You're Only Open Until 4?

I was asked this question three times this week, so I thought I would write about it.  The answer is "Yes, we are only open until 4".  The short answer I usually give everyone; "if I'm burnt out, I can't help anyone."  This goes for my patients as well as my family.  

I have been doing this long enough to know when I am burnt out.  I have been there before, and unfortunately, more than once.  It can be very difficult to say "NO" to someone, especially when it's regarding the health or care of their pet.  If you say "NO", you are regarded as a curse word (more specifically a female dog most of the time), as having no empathy, or worse, the dreaded (and in my opinion overused) term "compassion fatigue".

When I finally decided to go off on my own, I knew I was going to be my worst enemy.  I have a Type A personality, and I strive for perfection, which is unattainable in the world of medicine (in my opinion).  I had to set my boundaries from the beginning and I had to make sure I stayed with them.  My first boundary was setting a time limit for myself at the clinic.  By having our hours from 8am to 4pm Monday through Friday, I am able to drop off and pick up my son from daycare.  I can have some mommy and son time all to ourselves, even if it's only for a total of 15 minutes a day where we talk about how things went.  I HAVE TO pick him up by a certain time, so that helps me walk away.

I now get home at a reasonable hour, help make dinner, sit down at the table with my family, and then go to bed pretty early.  I currently have all weekend off!!!  This is the first time I have had full weekends off since I was a teenager.  It really is nice to have 2 days to wind down, get some projects completed at the house, and again, spend some much needed time with the family.

In the past, when I am stressed out at work, I would bring it home.  You can't be snotty and short to clients, so instead, I would be short and snotty to the ones I love the most.  We moved to TN to bring down our stress levels, but mostly, it was to bring down MY stress level.  If I am stressed out, I am not a nice person to be around, and I didn't want my son growing up thinking I was an a-hole.  

So, the short answer is this; the hours I have set for the clinic are one of the boundaries I can control to keep stress levels down.  This in turn will lead to a higher standard of care for the clients, patients, and for my well-being.

I know this is a consumer driven business, and that it is convenient to have later hours and weekend hours, but I just can't do it right now.  In the future, if we thrive, I can hire a second doctor and more staff to provide more services, but until then, it will have to wait.  We seem to forget that most of our human General Practioners have a 5 day work week, and there are urgent care and emergency facilities that are available when your doctor is closed.  We have that for animals too!  I know it's more expensive, but so are human ER visits.  So I am not sure where the perception came from, that veterinarians should be available at all times.

Thanks for listening, and don't forget, you have to ENJOY life too.

Dr. Leah Wulforst DVM

Riverside Veterinary Clinic, Knoxville, TN