Having it all; being a vet and having a family

A family on the beach with a sunset background

Dr Louise Cox-O'Shea BVSc MRCVS. Veterinary Surgeon, career zone

A Vet’s Life with a Young Family

The problem:

It is undoubtedly difficult to have a young family whilst working as a vet. An old colleague of mine referred to it as “having it all”. I find it incredibly sad that many professionals have to make the choice between work and family. Many of my friends and colleagues have left the profession because they couldn’t make both ‘work’ for them.

With most equine and large animal jobs requiring full participation in an on-call rota, and most small animal jobs involving incredibly long days, it becomes difficult to accommodate a family. Options become even more limited if, like me, your partner is also a vet or on-call provider of some description. There is also a significant emotional impact involved in ‘choosing’ work over family time. Although it is possible to find childcare to look after the children until 8pm, maybe even overnight, many of us struggle with the guilt of not being there to read our little ones a bedtime story or kiss them goodnight.

What can change?

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix solution. Small animal practices need to have hours that suit the general public and, unlike small animal practices (who can use dedicated OOH providers), large animal practices and equine practices usually must provide OOH care and hence OOH duties are unavoidable.

Is there a solution?

But, is it possible to “have it all”? Can vets successfully juggle a work-life balance?  I think so. Here are some of the options:

  • Part-time-

This is the obvious option and some jobs exist that can even work around school hours. Some practices require cover for the lunchtime period or a surgical vet to take care of the ops; freeing up the other vets for consulting duties. Admittedly this sort of job is difficult to be found, but such jobs are out there. Pick up the phone, call local practices; get your name and availability known. Sell yourself!!

  • Weekend and holiday cover-

This is obviously a lot less lucrative and may not be a financially viable option for some, but it is a way of staying current during this period of life. This may work for you as a way of keeping your clinical skills ‘up to scratch’ until you can return to practice.

  • Ambulatory vaccination and flea/ worm prevention service-

Some practices provide an ambulatory service for clients who struggle to travel to the surgery. The hours involved tend to be more flexible.

  • Locum work-

Locum work gives a vet a lot more choice over when and where they work. This can mean more time off for family commitments, first birthdays, the festive period, summer holidays, harvest festivals etc. There are many practices looking for both short and long-term cover in small animal, farm and equine work. There are jobs that can meet your requirements and preferences.

  • Online work-

This is work not usually associated with the veterinary profession, but such work is available and may work for you. There are online resources that need veterinary professionals to write content. There are associations wanting blogs. There are companies wanting pet care information leaflets. This type of work can be part-time and flexitime and, as such, can fit around family life extremely well.

  • Industry work-

I know of several vets who have moved over to industry work after starting a family. Industry work often involves travel but it has the benefit of a shorter working day, no on- call and no weekend duties. 

What worked for us… 

My husband and I are both vets and we have 4 small children. Our family set up involves a combination of the above; I provide content for an online veterinary resource and work at a local practice, in the weekend rota and providing holiday cover. My husband works as a locum. Life is busy and chaotic but we can enjoy both a work life and our family life. I wouldn’t say we “have it all” but I think we’ve made it work for us.

Scroll to top