He said, she said: Veterinarians sound off on work and family life balance


Does gender really matter when considering how veterinarians cope with responsibilities outside of practice?

In our March 2012 cover story, Veterinary Economics heard from the men on the subject of how a multiple-specialty practice—one that offers 24-hour care and emergency services, in particular—can provide female veterinarians with the flexibility to balance work and family life. Dr. Fred Metzger, a Veterinary Economics, Editorial Advisory Board member, states that with about 80 percent of veterinary school graduates being women, the industry will see an increase in this type of practice. “Parents, especially moms, have a hard time covering their own emergencies because they interfere with a family’s schedule,” he says.

But what do the women have to say?

We contacted Dr. Shawn Finch, a fellow Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and associate at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in Omaha, Neb., who offered her two cents: “I do not agree with that statement, as much as I usually love everything Dr. Metzger writes,” Dr. Finch says. “Women like working more flexible hours, especially when we have families, but men do too.”

Dr. Finch works part-time to spend more time with her family, especially her two young daughters. Although she now lives in a community with an excellent emergency hospital, she recalls a time when she had to take her own late-night emergency calls. Her routine? To nudge her husband awake with an abrupt, “Russ, wake up! I need to go in to see a sickie. Are you OK with the girls? Great, thanks.”

It’s that kind of teamwork that allows Dr. Finch to pursue her passion for veterinary medicine and give it her undivided attention when she’s on duty—whether covering an emergency or just working a shift at the hospital. To do a job well, she firmly believes that every parent needs the support of his or her partner or, if raising a child as a single parent, family and friends.

But even with the help of her loving husband, Dr. Finch has no interest in owning a practice—a natural development for most associate veterinarians—because it doesn’t fit her skill set. “I love practicing medicine and doing surgery, but I have no interest in the business aspect of veterinary medicine. I lead best from within a group, not as a business owner,” Dr. Finch says. “And that is why I don’t own a practice, not because I am a woman.”

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