Work/life balance remains manageable, DVM survey says


On average, veterinarians say they would prefer to devote more time to personal activities than work.

On average, veterinarians say they would prefer to devote more time to personal activities than work.

But the sentiment hasn't affected overall satisfaction with his or her career choice.

On average, veterinarians report working 45 hours a week. Men say they work 48 hours a week, while women say they practice 41 hours a week.

But the work/life balance is a far cry from the 60-hour to 70-hour work weeks cited by veterinarians of decades past. The findings were part of an exclusive DVM Newsmagazine survey that was mailed to 2,500 veterinarians, and posted 844 useable responses. The survey achieved a 34-percent response rate.

This month, DVM Newsmagazine coverage focuses on work/life balance and sought to gauge veterinarians' attitudes on the subject.

On average responding veterinarians spend about 41 percent of their time at work, 22 percent with family, 12 percent on personal activities and another 25 percent sleeping

The percentages stack up differently when asked about work/life preferences. Overall, veterinarians would prefer to spend one-third of their time at work, another 28 percent with family, 18 percent on personal activities and 26 percent asleep. While most veterinarians say they would like to work fewer hours, the majority also site satisfaction with his or her career.

On average single women are more likely to spend more time at work than married women. Also, women without children are more likely to spend more time in practice, according to the survey. Women with children less than 18 years of age spend 36.5 percent of their time at work, while women without children are in practice 44.5 percent of their time.

A somewhat different story emerges from the data for men. While unmarried men might be a little more likely to spend time at work (average 48 percent), married men spend closer to 41 percent of their time in practice, survey respondents say. The numbers are negligible when answers for men with children are compared to the group of men who don't have children.

The survey shows some slight differences in hours worked based on practice size. The hours spent at work rise for women in smaller practices. For example, for women in practices with one full-time equivalent (FTE), 41 percent of their time is logged at work. The numbers drop as the practice size grows—two FTEs, 39 percent; three FTEs, 37.5 percent; four-plus FTEs, 36.7 percent. For men, time devoted to work remained consistent varying from 42.5 percent (one FTE) to 43.8 percent (three FTEs).

Veterinarians also report on average 32 hours devoted to continuing education each year.

It's a matter of preference

The survey asked veterinarians about their preferences in relation to work, family, personal activities and sleep The survey says on average, DVMs would prefer to spend less time at work, yet mor0e time with family and pursuing personal activities.

Veterinarians also were asked how they felt about the numbers of hours worked?

The majority of respondents report the numbers of hours spent at work "was about right." About 65 percent of women and 56 percent of men report the numbers of hours worked were acceptable. Conversely, more men complained that the numbers of hours worked were too many (43 percent), while only 32 percent of women said the same. Only 1 percent of men and 2 percent of women say they work too few hours.

Personal time

While the numbers of hours worked might be acceptable for most, the quest for time away from work to pursue personal activities increases with age, regardless of gender, the survey says. For men in practice fewer than 10 years, personal time accounted for about 16 percent of their time, yet it jumps up to about 19 percent for DVMs in practice 21-plus years. For women, personal time also accounted for 16 percent of the clock. Yet, for female veterinarians in practice for more than 21 years, it rises to 21.5 percent.

On average, survey respondents report getting about six hours of shut-eye a night. Curiously enough, practitioners under 40 years of age get less sleep than older practitioners, the survey shows.

Still satisfied

Veterinarians were asked, "How satisfying is your work?" The vast majority of practitioners find satisfaction in practicing veterinary medicine. About 64 percent of male respondents report work as "very satisfying," while 56 percent of women labeled it that way. More women found their work "somewhat satisfying" as compared to 32 percent of their male counterparts. A very small percentage of respondents classified work as dissatisfying.

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