Getting Technical columnist Sandy Walsh is a veterinary practice management consultant, speaker and adviser. She is an instructor for Patterson Veterinary Management University and continues to work in a small animal practice. She has over 35 years of experience in the veterinary field and brings her in-the-trenches experience directly to readers.Read Articles Written by Sandy Walsh
Over the past year, I’ve covered many topics relating to veterinary nurses in leadership roles. They have a lot on their plate every day. Training the technical team, mentoring, setting expectations and holding everyone accountable is just the tip of the iceberg for them. In addition, many veterinary nurse leaders continue to work full time on the floor, which can be an overwhelming long-term challenge if self-care is not a part of the equation.
Most veterinary practices recognize the value of good employees and do everything possible to keep team members happy and engaged, which means being sensitive to everyone’s personal and professional needs. When work policies and programs recognize and support the importance of self-care, achieving and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is easier.
I advise veterinary nurse leaders to make themselves heard. Address the stressors before they take a toll on your personal and work lives. Communication and setting clear expectations is the first step, so work with the practice owner or management to find a compromise. You will be an even more valuable and productive employee if you have more control over your work situation. Also, negotiate schedules and fringe benefits that support a healthy balance.
- Ensure that your schedule looks after you and the practice.
- Take time for continuing education.
- Take your vacations every year. You earned them.
- Work with management to address a negative culture or problem employees.
- Identify and address common workplace frustrations.
Learn to Delegate
Delegating tasks is difficult no matter who you are, so get over the mentality of “I’m the only one who can do this,” “I can do it faster,” or “I can do it better.” While all that might be true with some responsibilities, you have no reason to overburden yourself. Instead, you can share the workload confidently if you hire the right people and train them well.
At this point, evaluate your daily workload and determine which tasks can and should be done by someone else. Next, assess your team members and determine who is ready, willing and able to take on more work. Empowering others is the best way to acknowledge their skill set, allow them to grow professionally and foster engagement.
So, choose wisely and ensure the team member’s success by setting clear expectations, checking in regularly and holding the person accountable. The more you delegate, the more time you’ll have to focus on the leadership duties you put off while you tried to do the work of many.
Delegation at home is just as important, too. Taking care of the household, children, parents and pets should not be the responsibility of one person. Share the load and recognize when you need help. You can’t do it all. It’s OK to say no.
Time management skills are critical in maintaining a balance. Take the time to evaluate your workload and make a daily to-do list. Then, enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off the list. Make sure your list isn’t so long that you become frustrated when you can’t finish everything.
Also, don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s easier said than done, but once you learn to let things go, you can put things in perspective and focus on the important issues. Learn to recognize what doesn’t have much impact on your life and let it go. Perhaps it’s housework, yardwork or non-pressing issues at your hospital. How often have you stayed late at work to organize your desk, finish the surgery laundry, autoclave the packs or mop the floors?
When we stay late to finish everything, something or someone at home often needs our attention more, and we stress about it. Let the work task go, and don’t beat yourself up. You surrounded yourself with a competent team, so share the load. Prioritize what must get done daily and what can wait until the following day. Set expectations and empower the team members to do their jobs. Wind down at the end of the workday and plan your exit.
- Finish any critical tasks, and deal with outstanding issues. That means completing what’s essential, delegating urgent tasks and listing what can be done tomorrow.
- Realize that the workday is over.
- Say your goodbyes.
- Take off your name badge, lab coat and uniform, and complete any other end-of-day rituals.
- Log off, clock out and go home.
- Don’t take your work home with you. Limit calls to true emergencies that only you can address. You do not need to be accessible 24/7.
Find Your Balance
Many things can be done to achieve balance. That means taking steps to enjoy the things and people in your life, making time for yourself, and distancing yourself from what causes you the most stress. Also, take control of your schedule where you can, at work and at home. Downtime is a good thing, so try to schedule something you enjoy.
If your efforts to change on-the-job conditions haven’t succeeded and you’re reaching the dreaded burnout or fatigue stage, you need to consider whether you’re in the right workplace. If you still love what you do, a career change is unlikely, but a change in employer might be necessary. You deserve a workplace that supports your desire to maintain a healthy balance. Life is too short to be miserable every day at work and bring the attitude home to your family. The key is to recognize when you’re out of balance and do something about it.
The key word is balance. You need to find the work-life balance that works for you. No one can find it for you. And remember that if you don’t control the chaos in your life, the chaos will control you.
WORDS TO LIVE BY
I want to share a quote posted at ahappyvet.com that says it all. Here it is: “Make scheduling things you love to do a priority. Put it on the calendar. Set an alarm. You work so that you can live.”