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Time and Money

I read with interest Dr. Ernie Ward’s response [August/September 2021] to a 1986 graduate’s good-natured complaint about work-life balance topics. As a fellow 1986 grad, I want to back up Dr. Ward’s emphasis on self-care and work-life balance. My experience has been informed by doing relief work in over 100 practices in two states before I purchased a practice in December 2007.

When those of us who graduated in the ’80s and ’90s were first in practice, client expectations of veterinarians were much different than they are today. Back then, many clients truly wanted to know about “Doc” and his or her family and how everyone was doing. This was not small talk but a moment of genuine concern and interest. It gave the doctors a mental break. “Clients really care about me” was an underlying tone.

For a variety of reasons, that is not the situation as much today. I am not blaming our clients, but their lives seem faster and faster. They are running home to get their pet to bring to us, so the personal connections aren’t made as often. In addition, our overhead — read student debt and other debt — is such that the luxury of taking extra time in between appointments is tough.

Some of us do better taking one day off here and there or a half-day off. Others do better with a week or two of R&R. You have to learn what is most helpful for you.

Allow me to share one anecdote (N=1) from my practice-ownership life. Working from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday (6:30 on Tuesday), I found myself dragging by week’s end. So, I did an experiment starting in April 2010. I took off Wednesday afternoons and tracked my weekly income. By Nov. 15, my average weekly income was $6,469. The average when I worked a full day on Wednesday was $6,428. Over almost one year, my average was $50 higher when I worked four fewer hours a week.

Mental breaks do help. Your mileage might vary.

Dr. Ray Ramirez is the owner of Lakeview Veterinary Clinic and a 1986 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.