Cat Henstridge shares some tips for vet mums on juggling work and home life:
I have been a part-time working veterinary mother for nearly seven years. It isn’t easy! Here are some of the things I have learnt along the way that really help me in my working life.
Stay connected to the practice
Being part of a team is a one of the best things about veterinary practice and if you aren’t full time, it can be easy to feel disconnected. I really value being part of FaceBook and WhatsApp messenger groups with my colleagues, and being friends with them on social media. It keeps me up to date with all sorts of things, some clinical, others – not so much!
When you only work part-time, there is a temptation to feel like you don’t ‘need’ to take breaks during your working day. This is me, anyway. I think partly because I feel like my colleagues will judge me for relaxing when I don’t work as much as them (they don’t, they are lovely, it’s just me projecting and over thinking!).
It is so tempting to sacrifice our own time to make sure you meet your commitments and ‘prove’ your worth but breaks are important, take them! You will only end up strung out by the end of your working day and then tired on your non-working (but still busy!) family days.
Parents often joke they come to work for a rest but it’s true! So make the most of it!
I always make a point in my clinic of wandering round the kennels and seeing what cases my colleagues are dealing with. I will also take a peek at any radiographs being taken and cast my eye over blood results. Not because I think I could do a better job (quite the opposite in fact!) but I find it is a fabulous learning opportunity.
Focus on the task at hand
I have a LOT of things going on in my head and I find it challenging when I am at home to fully focus on one thing at once. However, when I am at work, I find it quite relaxing to push my (extensive!) personal to-do list to the back of my mind and just be a vet. It might not count as mindfulness to most people but it’s as close as I get!
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
It can be really difficult when you work part-time to keep up with managing cases. The temptation (as well as working through those precious breaks!) is to start making phone calls on your days off.
In my experience this never happens, life just gets in the way! Suddenly, a day, then another one has passed, you still haven’t spoken to the owners and now they are cross because you said you would.
Not to mention the fact that your days off are just that!
If you find work creeping in, it is might time to speak to your boss about having protected blocks in your day to report results or, simply managing your client’s expectations. Let them know you aren’t in every day and when to expect to hear from you. If results are urgent, pass them on for a colleague. Again, something we don’t always like to do but it is occasionally necessary. Our patient’s needs trump practice politics!
Let veterinary into your life!
When you only work part-time and have so much else going on, I find it is easy to feel like your veterinary knowledge is slipping,and there is not a lot of spare time to rectify it!
It is hard enough to read the magazines that are piling up, let alone doing CPD. Even webinars in the evening are a stretch for me, literally the last thing I want to do at that time is use my brain!
What I have found really helpful is finding ways of getting veterinary ‘stuff’ into my life without having to make a special effort. The main way I do is this by following of veterinary accounts on social media. There are some brilliant educational pages and groups out there, as well as dedicated forum websites.
I find reading their posts really motivating; I learn a little, realise there are lots of vets who are on the same level as me, keep up to date, and get to pretend that scrolling FaceBook and Instagram is actually educational!
It also has (and I realise this is a bit cheesy!) reignited a passion for veterinary. Learning from so many other vet’s experiences and seeing their enthusiasm for the profession has helped me to find mine! I am a veterinary geek and proud!
I also listen to veterinary podcasts, my favourites are those that are pretty short – just like my attention span! I listen in the car and when I go out running.
Know Your Worth
As a part-timer it is easy to undervalue yourself but an experienced, committed veterinary surgeon is a huge asset to any practice and it is so important to realise that.
Not only will you be excellent clinically (experience counts for so much, even if you feel you aren’t completely up to date in your knowledge), you are also an excellent multi-tasker and will have developed really good people skills.
Ignore any doubting voices in your head and keep going, you are doing great!