Keeping Clients, Patients, and Kids Happy in Equine Practice

One veterinarian and single mom describes how she effectively manages her practice, her children, and her self-care.
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In order for veterinarians to “have it all”, time management is key. | iStock

Is it possible to “have it all”? The answer is an emphatic “yes” from Berkley Chesen, DVM, Dipl. Acvs-LA, a solo ambulatory practitioner in Santa Fe, New Mexico, focusing on sports medicine as well as general and emergency care, and a single mother of two children. To keep everyone happy, she explained, you “must start with yourself,” and it won’t happen every day or all at once. She gave an overview of how she manages her practice, her children, and her self-care while presenting at the 2022 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas.

Addressing her audience of veterinarians, she said you should first identify your “kids”- be they two-legged human children, aging parents, or other aspects of your life that require prioritization over everything else. After that, time management is key. Chesen said she schedules herself for 0- to 14-hour days, depending on her kids’ schedules, and includes several two- to four-hour buffer blocks each week. She frequently relies on telemedicine, mostly for triage purposes so she can plan for emergencies and urgent cases between regular appointments.

Chesen said her children accompany her to many appointments. She assigns them jobs, explains what she’s doing using proper terms, and doesn’t sugar-coat anything. She explained that this approach has given her kids real-time experience with life and death, responsibility, and compassion, and has made them more resilient. While this approach might not be a fit for every parent, it can work in some setups.

Other strategies for time management include hiring out jobs you don’t want to do or have time for, such as housecleaning and grocery shopping. Using day care or a nanny-share arrangement can be a lifesaver, said Chesen.

For her self-care, which is horseback riding, Chesen emphasized that you must respect your own time, because “nobody else will do it for you.” Making sure you have time for the things that fill your own cup will allow you to have better relationships with your kids, your clients, and yourself.

Setting boundaries with clients is essential, said Chesen. Your job is to be available to them when you’re on call or scheduled, train them, say no when you need to, and set limits. Your job is not to put up with unreasonable requests, be available 24/7, and, most of all, control everyone else’s reactions. Control your own actions and reactions. Chesen warned that “people-pleasers” are prone to developing codependent tendencies that can lead to being angry, stressed, and depressed. If you don’t manage these over time, your happiness suffers.

Chesen closed with a reminder that if you aren’t available to your clients tomorrow, they will be fine. But your kids need you, and while “the days can be very long, the years are very short,” she said. It’s worth being proactive with boundaries and time management to keep yourself, your kids, and your clients happy.

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Jennifer Selvig, DVM, is an associate equine veterinarian at Cleary Lake Veterinary Hospital and the owner and manager of Stargazer Farm, an eventing and dressage barn in Lakeville, Minnesota.

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