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Having a flexible veterinary workplace.

Let's start with this, who said 38 hours is the optimum?

It was the Australian stonemasons that first won the eight - h­our day in 1856. It was clear to those stonemasons then- as it is clear to us now - that being able to relax, spend time with loved ones, pursue self-directed activity and have freedom from a boss are all essential parts of what it means to be human.

Now it is 2023. Is this still the optimum working system?

In the vet scene many employers are working side by side with their employees. A new system would benefit and enable us to have a fulfilling career, a good wage and time to be ourselves with family, sports, holidays, social activities.

Is flexibility the answer?

Let me tell you from my experience at our clinic.

My team at High Street Veterinary Surgery loved the 4-day week. This is when they did not have a family.

It worked well. They worked 38 hours, plus after hours. But they loved it. It fit with their desire to work hard, learn lots and establish themselves in the profession and in our clinic.

We set time aside for morning tea for everyone to get together, and lunch was one hour. Time was blocked out for the vets to research, do pending clinical files and client phone contact etc.

We also paid by the hour, so if by chance we worked later than the finish time, we were paid for it.

Each vet had the trust in the other vets that their cases would be looked after just as well as if they were there.

Weekends were great, we shared after hours with another clinic.

Now I do not have any vets doing this 38-hour 4-day week.

A couple of my Nurses do and they love it, they have no family yet.

Why change if all was going well?

Because life happens and people have different requirements and commitments during their life.

Our vets wanted to have a family. A women vet having a family is different to a male vet having a family, for obvious reasons. Women need some time off and due to our societal expectations women are generally the primary caregiver for the children and family.

All of our vets and nurses and support staff are women.

BUT, all people in our profession would benefit from flexible working.

Overall, the benefits of flexibility at our veterinary surgery are:

Less burn out and health issues, and we get to love our profession because we have time to do our work well, relate to our clients, have great patient outcomes, with a team we can rely on.

We need to reassess our old notions of a work week being 38 hours.

We need to reassess our old expectations that the vet will work as long as needed.

We need to manage our practices so that our people are not overworked and stressed.

What do you think?


Orchids at Singapore, are way too beautiful!

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We have RULES at High Street Veterinary Surgery.

Well, they are kinda guidelines, really because everybody needs to work within some guidelines. - (Thank you Jack Sparrow)

I learnt this when raising children, training dogs and horses and working with cattle on property.

I could not have everyone and everything running about doing their own thing, especially the dogs!

The impact of the dogs doing whatever they wanted, even though they were well-trained dogs, would be chaotic, and cattle would go everywhere.

The guidelines were, let's work together to get the cattle into a mob and then guide them in this group towards the yards and then quietly and calmly move them into the yards.

Dog rules: 1. You stay behind me until I ask you to do anything different. That way, I knew where they were all the time.

  1. Don't bark. You upset everybody when you do this—particularly cows with calves. A corollary to this is that people do not shout, yell or bark either. Otherwise, it becomes acceptable.

What has this to do with working in a veterinary practice?

LEAD BY DOING. If you obey the rules, then the others will.

Rule 1 The intent is good Rule 2 the no-blame rule Rule 3 the no-disrespect rule Rule 4 No swearing Rule 5 Every pet deserves to be seen by our wonderful team. Book an appointment.

Rule 1 The intent is good. Start with this, thinking that everybody, the clients, the team, the suppliers, and everyone intends to and wants to do the right thing. Because they do.

Rule 2 The no-blame rule. When things go wrong, look at why, not who. Were they not trained properly, were they tired? How do I, as the manager, fix this and ensure it does not happen again and ensure the team understands this?

Rule 3 The no-disrespect rule. If someone is snappy, are they tired, or have a problem at home? Feeling ill? When ready, ask them and talk about it. Do not assume there is trouble in the camp. There is generally a reason, and kindness is the best way to deal with it. We do a workshop on this and ongoing discussions.

Rule 4 No swearing. Well, Sometimes one lets loose. But then they apologise. It's the insidiousness of constant swearing and acceptable use of nasty words that cannot be tolerated. It's a precursor to bullying.

Rule 5 Every pet deserves to be seen by our wonderful team. Book an appointment. This is a bit of an outlier. But we are at the clinic, here to help animals. Book them in, and do not try to solve their problems over the phone.

So that's it, really. Everyone on the team knows these rules and appreciates that we all work within these guidelines.

As I said, you cannot have everyone running about doing their own thing; everyone MUST be working together to achieve the same outcome, be it getting cattle into the yards or saving pets' lives.

You know what, the best thing is? This works!!

One of our wonderful vets loves these rules/ guidelines and has made up a little story to help her remember. It goes like this: "At High Street Vets, we always welcome our clients in. We treat each person with respect which means no swearing. If something happens to a client or pet that is disappointing, we always believe that the intent was good and will work it out with no blame."

This is different to our VALUES.

Our Values were discussed and agreed on by the whole team and are reviewed regularly.

We can talk about them next time.

Cheers, Jocelyn

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