Musings of a Veterinarian

Archive for July 16th, 2011

Ten Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Veterinary Practice: Part I

July 16, 2011 By: Dr. K Category: For Vets, General, Practice Management

Deciding to quit requires great consideration and, in many cases, should only occur following exhaustive attempts at improving your workplace. For tips on how to cope and avoid quitting, check out the first half of this article from US News and World Report!  If you think you are at the end of your rope, quitting your job may be the only option you have left.

Leaving your job during a down economy carries enormous weight.  Frequently the idea is abandoned because of fear of the unknown. Too often we accept mediocrity in exchange for comfort. Our griping, stress, and stagnancy linger because we don’t want to sacrifice a sure thing.

Some of the best advice I ever heard came from Mr. Vernon Hill, past-CEO of Commerce Bank. When asked what to do when management refused to budge he said pointedly, “Something’s gotta change. Either they change or you change.”

I offer you 10 signs it’s time to leave your practice. Many of the signs are interrelated, a consequence of compounded dysfunction.

Ten Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Veterinary Practice

1. Lack of Leadership

Having a definitive leader in a practice is key to maintaining balance and unity between personnel. A practice is only as strong as its leaders. The discord from lack of leadership trickles down the ranks from associates all the way to kennel staff. Leadership failures include ignoring conflict, refusing to address employee concerns, and an inability to accept feedback and criticism. If business owners and managers refuse to establish and adhere to set practices and guidelines, the practice quickly morphs into an every-man-for-himself mentality.

The strongest practice leaders seek input from their employees and strive to improve work relationships. Without that direction inconsistent policies, unresolved conflict, and disgruntled employees contribute to an even bigger problem: Poor patient and client care.

2. You No Longer Enjoy Your Job

This one seems like a no-brainer but it deserves a closer look.  Only about half of Americans report they actual enjoy their jobs. Yikes! Money, interpersonal relationships, long hours, and the job itself comprise many of the reasons for job dissatisfaction.

Burnout is one of the biggest factors affecting a veterinarian’s job satisfaction. There is a big difference between physical burnout secondary to long hours and emotional burnout secondary to chronic stress. Physical burnout can sometimes be remedied with vacations or sabbaticals. Emotionally burnt out employees may have no other choice but to leave their current position in order to reestablish balance.

We will all experience bad days, weeks, or months at work. Overall job dissatisfaction comes from chronic, systemic dysfunction resulting in more bad days than good over an extended time.

As an aside, I don’t know many veterinarians who, at one point or another, haven’t doubted their calling into the profession. The long hours, chronic stress, and interference with personal life take a toll. It leaves us second guessing. Determining whether you are unsatisfied with your job or your career is critical.

3. Work Interferes With Family Life

Veterinary professionals expect long hours and late nights. Those unfortunate enough to have the plague of  “on-call” carry a tether to the veterinary practice making maintaining your family and social life difficult.  Long hours make veterinary medicine challenging enough, throw in a chronically stressful work environment and you’ve got big trouble.

Overworked on a soft tissue rotation during my fourth year of veterinary school, the only thing I could think of on my 20-minute drive home was a hot sausage sandwich. It waited for me, an ample leftover certain to squelch my starvation. I arrived home to find my husband had eaten all of the sandwich rolls and all but three inches of coveted porky goodness. The consequences of fatigue, stress, and an 80-hr work week played into the epic at-home work-induced meltdown that ensued.

Rational thought escaped as I went on a tirade about how it was clear my husband didn’t love or respect me since he ate my long fantasized about dinner. I heated the measly morsel and continued to accost my poor husband. I stormed to the office, my husband in slow chase behind, and to my dismay my sausage rolled off of my plate and across the floor. I bawled. A lot. Work stress weaved its way into my home life and my attitude suffered for it. In retrospect, this proves another hysterical moment among many in our relationship, but a lesser man may not have been so tolerant of work-related meltdowns.

Ideals, however noble, are rarely upheld when serious long-term stress hits. Our families are the first affected by sour moods. Sometimes our work situation is so miserable no amount of positive thinking and affirmations contain the emotion of job dissatisfaction. Don’t let your family suffer.

4. Ouch! You’ve Run Into The Ceiling

Positions with little or no room for growth are frustrating. Stagnant minds rot. Stagnant paychecks are rotten.

5.  Any Other Job Is More Appealing

Find yourself thinking waiting tables looks better than your current job? Willing to take a significant pay cut just to escape? See those road workers dripping in sweat on a summer day and jealously think ‘Hey, they look so tan!’? You are not alone but it’s time to seriously rethink your current situation.

Remember the expression “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?” It’s true. It’s greener because it’s fertilized with bulls**t. We’ve neatly concocted scenarios in our minds as to how much better it is over there. If the only reason for leaving is  you think it’s better on the other side, think again. Perhaps you just need a vacation. But if you find yourself nodding in agreement with some other signs, this may contribute to your decision to leave.


Ten Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Veterinary Practice: Part II