Tips for Creating a Heart-Centered and Low-Stress Veterinary Practice

Tips for Creating a Heart-Centered and Low-Stress Veterinary Practice
August 9, 2023 AVMA LIFE
Tips for Creating a Heart-Centered and Low-Stress Veterinary Practice

Tips for Creating a Heart-Centered and Low-Stress Veterinary Practice

When you chose to become a veterinarian, you knew what an amazing career field you were entering. Every day, you have the privilege of helping animals in need of care.

But what you may not have known when you first chose veterinary medicine was the stress that comes with the career. The hours can be long, client interactions aren’t always positive, and some patients can’t be cured despite your best efforts.

Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on all systems of the body—including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.1 A recent study conducted by Merck Animal Health along with AVMA found that 9 out of 10 veterinarians experienced increased stress levels.2

Finding a work-life balance is difficult for most people. But it’s especially difficult for veterinarians, which makes it even more important to set boundaries, manage stress, and—most importantly—care for yourself.

What Does a Practical Work-Life Balance Look Like?

People tend to throw the phrase “work-life balance” around without offering a definition. So, what does it actually mean?

You can look at work-life balance in a few different ways.3 To some, it means having the convenience to manage your personal life during the work day without getting permission or explaining yourself to others. To others, it means placing equal time or priority on both personal and professional activities.

Ask yourself: ‘What does work-life balance mean to me? And what would it look like in my life?’

Work-Life Balance as a Veterinarian

Veterinary professionals are busier than ever, and that can lead to long hours with little to no work-life balance.4 But that doesn’t have to be the inevitable outcome. To achieve better balance, try the following:

  1. Objectively examine your situation. Make it a priority to carve out time to yourself to determine what in your life is causing you the most stress or dissatisfaction.
  2. Rethink your priorities. Put things into perspective. If your balance is off kilter, consider reprioritizing what is most important to you.
  3. Make external and internal changes. External changes include learning time management skills, practicing self-care, and giving yourself more time to sleep. Internal changes include setting boundaries and learning to say “no” when you need to.

It’s easy to put work ahead of yourself—especially when you love your job. But remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Work-life balance is as essential for your patients’ health and happiness as it is for your own.

Creating a Low-Stress Work Environment

In our digital world, it’s so much easier to work after hours, on the weekends, and even on vacation. Whether you work at a veterinary practice or own one yourself, you can set boundaries to create a better work-life balance.

Here are a few ways to mitigate stress in the workplace:5

  • Create a safe work environment
  • Advocate for wellness
  • Define, or redefine, job expectations
  • Create training programs
  • Practice open communication

Work stress is inevitable, but both employees and managers have ways to handle it inside and outside the workplace.Creating boundaries and sticking to them can be difficult, but the results are more than worth it.

Although, as much as most of us would like to, you can’t control every situation, you can take control of your thoughts and actions. Try to implement these strategies to mitigate stress in your work environment and create a work-life balance that is best for you.

Your patients are counting on you every day to be at your best, and taking care of yourself is going to help you take even better care of them.

1“Stress effects on the body.” American Psychological Association, 8 March 2023.
2“9 out of 10 veterinarians cite increased stress levels in new research report.” Bovine Veterinarian, 21 January 2022.
3“What Does Work-Life Balance Even Mean?” Forbes, 26 July 2022.
4“What Does Work-Life Balance Mean for Veterinarians?” The Vetiverse, 17 June 2022.
5“How to Create a Stress-Free Work Environment.” Business News Daily, 21 February 2023.