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The importance of work-life balance

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We recently had a discussion with an on-call veterinarian who owned a practice in a rural area and who shared the details of why work-life balance has become a top priority. For many years, they provided on-call service to their client base and recently made the decision to begin referring to an Emergency Facility. The veterinarian shared several details about why they made this decision; I’m sure many of you reading this story will relate.

24/7 availability

Being available 24/7 to your clients means being called away from birthday parties, holidays and more. The veterinarian carried a cell phone, like most do when on call after hours.  The cell phone had a specific ring tone for redirected emergencies. That particular ring tone made their heart rate jump and created a sinking feeling in their stomach. The moment that made their heart ache, was when they were at a family event and that tone sounded on someone else’s phone. The veterinarian’s son became upset thinking that his parent had to leave.


The veterinarian had a weekend in which they had back to back emergencies. After 36 sleepless hours of caring for multiple patients, the final emergency ended when the patient passed away in the veterinarian’s living room. While they were working to save the patient, their cell phone rang. Unable to answer, they let call go to voicemail. The caller was angry that the call had not been answered immediately.

Non-emergent issues

 On many weekends, the veterinarian took calls for non-emergent issues . Each of these calls meant that the veterinarian had to take time away from their personal life, creating a situation in which they could never be truly present for their family.


Making the decision

As we all know, suicide is a real concern in our profession. The veterinarian confessed that they too have struggled with that issue, torn by the guilt of wanting to be there both for their family and for their patients. After making the decision to cease on-call services and begin referring to an emergency hospital 23 minutes away, the response from clients was mostly positive. Longtime customers congratulated them on making work-life balance a priority. Unfortunately, not all responses were positive. One client accused the doctor of being selfish and not caring about animals. Another suggested that many animals in their community would suffer while the veterinarian slept. 

End result

This veterinarian is still torn between their patients and their own family life and mental health. This has unfortunately resulted in the veterinarian now giving out their personal cell phone number to clients who complain too strenuously. 

Written by Marcie Ennesser

Remember that you are not alone. If you need immediate help, please contact The Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. For help with afterhours triage email [email protected] or visit GuardianVets.