Even before the pandemic, maintaining a healthy work-life balance was a challenge for many of us in veterinary medicine. On top of long shifts and emotionally demanding work, COVID added staff shortages, increased caseloads and widespread cases of burnout.
A study of veterinary well-being found that around one-third of veterinarians were experiencing high levels of burnout. So if you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone.
Fortunately, sometimes all you need is a change in setting to find your ideal work-life balance and reduce work-related stress. Developing new skills can add excitement and gratification to your work, especially if you’re feeling stagnant or have hit a plateau. Stretching your abilities through new methods of practice can help you regain a sense of fulfillment while also supporting your career growth through exploring new areas of medicine.
In this article, we share three career opportunities for veterinarians that allow you to change up your environment and experience new types of cases without compromising your goals for a work-life balance: Urgent care, emergency medicine, and veterinary hospice and palliative care.
Flex Your Skills, Develop New Abilities
Depending on the clinical setting, urgent care, emergency medicine, and pet hospice and palliative care roles allow you to hone new skills and diversify your caseload. Each type of medicine presents a unique range of patient needs and requires skillsets that will have you flexing your abilities and learning new, rewarding aspects of medicine that you might not usually practice. At the same time, these roles offer varying degrees of flexible work schedules needed to strike a healthy work-life balance.
In emergency medicine, you never know what kind of case will come in next. This makes the ER an ideal environment to flex your abilities and pick up additional skillsets. Emergency veterinarians often describe themselves as adrenaline junkies who enjoy the fast-paced, exciting atmosphere where you can soak up the energy of your teammates as you save lives. ER vets flourish when solving challenges and experiencing the gratification of saving a pet’s life or fixing their concern and sending them home to their family.
In emergency medicine, you can deliver life-saving care quickly by building on skills such as:
- Fluid therapy
- Practical antibiotic usage
- Life support
- Transfusion protocols
Like in many of our BluePearl hospitals, emergency clinicians partner with specialty teams on patient management. This arrangement gives you exposure to diverse areas of medicine and enables you to learn from and collaborate with veterinary specialists.
Urgent care is a natural career progression from primary practice. In this role, you will help sick pets in acute but not necessarily life-threatening situations. You may see cases that vary in complexity, such as bite wounds, urinary tract infections, dehydration, toxin ingestion or sprains.
What’s being an urgent care vet like?
Urgent care veterinarians experience the gratification of providing much-needed care to pets and sending patients home after delivering the best treatment for their condition. Many urgent care clinicians enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from being able to provide an “instant fix” for patients suffering from acute illnesses, unlike with many chronic conditions treated by primary care veterinarians.
What skills do urgent care vets use?
As an urgent care vet, you’ll have the opportunity to hone skills like:
- Wound care
- Pain management
- Sedation protocols
- Bandaging and splinting
- Diagnostic interpretation
Pet Hospice & Palliative Care
Hospice and palliative care is an option for clients who are no longer seeking treatment with a cure as the goal for their pets. Our hospice veterinarians work closely with clients and patients to identify, control and alleviate physical discomfort and other symptoms that often accompany a serious health condition. They also work closely with primary care veterinarians and/or specialists to ensure that delivery of care is coordinated across healthcare settings.
What skills do hospice and palliative care vets use?
Our hospice veterinarians’ focus is maximizing patients’ comfort through advanced symptom management to provide the highest level of quality of life for the time that remains.
Hospice is a rapidly advancing dimension of veterinary medicine and offers you an environment to flex and develop your skills in the following ways:
- Managing a patient’s symptoms through the delivery of specialty-level in-home hospice and palliative care
- Implementing advanced, multimodal pain management approaches for every patient
- Reassessing patients continually to monitor progress and symptom control, especially as changes occur in the patient’s condition and needs
- Utilizing innovative sedation and euthanasia techniques for end-of-life care
- Identifying patient and family needs
- Assessing and measuring quality of life for both pet and family, including helping families identify and address goals for themselves and their pet
- Providing client education to help them understand their pet’s condition and the range of palliative options available
- Honing critical interpersonal communication skills, including navigating complex client conversations that can arise as end of life nears
- Training in current, advanced principles of care quality and ethical issues in hospice care
- Working with a multidisciplinary team including other hospice clinicians, hospice nurses, case managers and grief support specialists
- Partnering with general practitioners and specialists to ensure continuity of care and standards of medical excellence for hospice patients and their families
How to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance
As veterinarians, many of us face challenges to personal well-being like long shifts and emotionally demanding work. But, there are ways to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance with the right resources and support.
…As an Emergency or Urgent Care Vet
At BluePearl, we help our ER and urgent care veterinarians maintain a healthy work-life balance in a few ways:
- Most of our emergency and urgent care clinicians work three shifts per week, giving you four days a week to take advantage of things like travel, family time or volunteering in the community.
- Only in very rare cases are our ER vets on call. Your time off is your time off to relax and recharge.
- We understand how important it is to check out from work and leave the stress behind. Our PTO plans and flexible schedules give you the time and space to maintain a healthy balance between home and work.
- We’re continuously developing new medical strategies like our patient handoff initiative, which ensures continuity of care for every patient. Once your shift is over, your patient is in capable hands, and you can leave work behind.
- Full-time social workers and on-site support staff provide you with guidance, advice and tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
…As a Hospice and Palliative Care Vet
Our pet hospice and palliative care teams also enjoy a healthy work-life balance in many ways:
- Hospice clinicians benefit from the flexibility of building their own schedule, allowing you to flex work around life, not the other way around.
- Our clinicians are given the time they need. Appointments are 1-2 hours in length allowing you to slow down, connect with families, and do a good job. There is no rushing from one exam room to another.
- As a hospice vet, care is provided in the comfort of a client’s home with the support of an interdisciplinary team.
- Boundary setting is not only supported, but also encouraged. Hospice is all about quality of life, and that must include our own.
- Many hospice veterinarians find the deep connections with clients and patients particularly rewarding. Being an integral part of the family during the most critical time in a pet’s life allows you to make a significant impact on not only the patient and clients’ experience, but your own.
- Our social work team and wellness resources help ensure you’re not carrying the load outside of work.
- New to hospice? We got you. Experience an extensive training and mentorship program that will set you up for success as you move into this rewarding area of veterinary medicine.
Making the Change
If you want to make a meaningful change in your professional life and build new skills while maintaining a healthy work-life balance, these roles offer you paths to thrive and grow.
Jump Right In
At BluePearl, you can begin your journey as a hospice veterinarian without the need for additional training or education if you have a DVM or equivalent degree. You’ll leverage the skills you learned in vet school and have plenty of opportunities to learn new ones based on your interests, all while enjoying a change of pace.
Gain Experience First
If you want more experience before making a change, you can help make your transition successful by:
- Seeking a mentor: Ask your connections about mentorship opportunities. You’ll get to work one-on-one with an experienced veterinarian who can guide you through the transition and advise you on the skillsets you will need.
- Getting additional training: See what training programs are available specific to the career path you’re interested in to acquire the education, hands-on training and resources to thrive.
Become a Skilled, Confident Emergency Clinician
Training programs supply you with the skills necessary to change career tracks smoothly. For example, BluePearl offers the emERge™ program, which provides the foundation for a fulfilling career in emergency medicine, including the critical hands-on experiences, immersive training and personal mentorship needed to succeed.
Become a Capable Urgent Care Clinician
If you’re interested in urgent care, BluePearl’s Urgent Track program creates an opportunity to get started right away as an urgent care clinician and continue growing your skills while providing urgent care for pets. This path also offers the option to hone your emergency medicine skills if you’re interested in moving into that role.
Finding Your Balance
Urgent care, emergency medicine and pet hospice roles offer the opportunity to reignite your spark, keep you engaged and prevent burnout. Instead of giving up what you love, you can find fulfillment in veterinary medicine by stretching your skillset and trying new experiences in ways that also complement your goals for a healthy work-life balance.
At BluePearl, we’re always finding new ways to support our associates in their desires to grow professionally while getting the time they need away from work to rest, recharge and enjoy being with friends and family. From our world-class mental health resources and initiatives to unparalleled training and mentorship opportunities for progressing in your career, we know that remarkable care begins with remarkable individuals, and it’s our duty to support and uplift every associate.