By Katie Berlin, DVM
Who remembers those little sayings we heard over and over again in school?
At Cornell Vet circa 2005-2009, for instance, you might have heard:
- “Friends don’t let friends get male goats.”
- “IM pins resist only bending.”
- “Don’t let go of the J-wire.”
- “Never let the sunset on an RDA.”
Although we didn’t learn it in school, I feel pretty strongly that the sun shouldn’t be allowed to set on patient charts, either.
For the first time in my professional life, I have remote access to our practice management software at home. This means I can finish my patient charts at home and even call clients from home if I want to (*67 is still a thing, by the way). When I started this job, I was so excited to be able to grab my notes and bug out so I could finish my SOAPs on my own couch with my little dog next to me and dinner in my belly.
I still do this sometimes. At the end of an 11 or 12 hour day, where I haven’t left the building since 8 AM, lunch was a mash-up of sedated procedure/involved phone calls/parade of people in and out of the office needing questions answered, and I have polished off all my snacks and am picturing the leftovers in my fridge just begging to be microwaved, all I want is to get the heck out before anything else happens. So I fold up those notes, stuff them in my bag, and drive home.
When I get there, the following happens:
- I feed the pets
- I let the dog out
- I heat up dinner
- I change into yoga pants
- I eat… and then eat more
- I remember bills I haven’t paid and pay them
- I unload the dishwasher and reload it
- I remember an email I never answered and answer it
- I sit down on the couch with my dog who insists on sitting on my lap so I have to balance the laptop on the arm of the couch
- I turn on Netflix for “background noise”
- I log in to Avimark and start typing
- I get an Instagram notification and fall down the rabbit hole
- I go back to Avimark and it has logged me out, so I log back in
- I feel so tired. So tired. Maybe I’ll just put my head down for a second…
- I finish my charts. At midnight maybe. And then I feel a burst of rejuvenating satisfaction at being done and can’t go right to bed, because I’ve been “working all night.”
Suddenly my 11-hour day has been drawn out to 16 hours. Even though I was doing plenty in those last four hours besides working, the charts have been on my mind all the time. I felt a cloud sitting on my dinner plate and lost time without being able to account for where it had gone. And I will be exhausted tomorrow, or sleep in and float groggily through the morning, my most productive time.
If I had just stayed at work, I probably would have had those charts done in 30 minutes. Maybe an hour depending on what I had gotten done earlier and what kind of cases I’d had that day. And then I would have come home and been free.
The running world has little sayings, too – universal truths and wisdom that serve as reminders by moving through our heads on autopilot. One of my favorites and one of the most often disobeyed is “Keep your easy days easy.” Runners are a goal-oriented sort and we like to push ourselves. But pushing every day is a recipe for injury, burnout, and plateau. By running very easy most days, we stay healthier mentally and physically, train our aerobic system, and enable ourselves to kick some serious butt on workouts that really count.
By saying to ourselves, “I’ll do those charts/calls/referral forms/discharge statements/surgical reports at home on my time off,” we are violating the “easy days” rule. We know we will be more relaxed and less rushed and tired on our days off, but if we choose to do work on those days that we could have finished during or immediately after a shift (and probably should have – let’s be honest, your charts will be way more accurate if you do them right away), we are robbing ourselves of the chance to use that time to recharge and carry that new energy back to work for our next shift.
Next time you’re sitting at work, grappling with the pull of home, reaching for the pile of papers to stuff in your bag to do over the weekend, think about the “easy days” rule. Cherish recovery time – reserve your energy for “workout” days – and when it’s time for those, put your head down and keep kicking butt until the workout is done.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Unchartedvet.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Katie Berlin is a small animal general practitioner in York, PA. She is also a certified personal trainer, book nerd, marathoner and podcast addict. She graduated from Williams College with a degree in Art History and worked in art museums before earning her DVM from Cornell in 2009. She is an avid supporter of Fear Free practice and the battle against burnout in veterinary teams. Through her website, The Vet Reset, she is working to promote the role of fitness and physical health in building mental health and emotional resilience for veterinary professionals.