are being verbally abused or your work environment is hostile, make a change for your well-being. Most importantly, learn from these experiences. They will mold you into a better person and veterinarian. Even if you simply discovered what not to do, you were allowed to grow and sometimes growth can be difficult and painful.

Dr. Shana Bohac is the owner of Navarro Small Animal Clinic in Victoria, Texas. She has a passion for surgery as well as compassionate wellness care. She has a husband, Brandon, daughter, Aiden, three crazy cats, two dogs and a handful of horses.