Healthy Work Boundaries

November 4, 2019

It’s Imperative for Career Self-Care

We love our career in veterinary medicine! It’s not just a job, it’s a calling.

However, there are days where we just want to walk away. If there are only a few here and there, that’s normal and people have “tough days.”  It’s when these days come closer together and more in numbers that there needs to be concern.

What to do?

Remember your self-care.  It’s not selfish! It’s about being the best you can be in order to help the pets, the pet parents, and your co-workers.

It’s great if you can go home and get rejuvenated there. But you shouldn’t have to. Self-care can and ought to occur during your workday as well.

Establishing boundaries

Part of your self-care is knowing when to say “Yes” and when to gracefully say “No.”

In Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he encourages you to “Put First Things First.” He suggests establishing top priorities and bringing those to fruition, allowing the least important things to simply fade away.

Within a work environment, establishing boundaries can be done in multiple ways. You can still work hard and be a valued member of the veterinary team when you set boundaries. This means defining job duties and being realistic about the time and energy needed to complete the duties to a certain quality standard.

Maintain the standards but avoid overtaxing yourself by setting unrealistic expectations. These expectations may be set by others, or internally by you.  Make sure you know where expectations are actually coming from.

Here are a few ideas to get you started or to encourage you to continue forward.

Recognize and verbalize your needs in a professional way.  Complaining about a situation is unproductive. Stating that there is a problem and offering potential solutions is productive and valuable to all team members.

Don’t gossip. It’s like “The boy who cried wolf.” If you’re talking about people behind their backs, others may not be so inclined to take you seriously when you have a legit concern.

Put safety first for both you and the people around you. Short cuts aren’t very short if it results in an accident or injury.

Take breaks! These don’t even have to be long.  Grab a glass of water. True story: there was a receptionist who didn’t want to ask her Practice Manager to cover for her for two minutes so she could use the restroom.  She thought the PM was too busy (which was untrue – the PM was happy to cover for these types of situations).

ask signWhich comes to the point of asking for help! Everyone is busy. That’s not the point.  It’s about helping each other be their best! Sometimes you must reach out and ask for it.  Especially if you explain the situation, and don’t abuse it, others will be willing to assist every now and then.

Your co-workers are NOT mind readers. Thinking “they should know what my needs are” is setting everyone up for failure. Define your needs clearly and articulate them in a productive manner.

In addition, you may wish to step outside of your hospital setting and seek help from a professional coach. Everyone can benefit from a little support, motivation and a different perspective on current situations.

Once your boundaries are set, be consistent.  Others will test your boundaries and if you don’t remain steadfast, others will adjust them for you.  Your self-care is not selfish! Recognizing that your co-workers also require self-care, you can work together so that everyone is working at their peak.  After all, it’s about being the best you can be in order to help the pets, the pet parents, and your co-workers.


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