The author is a partner in the Maria Stein Animal Clinic, Maria Stein, Ohio.
Chelsea was a bright young vet student like they all are. She was spending most of her Christmas break at our practice getting some hands-on learning to add to her education. What she lacked in experience, she made up for with a double dose of curiosity.
We spent way too much time driving, but during this time we discussed cases, practice philosophy, life as a veterinarian, and how students are educated these days. We ventured deep into life as a vet when Chelsea asked me, “What is the best thing about being a vet?”
It’s the time of year when we evaluate such things. I told Chelsea that I would answer her question and the obvious one after it, but we must remember that what we like and don’t like is tempered by how we see our world. That can be influenced by our job but also many nonjob-related factors. I’ve had doctors sit in their annual review saying everything was great, but a year later they decide to leave when nothing changed. Our jobs are often where our expectations meet reality.
My quick reply to Chelsea’s question of what I liked was, “We are so busy. What we do is important, and we make a difference in the lives on farms we serve.”
I still get an adrenaline rush as I hurry to attend a calving or other emergency. There is satisfaction in knowing that our efforts to improve housing or vaccination or any other management change made a difference.
There are several farms where I am now working with the second generation, and on a few, it’s the third. It is humbling and gratifying to see these farms progress and know that I have had some input. That requires being available for the discussion. It means taking a few minutes while on the farm to determine what the real opportunities are and proving that I care.
I get a few texts after hours with questions from longtime clients. Often, a quick text back takes care of things. Sometimes a phone call is better, or a farm call is scheduled later. My clients are respectful and not abusive in these requests. I know of practices where clients are more demanding and refuse to pay for consulting. I am blessed to live in a great place with wonderful clients, except that one grouch.
A good life
While not rich, I’ve made a good living, accumulated enough for retirement, and have been able to live in a marvelous community. If you enjoy what you do, any job can become your passion.
Our children have decided this place is a good one for them to raise their families, too. That means I get to see my grandchildren pretty often. There is nothing that can make a “Cowpa” happy like a hug from those little girls or an ornery grin from the determined boys. Christmas and all of its activities are particularly special.
It makes sense that our children want to live here because our communities are safe and have the very best schools in the state, both academically and athletically. There are festivals every weekend of the summer and some great walking paths all over.
There are enough social activities for my liking, but I’m pretty satisfied with working and building a practice that has much to offer its clients. Our practice has grown to a size where we are not frequently on call and can usually move things around so no one has to race like a crazy person when new work comes in.
Finding a balance
Chelsea then asked the obvious next question: “What is the worst part of being a vet?”
Again, without much thought, I said, “We are so busy.” Sometimes we are running faster than my guardian angel can fly. During those times, laundry doesn’t get done, bills don’t get paid, supper might be fast food, wills don’t get updated, personal care becomes optional, and the feeling of exhaustion is real.
It takes a conscious decision to integrate the important things in life. Much of that means being flexible and not getting too excited. If we have projects, we must accept that we may not get them done right now. One of the most attractive things about the farm we bought 25 years ago was the shop. I could start a project, get called away from it at a moment’s notice, and may not be back to it for weeks to months.
We get in a mentality that we can’t do anything more because we are so busy. We really can have a balanced life by saying yes. I can get to that meeting. I can visit that person. I can take 10 minutes to look at what is important to that client. I can do more, and it will be fulfilling, even when we are so busy. There are always options as we make those decisions.
A few nights ago, I picked up a down cow call. I wasn’t on call, but I didn’t want a down cow to wait two more hours for medical attention.
I was supposed to watch my daughter’s children while she served on the hospital board. At first, it looked unlikely that I would make it back to my house in time to watch the little ones. Yes, she grew up in a household with veterinarians as parents and knows that a “yes” means “probably” and a “no” means “maybe not.” I could have cancelled, but we had a plan confirmed.
Fortunately, everything clicked on that call, including the cow popping up, and I pulled in the driveway 50 yards behind my daughter. The grandkids and I had a blast playing in the snow, eating supper, hanging stockings, and making a few Christmas cookies. Sometimes you have to have faith, say yes, and make it all work, even when you are blessed with being so busy.
May you be blessed with the busyness of the Christmas season. Remember to say yes to what is important.