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  • Dr. Bill Wagner

Learning to Unplug


Photo credit: Me


Last month I took a vacation. In many professions that wouldn’t be noteworthy, but for most veterinarians (especially those in ownership or leadership) it unfortunately is.

Veterinary medicine is a passion profession, which makes it a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the passion and commitment of veterinarians is an asset to their patients and clients: Our patients never suffer from a lack of commitment or dedication by their healthcare provider. However, that passion often results in poor work-life integration. In general, veterinary medicine is not a profession that can claim self-advocacy as a strength. Putting your patients first when you’re on the clock is admirable, but not having a clear and equitable demarcation between your personal and professional life is unhealthy and unsustainable.

Boundaries are an important part of any healthy relationship,

including your relationship with your work.

Work-life boundaries are especially hard for veterinary practice owners to establish, now more than ever. Saying “no” to an employer is challenging enough when your employer isn’t also yourself! Owner-veterinarians draw from two cultures that are not known for healthy work-life integration: Veterinary medicine and entrepreneurship. Most of the practice owners who are interested in joining AVP haven’t taken a true vacation in a while. Some not for years, a few not for decades. As passionate as they are about their work, not being able to periodically unplug is clearly a drag on their wellbeing and their personal lives outside of their work.

Last month my wife and I traveled for a long-overdue honeymoon to Tanzania, postponed from 2021 due to challenges of international travel at the hands of the pandemic. I made a commitment to her and myself before we left: I am going to fully unplug from work for the duration of our trip. No email. No Teams. I promised her, and myself.

Cheating only once to hop on Teams to let my team know that I had arrived safely and was having a good time, I followed through with that commitment. As much as my inner ego wants to believe that my contributions are critical to the work that AVP does, the reality is that the world kept turning while I was away. Work got done, deadlines were met, and my absence was more of a temporary inconvenience than a setback. A strong team remains a winning team even when it is down a player or two, and I’m extremely fortunate to work with such a strong team. I worried that it wasn’t a “good time” for me to be away from the team while we were preparing to welcome several clinics to the AVP family this spring. The truth that I had to come to grips with was that there is never a “good time” for a leader of a busy organization to be away. If you wait for a “good time” to take a vacation as a leader, you’ll be waiting forever. Leaders deserve to rest too, and the only way that is going to happen is if they take the leap and make it happen even if the timing isn’t perfect (it will never be).

You deserve an advocate.

Our clinician owner-partners have paid time off and we want them to enjoy it. Good partners look out for each other’s wellbeing. It usually isn’t easy for a lead clinician to take time away from a veterinary practice, especially a smaller practice where there likely isn’t extra DVM coverage readily available. Just because it isn’t logistically simple doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as important for lead clinicians to be able to fully utilize their PTO like anyone else. That’s where having a dedicated partner comes in. Whether it is a matter of trading coverage with associates, finding relief veterinarian coverage, and/or designating days as “tech appointment” or “staff development days”, the AVP Success Center works closely with our clinical partners to ensure that they’re able to utilize the benefits that they’re entitled to without guilt or concern.


Ask yourself…Do I need to unplug?


If you’re interested in learning more about AVP and our partnerships, please contact me at bill@associatedveterinary.com or go to yourvetpartner.com and fill out the contact form.

Even if you’re not interested in partnership with AVP, I encourage you to use this article as inspiration to go plan your next vacation. You’ve earned it many times over.

Be well,

Dr. Bill

#yourvetpartner

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