It seemed like a normal work conversation, discussing an after-hours team building activity and the specifics of when and where we could host it. After some back and forth about times and locations, I realized the limiting factor was me, or more specifically the fact that I had a child.
You see, on my surgery and anesthesia team I am one of 14 people working to provide amazing anesthesia. However, I am currently the ONLY ONE with a child at home. I wondered if this was true for other departments in our hospital and I found that it was… ER only has 3 people out of 20 that have school aged children at home, ICU has only 2 working moms out of 12 staff members.
So, veterinary medicine… what happened? How did a profession dominated by women become a harsh environment for women to raise children in? And, can we make a change, so we do not lose women to other professions once they have children?
In a recent poll amongst friends, one thing that seems to stick out is the overall low pay for veterinary technicians (yes it’s true… a cashier at my local grocery store makes the exact same per hour as a fresh out of school veterinary technician) and the hours that are difficult to mesh with school and daycare.
According to a 2016 study, approximately 30% of skilled working moms quit their jobs after having kids. Additional research shows that of those that leave the workforce, about 70% say they would have stayed in it if they’d had flexibility.
There are new concepts being used in corporate America that could potentially be an advantage to us in veterinary medicine if we are willing to step outside of the “this is the way we’ve always done it” box.
Microagility is a concept taking hold that involves allowing employees to step away from work for a few hours (say to pick their children up from school) and time-shift an unconventional schedule that might help commuters avoid rush hour or to do a kid car pool run.
So, let’s put on our imagination hats (as I say to my son… and my husband when I was trying to convince him to buy a run-down house in need of a major remodel) and imagine if these things are possible for working moms in vet med. Instead of just saying “No, that won’t work here,” I challenge you to ask how it could work here, and if we did this, what would it look like? Could we have working mothers work a split shift in order to pick kids up from school? Could mothers working 1 day a week from home be an answer to the backlog of training manuals, AAHA inspection reports, and employee reviews? Were you thinking about hiring an outside company for help with your social media? Why not hire a millennial mom that already knows both your hospital and Tik Tok! With the advent of telemedicine, do we have some working mothers with extra training (in behavior, or pain management) that could do much needed and valued teleconferencing with clients? Could working mothers be the ones that start your monthly Zoom pet bereavement group for clients? There are many opportunities that could exist to help prevent our working mothers from leaving vet med, we simply must shift our perspective on the way it’s traditionally been done. If any profession can adapt and progress, it’s vet med.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.