Sequencing remains a quality of life issue


Sequencing is here. The critical mass of veterinarians needed for effective sequencing has arrived.

Sequencing is here. The critical mass of veterinarians needed for effective sequencing has arrived.

What is it? Sequencing is the new buzzword in the workplace. It is when a worker takes a few years off, possibly to have children, or even pursue advanced education.

Sequencing has been considered a "gender" issue confined to women in the workplace.

The business world has long debated the impact that sequencing has on a worker, the workplace, morale and the economics for the business and the worker.

While the merits of sequencing are being debated (especially by men), women are changing the face of the workplace in many industries, including veterinary medicine.

For the sake of clarification, male veterinarians want to sequence just as much as women. Despite the hype, this is not a gender issue.

Sequencing is a quality of life issue.

Sequencing is essential to maintain a balanced and appropriate approach to the daily challenges of clinical medicine in 2003, and beyond.

(James Herriot, God rest his soul, would never understand.)

For me, I love practice, but I do want more time to sequence out of the office for my personal life, hobbies, community service, leadership activities and overall "quality of life." I wish for more time to spend in the mountains with my horses. I need this time to recharge my emotional batteries needed for daily clinical medicine.

Recharge yourself

What is missing from the "good ole times" is the trial by fire learning curve in practice.

Some think today's baptism by fire is tough, but it is just not so. We see more and more workers of all ages, styles and types that just quit and move onto the next job. The rationale is that a job is just a job and other things in life are equally or more important.

The new workplace rules are refreshing, yet pose a struggle when we look carefully at how it is affecting the profession.

Our sister profession, the medical profession, has done a lot of the ground work for us in that residents and interns that are overworked make mistakes and thus easing up in the work grindstone is much more common for aspiring clinical medical professionals.

The "trial by fire" issue has been addressed in the medical profession and is nicely documented in the Journal of the American Medical Association and in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Laws and attitudes are changing.

So deeply does the issue of the need for workaholic doctors and veterinarians run that it is difficult for many of us to say, "we are out to lunch" or "on vacation", we substitute "in surgery" or "at a seminar" to hide our guilt about sneaking off for a break.

We hide behind words as clients "harpoon" us for being at lunch instead of taking care of their problems.

Now when a member of the profession "sequences" out for family time or recreational time, clients say, "I am delighted that Dr. X has taken time for the family, to have a baby, or has taken some time to recharge."

How times have changed

So, what does this sequencing issue hold for the veterinary profession?

Jobs situations that permit, encourage and build a business plan to seek sequencers are going to be sought out by the young talent and old talent.

The more seasoned professionals are finding that retirement plans and USA government Social Security are inadequate to fund a quiet, peaceful, unemployed, non-working retirement.

The new workplace is also being challenged.

New challenges

  • Practice leadership is essential for continuity. Staff and veterinarians must work within the team for sequencing to work. Mavericks and cantankerous personalities need a different workplace.

  • Mission statements must be clear to staff and veterinarians. The mission needs to be addressed daily to stay on top of straying issues.

  • Infrastructure issues, especially the medical records, must be clear, clean and follow the "KISS principle - keep it simple stupid". Failure to have legible records within a clear SOAP type of medical records leads to confusion, inconsistency and unhappy clients and poorly tended to patients.

  • A "BOX System" work schedule, or variation thereof, must be placed into the daily, weekly activities of a practice to permit support staff and veterinarians to sequence in and out.

  • Support staff needs to enjoy the same sequencing privileges as the professionals to encourage team play.

  • Compensation programs in these practices must be fair, logical and consistent for all parties. Specific attention is called to incentive programs that promote divisive and internal competition that undermines teamwork.

  • Medical meetings are essential for the staff and networking veterinarians so that continuity of policy is understood.

  • Written hospital protocols for standard procedures are essential.

Interviewing processes of potential employees must focus on the many questions that can be asked to learn which personalities will best fit into a sequencing practice. (Make sure you call references and previous employers.)

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