Work-life balance is a critical concern for many women when choosing a career. If you already have a family, or plan children in the future, it’s vital to know whether your work will accommodate your domestic responsibilities. Veterinary work is time-consuming and demanding but it’s possible to make it work in certain circumstances.
Being a veterinarian can be highly time-consuming in certain settings. Animals don’t get sick on a schedule and many vets, especially early in their careers, are required to work through nights and weekends by their practices. Others may find routine days are made longer by emergency situations, or travel for house or barn calls. This can lead to something as simple as missing family dinners, or more serious, resentment within your marriage.
Even if you are not actually on shift at the office, you may be required to be on call. One of the worst aspects of being on call can be the inability to commit to any other activity. You may want to attend your kid’s soccer match or school concert, but there’s no guarantee you’ll still be there at the end, and your partner or another adult will have to be able to take up the slack for you.
Disturbingly, some 19 studies from different parts of the world have found that veterinarians have a higher suicide rate than the general population. A review of the studies by researchers from the University of Oxford, published in "Occupational Medicine" in 2010, showed a suicide rate among UK vets three times that of the general population. Most of the studies reviewed indicate that this is due to high levels of stress and burnout, and some vets report a higher level of depression related to job stress. The researchers also found that depression related to the job is more widespread among women than men. These data indicate a major concern for women who might want to leave their work worries at the office as they balance a veterinary career with family life.
Some vets report success with a part-time schedule or working ad-hoc as vacation relief for local veterinary practices. This gives them less access to career progression, but it does put them more in charge of their own schedule. If you’d rather stay in full-time practice, building a team of highly competent support staff around you may be the key to using your time most efficiently. If a trusted tech can prep animals for surgery or attend to taking case histories, you can focus on using your expertise where it’s most relevant and hopefully get out of the office on time.