Tales from the Frontline: Setting Boundaries in Veterinary Medicine

Written by Jade Velasquez, LVT, Practice Manager
veterinary morale

This profession is filled with people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to selflessly helping the patients in their care. This means advocating and speaking up for those who do not have a voice. Do we use that same voice to advocate for ourselves? By working tirelessly to promote patient care, did
we neglect some of our basic needs? There has been a huge shift to practice self-care and mindfulness. These practices are valid, however putting ourselves first and implementing boundaries is crucial in this profession.

Boundaries are difficult for many of us in this profession and even our personal lives. In a field with many people pleasers and over achievers, drawing a hard line for what we will and will not tolerate can be uncomfortable to say the least. By not communicating our needs we can begin to resent our jobs. So how do we begin to implement boundaries when we aren’t even sure what that looks like?

First, we must know our boundaries. What are things that we are willing to compromise on and what are things that need a hard line? If you are feeling overworked and overwhelmed, what boundaries need to be put in place to make things better? Are there boundaries that you need to put in place for how coworkers or clients speak or behave with you? Do you feel that you are the person to fill all the positions in the hospital when you were only hired for
one? All these are based off what we as an individual find important to be happy in our position.

The next step is communicating our boundaries to others. Often, we assume that others should know how to behave in a situation or that people can read
our minds. The only concrete way to hold ourselves and others accountable to our boundaries is to communicate them to others. Being clear and
consistent in communicating where your boundaries are is retraining not just those around us, but ourselves as well.

Next be prepared for pushback when we state our boundaries. Not all pushback will be a big confrontation. It may just be redirecting people to other options. If you are the person that takes every extra shift, remind your employer when they call that right now you are focusing on time with your family. Stating you are ok to pick up a shift but that you need a particular day off for an event. This also means reminding ourselves of the pushback we give ourselves when trying to implement boundaries. Feeling guilty or frustrated with ourselves is normal when we are changing our day-to-day behaviors and ways of thinking. But stick with it! Practice makes perfect!

Finally, if we have identified and communicated our boundaries and they are not being respected, we must decide if our current situation is still in our best interest. Allowing our boundaries and feelings to be ignored is tolerating bad behavior. If we are made to feel guilty or manipulated on treading back to being boundary free is not really respecting us in our position or as human beings. Looking at if we can have a long healthy career in this profession is key to helping as many people and pets as possible. Examine your options and find what is healthiest for you and allows you not just to feel good about the medicine you practice but feel good about yourself.

Creating boundaries doesn’t just happen. But when we identify our needs, communicate our boundaries, and troubleshoot any pushback we are ensuring that we don’t lose ourselves in this profession. Boundaries may feel awkward at first and require that we practice them daily. Eventually they will become a part of who you are and the people that respect you and get you will value them.