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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Being A Vet Vs. Having A Life

Here's the last of Jessica's questions (read the last two days). I wanted to post this one separately because it's a great topic of discussion.

And finally, I consider myself a mix between introvert and extrovert... but I really value having free time alone and stuff. Does this job take up a lot of your time, so that you don't have any time to NOT think about your job?

I'm not sure how much of an issue this is in other professions, but it's a big one for most vets that I've know, myself included. Historically it was common for veterinarians to work 60 hour weeks as a rule, and many older practitioners see nothing wrong with this kind of schedule. However, most people getting into the profession in the last 5-10 years actually want a life outside of work, and so it's more common to emphasize a typical 40 hour work week, or even part time (as we discussed before). Nowadays this is more the rule than the exception.

Depending on the practice, you may also have to do your own after-hours calls. More and more vets are referring cases to local emergency clinics rather than doing them themselves. People are realizing that there has to be a balance between life and work, and doing your own emergencies makes this difficult. Other vets feel such a strong loyalty to their clients that they don't want to send them to anywhere else. Be aware of the practices stance on emergencies before choosing a job, and make sure that you're okay with this. I've been on call before, and am glad that I now work at a place where I never have to go in after closing.

The problem is being able to leave work at work. Most of us go into veterinary medicine because we have a lot of compassion, and that means that we care a lot. When we care this much we worry a lot about cases. I've had numerous times when I have worried about a pet for days. Sometimes it's a difficult surgery that I worry about the complications and recovery. Sometimes it's a medical case that isn't turning out right. In most situations it's not because I did anything wrong, but because I second-guess myself a lot.

So really the fact of whether or not you can NOT think about work is more about you than it is about the job. It's all a matter of how well you individually can handle the stresses and worries inherent to this job. Some people have no problem with it while other struggle a lot. I've been mostly in the latter category, and it has taken a toll on my wife. After 12 years of practice I'm better at it and don't do it as often, but it still happens. I wish I could give you a great tip on how to cope, but I'm still learning myself. But this is one of the things that you'll have to figure out about yourself and take into account as you choose your career path.

Great questions, Jessica! Everyone else, feel free to ask your own.