Veterinarians are a tough crowd. We are high achieving, motivated, soft-hearted smart people who put a lot of emphasis on getting it right. Who doesn’t do a happy dance when you confirm the Demodex case you diagnosed from 30 feet away as it walked in the door? And who doesn’t kick themselves and bemoan the missed radiographic finding or unexpected outcome of a patient? We are hard on ourselves, and others in our profession. We know that veterinary medicine is a practice, and art, and not something that is ever perfected, but we can nearly kill ourselves trying.

These things exhaust us, make our palms sweat, and drive many people out of the profession. Do you know who doesn’t care if the last client of the day was happy when they left or if the surgery has stitches that are perfectly apposed? Your kids or your parents or usually even your spouse. We take these things home, but the people at home don’t judge you for them, thank goodness. Good spouses will listen and sympathize and sometimes even offer to take out that abusive client, but they still love you at the end of the day.

How do we as professionals learn to leave work at the door? I know I have taken many calls from an emergency doctor or a specialist returning phone calls late, sometimes at the expense of dinner with the family or playtime with the kids. I try not to do this –I try really, really hard, but it still happens. I would love to espouse how we should turn off our devices once we walk through the door and let our cases and business be put on hold until the next day at the office. It rarely happens.

I think a better goal is to aim for discreet victories. I handed off dinner duties to my husband at least one night a week. So, one recent day when I got home, I plopped down and played ”Go Fish” for a good 30 minutes and didn’t think about any cases or pets. I laughed at my 8-year-old’s enthusiasm for a match and kept a lookout for my sneaky 11-year-old’s wandering eye. It was glorious. Two hours later, while the kids were getting ready for bed, I was checking bloodwork and finishing emails. I knew it would still be there in the morning, but I also knew I would have thought about it as I lay in bed trying to go to sleep. 

I count this combination of an evening a success. We know we aren’t going to stop practicing medicine as soon as the last client has checked out, but we need to allow ourselves permission to take long breaks. And we need to grant grace when we fail. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.


Dr. Jessica Taylor is a small animal veterinarian in North Carolina with a passion for veterinary team and client communication. She currently is growing in and enjoying her role as a medical director for THRIVE
Affordable Vet Care. She shares her home with her husband and 2 daughters, the laziest hound dog on earth, and a tyrant of a cat. In any spare time, she enjoys running, reading, and writing.