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Work-life Balance?

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“Work-life balance” is a common catch phrase embedded in our social fabric, oft times associated with one’s state of well-being. A work-life balance Google search yields a notion of a proper priority of “work” – career and ambition, and “life style” – health, family and leisure. A few guiding principles pave the path I follow – “opportunity abounds in animal health”, “the vision to recognize opportunity” and “courage to say yes to opportunity”. These principles allow me opportunities and experiences beyond my wildest dreams, many of them life changing. My quandary is reconciling this seeming dichotomy – work-life balance versus doing it all. I speculate this dichotomy is a significant component of the rampant emotional distress our profession experiences.

What’s my beef with work-life balance? The implication that work and life are separate and achieving balance is both desirable and possible. I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile these implications. Is work-life balance attainable? I suspect not. Is integrating your passion for veterinary medicine, your life’s work, into your life possible? Maybe, just maybe, it is!

There are times in life where I feel every waking moment, even moments when I should be fast asleep, is controlled by everyone but me. I respond to the horse owner with the loudest voice demanding my attention; I respond to colleagues requests for my assistance, feeling quilt if I decline. Life goes by so fast, kids grow up so quickly, can we slow time down? Don’t waste your time trying to segregate your work from your life, accept the challenge to adopt the concept of work-life integration. This subtle change in perspective, from balance to integration, pays me huge dividends. Set your priorities, delegate the tasks, maintain responsibility, leverage technology, and put process in place. Develop and maintain your vision to recognize opportunity; have the courage to say yes.

Are these tasks easy? I venture to say no, they’re not. They may require heavy lifting and perseverance to your intention. Instead of trying to maintain balance and stress associated with balance, integrate your work into your life. You’ve spent a lifetime honing medical and surgical skill, improving business acumen, perfecting leadership and mentoring prowess. Now integrate these attributes into everything you do and leverage opportunity. Whatever it is for you, perhaps a subtle change from the notion of work-life balance to work-life integration is a key to improving emotional well-being.

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Presidents Message

The Work is Good!

In August, I addressed the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2021 during orientation. Thirty years previous, nearly to the day, I was in that seat for orientation of the Class of 1991. This opportunity gave me pause; reflecting my point of reference regarding veterinary medicine, a message to share once more.

The profession is challenged on numerous fronts, moving us ever closer to disruptive change; high cost of education, large student debt, small starting salaries, legislative challenges to veterinary practice acts, telemedicine, veterinary practice aggregation; to name a few. Our profession needs the vision and the passion to develop opportunity from these challenges.

Private practices must generate profit adequate to compensate recent graduates for escalating educational costs and student debt. Good medicine is good business and good business supports good medicine. Practice owners are responsible for managing practices with high degrees of business acumen.

Strategies to increase veterinary practice relevancy must be implemented, after all we’re the animal experts; we need to own this space! Fragmentation within practices and within the profession, hinders our ability to effectively overcome the profession’s challenges. Set aside differences, identify common ground and leverage the opportunities.

Our profession experiences far higher than average levels of psychological distress, depression, suicidal ideation and substance abuse. We have the knowledge, we have the resources, we have to take action assisting veterinary profession members suffering from emotional distress and substance abuse.

Increase our legislative engagement; the Wisconsin legislature’s actions directly affects many WVMA members’ professional and business activities. Participate on the WVMA Legislative Committee, financially support both the WVMA and the AVMA PAC’s.

Access to veterinary medical care is receiving growing focus nationwide; 23,000,000 pets are estimated to have no access to veterinary medical healthcare. Let’s seize this opportunity. Get creative and devise business models to turn this need into profitable demand for veterinary services.

Take control of animal welfare; once again, we need to own this, we’re the animal experts. Our role is to be informed and educated regarding the process to successfully assist law enforcement and humane organizations in relieving animal abuse and neglect. Our role is to be vigilant, our role is to not make excuses, our role is to not look the other way. Err on the side of the animal and have the courage to take action on behalf of the helpless.  

To our recent graduates and those commencing their veterinary education and careers – You’re smart, you’re hardworking, you’re motivated, you’re accomplished. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The profession needs you to be proud, walk tall, look people squarely in the eye, shake their hand firmly and confidently and most importantly; smile! Urgently pursue your dreams and your vision. Hone your medical and surgical skill, strive to be kind, caring, highly skilled clinicians, develop your mentoring and business management repertoires.

To everyone in the profession – Ladies and Gentlemen, the profession needs you. There is a lot of work to be done and the work is good. Please know, you can make a difference!

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