You Know It’s Time to Find a New Veterinary Job When…
It can be difficult to move on, but sometimes it’s the best option…
You already know that working as a veterinary professional is one of the most rewarding jobs there is. In fact, a 2020 study found that veterinarians achieve much of their job satisfaction not from their paycheck, but from their pride in their work and the knowledge that they are making a positive contribution to the lives of others.1
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As a veterinary professional, you have the opportunity to help puppies and kittens grow up to lead long and healthy lives while creating deep bonds with those pets’ owners over the lifetime of their pets. The joy of saving a critically injured pet or discovering a treatable illness before it’s “too late” pushes veterinary professionals like you to give your job everything you have.
On the other hand, however, we also know veterinary medicine can be a frustrating and thankless job. Many of us strive to “grin and bear it,” realizing that the highs outweigh the lows. However, it can be a real effort to keep your spirits up when you are constantly pushed to your limits and when the challenging days outnumber the good days.
Although working in a veterinary hospital can be a great job, it’s still a job. You need to feel confident that you can support your family, in addition to maintaining your own professional standards. Unless you own your own practice, you must abide by the standards, policies, and rules of your employer. Your ability to provide quality care often hinges on both your fellow team members and your clients. Occasional frustrations are inevitable, but frequent issues can quickly turn your dream job into a nightmare.
How do you know when it’s time to move on from a job that is no longer a good fit? Here are some big hints…
Limited Growth Opportunities
Veterinary medicine is always changing. New treatments, medications, and diagnostic tools are being discovered almost daily. If your job doesn’t afford you the opportunity to advance your skills and stay on top of new medical trends, it’s time to find a new job.
Your growth as a veterinary professional is affected by two outside influences: your employer and your clients. If your employer is resistant to change or reluctant to adopt new advances, your growth will likely be stifled. Similarly, if your clientele is unwilling or unable to authorize new or advanced treatments, your development may also be impeded.
As a veterinary professional, it is your responsibility to continue advancing your medical knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, all of the continuing education and reading in the world will be of limited benefit if you’re in a practice that is stuck in the past. If your practice environment does not support your professional growth, it may be time to find a new employer.
Compromised Patient Care
Your veterinary knowledge and skills are valuable, but your patients are unlikely to benefit unless your entire practice is delivering quality care. You must be able to depend on your fellow veterinarians, vet nurses, vet technicians, and support team to provide quality care and relay instructions to owners. If something goes wrong due to a lack of support or follow-through by others, your license, professional reputation, and self-esteem could be at risk.
If your patients aren’t receiving the quality of care you expect from your peers, it may be time to change jobs. You don’t want to lose the privilege of practicing veterinary medicine because others dropped the ball.
Toxic or Abusive Environments
This one should be a no-brainer, but sometimes we all need someone to tell us it’s okay to leave a toxic job. Unfortunately, toxicity can be all too common in veterinary workplaces. Snide remarks, destructive criticism, and back-biting can drain you mentally, emotionally, and even physically. A toxic environment can even put your patients at risk, by leading you to doubt your training and skills. Occasional work headaches are inevitable, but a toxic or abusive environment should not be tolerated. If you work in an environment where you are being berated, abused, or second-guessed, it’s time to consider a new vet job.
If your environment is toxic, begin by looking for possible solutions. Talk to your practice manager or supervisor about problematic interactions you have observed and help brainstorm possible solutions for improving the practice culture. However, if your practice leadership is unwilling to make changes or those changes are unsuccessful in improving the practice culture, it’s probably time to start looking for a new job. Life is too short to work in a hostile environment.
You Start Daydreaming
If you find yourself thinking about missing your bus stop or highway exit on the way to work in the morning, it may be time to search for a new veterinary job. If it takes you hours to brush off your bad feelings after a shift at work, it may be time to find a new job. If you dream of calling in sick when you feel physically healthy, it may be time to move on. All of these are potential signs of burnout.
The best first step is to talk to your fellow team members or your boss and explore how to hit refresh on your job satisfaction levels. You may be able to remedy your burnout through some simple changes in your work environment. Unfortunately, however, it isn’t always easy to change established patterns. If workplace changes cannot be enacted, or if they don’t help, it’s time to find a new workplace.
Your Skills Are In Demand
Let’s face it, not every veterinary job you have will be the best place you ever worked, just like not every pizza place will have the best pizza ever, and not every 5-star hotel will have the best customer service. Your workplace may have a great team, great medicine, and great growth, but sometimes even then, if the fit isn’t right, it’s just not right.
The good news is that you should not have any significant trouble finding a job that’s a better fit. Your skills, expertise, and experience are in demand! Between January of 2019 and April of 2021, the American Veterinary Medical Association Veterinary Career Center reported 18.5 veterinarian jobs for every United States veterinarian jobseeker, 5.9 vet technician/assistant jobs per jobseeker, and 12 “other” jobs per jobseeker.2 Anecdotally, other countries are reporting similar demand for veterinarians and veterinary team members. Clearly, there is a demand for your skills, if you are ready and willing to make a change.
If you are unsure about your next steps, consider working in a relief/locum veterinary job for a while. This can give you time to breathe and rekindle your enthusiasm for the veterinary profession, while also giving you the opportunity to experience a variety of practice environments and find the best fit for you.
You Deserve To Be Happy
Working as a veterinary professional is already a challenging job. Don’t make your professional stresses even worse by becoming trapped in a job that’s a bad fit. The veterinary field continues to grow and you will be able to find a great job as a veterinary professional in another clinic or hospital.
While you might be hesitant to change jobs out of a sense of loyalty to your employer, it’s important to also remain loyal to yourself and your own professional development. Approximately 23% of veterinary employees change jobs in a typical year;3 you will not be the first or the last employee to leave your workplace in search of greener pastures.
So, maybe it is time to take the first steps to find more happiness in your career… after all, you are a terrific veterinary professional. Your investments of time, effort, commitment, and caring mean that you deserve to be happy in your veterinary career.
- Merck Animal Health Veterinarian Wellbeing Study 2020. Retrieved from https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/offload-downloads/veterinarian-wellbeing-study-2020 (Accessed October 5, 2021.)
- American Veterinary Medical Association. (May 17, 2021). For veterinary medicine, a jobseekers’ market. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/blog/veterinary-medicine-jobseekers-market (Accessed October 5, 2021.)
- Rose, R. (April 29, 2021). Does your practice have a turnover problem? AAHA NEWStat. Retrieved from https://www.aaha.org/publications/newstat/articles/2021-04/does-your-practice-have-a-turnover-problem/ (Accessed October 6, 2021.)
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