Podcast: Re-entering Practice After a Hiatus

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Welcome to the Veterinary Breakroom! In the breakroom, Alyssa Watson, DVM, and Beth Molleson, DVM, discuss the important, relevant topics affecting veterinarians today. In today’s episode, Clinician's Brief colleague Katie Berlin, DVM, joins Dr. Alyssa and Dr. Beth in the breakroom to share her experience of re-entering clinical practice after a 2-year hiatus. If you’ve ever considered a break from clinical medicine and wondered what it would feel like to jump back in, listen in as Dr. Katie shares the good, the bad, and the ugly (read: anxious) of re-entry!

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This podcast recording represents the opinions of Dr. Watson, Dr. Molleson, and Dr. Berlin. Content, including the transcript, is presented for discussion purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast. The transcript which was prepared with the assistance of artificial intelligence is provided as a service to our audience.

Dr. Beth [00:00:07] Hi, I'm Dr. Beth Molleson.

Dr. Alyssa [00:00:10] And I'm Dr. Alyssa Watson.

Dr. Beth [00:00:12] Thank you all for joining us here in the Veterinary Breakroom. These are short conversations where we just chat informally about relevant topics in veterinary medicine. And today I am very excited both about our topic and because we have a special guest here today. So we decided to explore what it's like to be a veterinarian who maybe took some time off for whatever reason. We'll call it a sabbatical, so to speak. Who is re-entering the field? I know this is a conversation that has come up. I know I've seen it in moms groups with people taking maternity leave and of course, for various different circumstances, vets have this happen. I know there's kind of a lot to talk about when it comes to re-entering the workforce. So joining us today is Dr. Katie Berlin, who is a fellow Clinician's Brief employee. And Katie, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Katie [00:01:05] Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be back. I mean, when when I was here a couple years ago, Alyssa and I were doing the breakroom together, and I was so excited to see that it continued with you and you came, and now I'm very excited to be in the guest seat.

Dr. Beth [00:01:22] So I know I introduce you like you're new, but you are the original breakroom host, so that is very important piece to know about Katie as she has been doing this for quite some time. So Katie, of course, like we said, now you are here at Clinician's Brief once again. But do you mind to tell our audience, give us a little bit of background about your career past?

Dr. Katie [00:01:44] Yeah. I was in, so I'm Katie Berlin, I am a DVM who was in general practice in Pennsylvania, where I used to live for 12 years. And the last couple of years that I was in practice, I was working part time, and I was also working part time for Clinician's Brief, and I was working in a job that was very similar to what Dr. Beth is doing now. And, it was a fantastic experience. And I had sort of been toying with the idea of like, what it might be like to leave practice for a while or forever. I wasn't sure, entirely. I was pretty burned out when I started going part time. And I just no matter how few hours I was working, I just never really found as much love as I as I would have liked for it. And I really enjoyed what I was doing at Clinician's Brief. And so, the opportunity came up a couple of years ago to go work full time for the American Animal Hospital Association for AAHA in content strategy. And I was hosting a podcast there and got to work in the publications department and oversee a team for the first time. And, it was a fantastic opportunity. It was definitely the right move at the right time. But I missed the team here a lot. And, the Clinician's Brief and Plumb's teams were so, wonderful when I left about staying in touch and, you know, inviting me to events at conferences and stuff like that. And we wished each other well over, you know, social media all the time. And that's actually like, pretty unusual, you know, to have people who you left, just be like, we wish you well and we hope we get to work together again one day. And so when it was time for a change again, I, I emailed our now president Beth Green, and I was like, I really would love to come back. And now I'm here. And now I work, as the director of brand advocacy, which basically spans both Clinician's Brief and Plumb's. And I get to build relationships and work on, reaching out to vet students and, some of our multimedia content and a whole bunch of different things, which I'm really loving. So it's great to be back here because that was a lot. Sorry.

Dr. Alyssa [00:04:00] I'll tell you, even though you did take that hiatus for me, it was like you were never gone because we kept in touch. We talked, we talked about the breakroom because you had such a lasting impact on the show. And I will tell you, I just want to tell the audience, but also both of you. Like, I was so excited for this episode because, you know, I've, you know, Katie and I started the show, and Beth, you have continued it with such passion. And I love having these conversations. And so to have both of you here was like, yay!

Dr. Katie [00:04:36] It is really fun to be on with both of you. And it feels like we've done it a million times. We have done it zero times.

Dr. Beth [00:04:41] I know we're trying to trying to figure out more ways to get you back in here, so we're just going to start interviewing Katie about random random topics in vet med.

Dr. Katie [00:04:49] You know, I'll never have I'll never be shy about having an opinion. So, anyway. But no, this is wonderful. And you guys are fantastic. And I listen to the breakroom every time, so. I love it.

Dr. Beth [00:05:02] And something to just to clarify, for any audience members that may be, it might not be clear for all the veterinarians here at Clinician's Brief and Plumb's are still practicing veterinarian. So when we say Katie's reentering, kind of that clinic workforce, she's doing both now. So it may not be your typical clinical position because she is kind of doing more of a locum or relief role. But regardless, like she said, she'd been out for two years and had to take that first step back into the clinic. Which I can only imagine how that feels. So yeah, Katie, I know you touched on a little bit about what it felt like to leave practice, but do you mind to give us a little bit more background about kind of that burned out feeling and why you were even looking to leave a full time clinic role to begin with?

Dr. Katie [00:05:48] Yeah, it's a complicated question, I think, because, like, there's such an identity that we have that's wrapped up in, you know, seeing patients having hands on patients and talking to clients one on one and working with the team. And I do think it's wonderful that all the veterinarians here, do work in the clinic still, because even if it's just once a month, you know, it's still, you know, what the experience is like in real time. And it does evolve over time. Like, I know it's a different landscape now than it was when I graduated. And, I can't imagine for people that have been out twice as long, you know, it must be just incredibly different. And so I, I think that identity piece of it was a big part of why I hadn't tried already, with much effort to completely leave the clinic, because I was I kept telling myself like, well, it's not like I want to leave the clinic. I just might want to do less of it and do something else, too. And this was just a big fat lie. Like, let me tell you what, it was just like it was a lie. I wanted to leave. I was ready to be gone. And, you know, I probably would have stayed out forever if I'd been in a job that didn't encourage me to go back, because it's easier not to be, you know, it's easy to work at your desk and not go to the clinic.

Dr. Katie [00:07:08] So, but I, I'm glad that I didn't do that. And I'm glad now that I kind of get to dictate the terms of when and how I go back, and I realize that's a super privileged position that not a lot of people have. And I feel very lucky to have it right now.

Dr. Alyssa [00:07:24] Well, I'll tell you, Katie, it was, you know, when you said that you kept kind of decreasing your hours and then, you know, you still felt like there wasn't that spot where you said, okay, yeah, this is the right amount to be in the clinic. I felt that very deeply, because I have also cut back on my clinical hours in order to pick up more responsibilities. You know, here at Brief with the, the different podcasts, you know, as well as turn to some, in-home hospice and euthanasia work. And for me, that balance is really difficult because actually not being in the clinic enough is more stressful. Like when I've gone, you know, and so finding that and for me, I've figured out it's about like a shift every two weeks. If I'm out longer than that, then I start getting more anxiety because I just don't feel fresh. And, you know, and like you said, I also like to stay in the clinic because, you know, we're bringing these shows to fellow veterinarians. And, you know, I want to I want to be authentic. I want to live it. I want to be in it every day. Otherwise, I feel like I'm not bringing the value that I could be. So. I thought it was interesting that you said that.

Dr. Katie [00:08:43] Yeah, it definitely was a you know, it's a red flag when you have like, a puppy appointment, you're like, when I go into this puppy appointment, you know, like, this used to be my favorite thing. And I was working with wonderful technicians who would go in and go over so much of the information for me. And, you know, we had a system down. But I just I was just tired of having the same conversations over and over. You know, and I wasn't being my best self because I didn't want to be there badly enough.

Dr. Beth [00:09:12] And. Yeah. So how did it feel? I know you mentioned like like we can all imagine once you're kind of out of the clinic, it can be easier, like you said, to just do that desk job. And I feel like every day you're out of the clinic, like Alyssa alluded to, it becomes a little bit harder to go back. So when you were out of that clinic space. How did it feel? Did you feel like you had lost some of that identity as a practicing veterinarian, or did you feel like you could blissfully be very fulfilled? And and. Yeah. Yeah. Well, what were your feelings?

Dr. Katie [00:09:46] I mean, I was definitely fulfilled working that full time job at AAHA. I felt very fulfilled. I felt like I was lending gifts and strengths that didn't get used as much in the clinic. You know, I'm a liberal arts major. You know. I like it. No matter how well you write off your clinic notes. Like nobody really cares, right? But, like, being able to create stuff and, use that writing. But combined with all those years of experience, to try to create content that would make the lives better for the people whose strengths really lay in the exam room and in the surgery suite. Like that was that's very fulfilling to me. And that's still my favorite part of my work, hands down. But, for the first few weeks of not going into the into practice, I felt like, you know, like the only times I've been out of practice for longer than, like, a couple of weeks on vacation and, like, seriously, who takes a two week vacation when they're in practice? Like, I never did that. You know, I was working on ProSal, so I couldn't afford to take two weeks off. You know, but it felt like I had had just had surgery, because that's the only time that I've ever taken that much time off. After back surgery. And when I got back, you know, to the clinic those times, it was kind of like I'd never been gone. And I think my brain was just sort of waiting to go back. And then it started to have this like, wait. I'm getting paid. And I'm not going back like I'm getting paid to not go back. And that felt weird. Like that felt. Like serious imposter syndrome. Like somebody is going to come along and be like, you're just kidding. You now have like 20 weeks to make up. In the kind of salary, you know, and like, I got PTO and stuff was just nuts. So. So yeah, it was it was a bit of an adjustment for sure, but I think if I had left the clinic earlier in my career when I wasn't quite as sure of myself as a person and where my strengths lay, I would have had more of a problem with it identity wise, because now I don't need somebody to say, you're a real vet to me. You know, whether or not I'm in the clinic. But there were times when I would have needed that.

Dr. Beth [00:11:55] Yeah, that makes sense. I think you bring up an interesting point that I do almost feel like the relationship with this leaving the clinic could really vary based on how long you've been practicing, too. I know, like if you I can't imagine practicing for a few years and then taking a few years off. It would feel much different than having a decade under your belt, and taking a few years off. So, but yeah, I know exactly what you mean about that worth as a vet, I think. You know, even like my kids, you know, because I don't go into the clinic as frequently. I feel like they don't really believe that I'm a vet.

Dr. Katie [00:12:31] Like mommy used to be an animal doctor.

Dr. Beth [00:12:34] Yeah, exactly. Mom used to help pets. Like. So there is there's there's always that kind of underlying feeling of, like, my hands on a pet equals helping, you know, equals being a helpful member of this profession. But I do think as you age and get that experience, like you said, it, you define your, your own value a little bit differently than you might have earlier in your career.

Dr. Katie [00:12:57] Well, and I also had taken like a step stepwise, like backwards steps out of practice because first I went part time, you know, to when I started working as a contractor here. And then I started working, but I wasn't, you know, I couldn't back down quite enough on the hours to really feel all that part time. I got acupuncture certified, and so I was doing some acupuncture, like one acupuncture shift every week. And so I would just see acupuncture patients. And that helped because they were different conversations. But I don't I didn't have a system where I could, like, leave a patient. So I was in the exam room, you know, with the client and the patient for like 45 minutes, sometimes six appointments in a row with no break. And it was like, that will burn you out, too. And then, and then I stopped doing surgery. There were I worked at a multi doctor practice that had lots of vets there who love surgery, and so it was easy for me to step back from surgery and say, you guys got this. There's plenty of surgeries to go around, but I don't need to do them. And they were happy to take the surgeries from me. And then that was, I think, the first step in sort of letting go of the identity. It was like, if I don't do surgery, I'm still I can still be a vet, a good vet.

Dr. Alyssa [00:14:16] That's interesting. You know, I. People, I think, who listen to the podcast know I really enjoy surgery. And so that's one of the things that has kept me from walking away from it completely or going, you know, totally into in-home hospice and euthanasia, which again, is so fulfilling and has completely changed my outlook on things that you can do and ways that you can use your, your degree, in order to, to help people and help patients and be a veterinarian. But I would I would totally miss surgery. And again, it gets to that like you've got to have and and there are some aspects of surgery where I truly feel like, okay, it is like riding a bike. You jump back in there and your hands, just that muscle memory, your hands. Just remember how to do a cat neuter. You know, you just.

Dr. Katie [00:15:06] Yeah, I can't even describe it now. Yeah.

Dr. Alyssa [00:15:08] If you think about it, it's it's worse. You have to just let your hands do it. And so what kind of feelings did you have about returning to practice? Did you have fears about, you know, going back and and about whether things had changed significantly in that time? Because the other thing, Katie, the time that you left practice is a bizarre time, like not just in veterinary medicine but in the world. Yes. You know, I've been in practice 20 years, and these last four years have been the, you know, the most difficult. I've seen so many changes. We've seen just explosions and technology and telemedicine and, and what we can offer our patients as well as, you know, just this kind of change. You know, we've talked about it before, whether it's good or bad with social media and bullying and all of this stuff. And so I feel like the time that you left practice was also just very impactful.

Dr. Katie [00:16:09] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I have a picture of my last appointment because it was a dog that I've been seeing. I had been seeing since she was one, you know, at two different practices. The owners came with me to the, the second practice, and, her name is Stella, and she has one eye. She's the best girl. And, we're wearing masks, like the owner and are wearing masks. Everybody was masking when I left, you know, it was fall. It was just after Christmas of 21, and I think we were having a wave. And so everybody was masking up again and washing their hands all the time and hand sanitizer everywhere. And now it just feels like everyone is so blasé about about it for the most part. I mean, I think I just saw today that the CDC is deciding you don't need to quarantine anymore. If you test positive for Covid, like it's a it is a different world. Just just in that one respect, which obviously is a big one. But like, yeah, I do feel like there have been so many meaningful conversations that have been started and, and extended and that have evolved in those two years, things like telehealth and technician utilization and, you know, pain management, like, you know, the injectable monoclonal antibodies for arthritis, like those did not those were not on the market when I left. So I've never used them. And that's crazy to me that there's like drugs on the shelf that people are using multiple times a day, every day and that are, you know, being considered like miraculous. And I've never even laid hands on one. I helped with some of the marketing content, like the content marketing, when I was working here, but that's it. Yeah.

Dr. Beth [00:17:45] Did that feel weird? I mean, like, so, yeah. Tell us, like, on your first days, did it feel like riding a bike? Like what was your what was that feeling like when you stepped in the clinic? And then did you feel like you had to be trying to double check everything you did? Because suddenly, you know, maybe protocols have changed.

Dr. Katie [00:18:01] Yeah. I mean, a little context. So I'm not your normal, like, return to practice person because I was living and breathing that med in a different capacity for those two years, I think. And I love veterinary medicine and the people in it even more now that I took time out of the clinic and had a little bit of bandwidth to think about the issues that are that are challenges for us and that are also beautiful about this profession. When you're on the when your boots on the ground full time, you don't have time to think about that. You're trying to get from one appointment to the next appointment and like, not lose your mind and not forget anything that's going to create a big problem and like, get home at night, you know, and there's no room in your head to think about, how could we make this better? What kind of training are we not doing? You know, what kind of leadership skills should I be improving in myself? Like there's just no time.

Dr. Katie [00:18:52] And no energy. And so it was really nice to have that distance. And so I was thinking about veterinary medicine at about what it's like in a treatment area, you know, for two solid years. But so I didn't have the distance that, say, somebody would if they took a few years off to raise their kids and just had a complete hiatus from vet med, which I think is wonderful and also has to be just so hard to get back to it. So I will say that is, I'm not like everyone who takes time off. But I was really anxious about it because I was also very part time when I left. So we're talking like five years or something since I was, you know, or four years since I was full time. And it just seemed so far away. But my, the shifts that I took, last month from my first ones back and they were at Urgent Vet, which is an urgent care, chain. And they're the reason that I decided to to try working there was you can sign up for relief shifts whenever you want to. You don't have to. You don't have an obligation to do this many. They have multiple locations in the Denver area. And they are fear free. So that's that was really important to me that even if a hospital and there's team wasn't certified, that they really understood low stress veterinary care and didn't look askance at me. As I said, I'm not going to do this to this animal today, you know. And, and so I took two shifts in a row. So it was a Monday and Tuesday from 3 to 11 p.m. each shift. Because I decided if I did one and then took another month to do the next one, it wouldn't it would be almost like not having done the first one. So I was like, all right, I did this again. Yes. I just gotta jump back in there. Yeah.

Dr. Katie [00:20:41] But they were at two different hospitals, you know, opposite directions from my house. And so there were two different, you know, teams, two different clientele. And, and I really glad that I did that because it gave me a lot of refreshers in to it, 8 to 9 hours. So, so, but I was. I was terrified, I'm not gonna lie. Like, I had, so Indu Mani, our chief scientific officer, I had her, like, cued up. She knew, and I was going to do my shift so that if I called her, she would pick up the phone because I was like, I need to phone a friend because I was going to be by myself and I needed to know what to do. And that was that was honestly terrifying.

Dr. Beth [00:21:23] Yeah, I've I feel like I will ask for more specific advice from you in a moment, but I feel like that has to be a top piece of advice. There should be a phone a friend on that first day back. We all have colleagues and friends that can help, so I think that was smart.

Dr. Katie [00:21:38] Yes, I needed a lifeline. And of course our medical team like on slack, but not everybody's checking Slack at 10:00 mountain time p m, so, hopefully.

Dr. Alyssa [00:21:48] I have a very, very good friend here in town. And sometimes if we're working the same day at different clinics, we will, put on FaceTime and just sit it up. And so it's like, and then we just pretend we're in the same office.

Dr. Beth [00:22:05] Can we do that guys?

Dr. Katie [00:22:06] Yes. Let's do that. I love that. Like I've done that with meet with work sessions, like, a coworker and I at AAHA used to do that. Where on Friday mornings if we didn't have meetings, we just like, come together on a team's call and turn the sound off, but keep the cameras on. And then it would be like we were doing study hall together, you know, or like at the coffee shop together.

Dr. Katie [00:22:26] But never occurred to me that you could just do that, like in the doctor's office and be like, hey, what do you think of this x ray? You know.

Dr. Alyssa [00:22:33] That's exactly how we do it.

Dr. Beth [00:22:34] Yeah, it's a great tip even for vets that are, yeah, working every day because I, I feel like I was just saying that to someone that being alone in practice, to me, is one of the scariest things, like my comfort level. My anxiety is so much different to when I am the only that in a hospital versus if I have colleagues there. Yeah, and sometimes I can't even quite figure out why. Because, you know, I go days, weeks without asking necessarily feeling like I actually need them. It's just almost that security blanket, of having a friend there. So Alyssa, I love that you. I love that you have that virtual body. I might have to. Do that.

Dr. Katie [00:23:16] I need to find somebody who's on Mountain or Pacific time. So Alyssa, you're up

Dr. Alyssa [00:23:21] Excellent. We'll plan, we'll coordinate our shifts for next month.

Dr. Katie [00:23:26] Yeah. Yeah. It's true. I always worked with other vets. It was a rare, like. I think we had, you know, I worked every other Saturday for a while at one of the locations of my last practice, and they only had one doctor out on Saturdays most of the time at that location. But I still had two colleagues at my other location who I could just ask, you know, and everything was in the same systems. They could just see it. I've never been just, like alone. And, you know, having I graduated in 2009, like I've only had two years off. I should know most mostly what I want to do, but you just never know. And especially working in an urgent care setting where, you know, anything could walk in, even if it shouldn't be there. Even if it should be at the ER. Like, once it's in front of you, you don't want to just, like, send it out the door if it needs it. You know, I haven't put a chest tube in since school you know, I don't know how to do that. So. Like it? Definitely. One of the things that I asked before I went back, before I went to work at one of these clinics was, you know, do I have the ability to decline to do something like we had an emergency room, like, six minutes away or something, you know? So really, if something could survive six minutes, it could go to the ER. And if it couldn't survive six minutes, it did not have a great chance anyway, if, you know, no matter what I did. But I wanted to make sure that I had veto power, and that if we got a call from something that clearly should go to the ER because we we could not hospitalize pets overnight, we had very limited, you know, facilities for true emergencies. Then I had the right to send them without having seen them. That sense of control, even though you really don't have any control over what's actually going to come in, helps me a little bit. You know, and I also got pretty lucky, like, they were two evenings where we saw enough appointments that at times we were busy and at times it were slow. And there was like a mix of things like, there was one really difficult mystery case. There was some allergy stuff, there was some urinary stuff, you know, there was the cat with FLUTD that, needed a lot of client education and not much else. And so it was a good refresher without having to see like 20 patients in that eight hour period.

Dr. Beth [00:25:49] Yeah. Did you feel like you were, other than the phone a friend? One did you use the phone a friend and two, were there any other resources you like felt like you used? Were you like back in the Plumb's book or.

Dr. Katie [00:26:00] I was. So we did not I did not use the phone a friend. I did have a couple people chat like Indu did check on me. So shout out and I had another friend who checked on me too, because I think they just wanted to make sure I wasn't like rocking in a corner. Like unable to call them, like, what have I done? And and that was really nice, but I didn't need a consultation at that point. But. When I walked into the clinic both times, I opened up Plumb's.

Dr. Katie [00:26:32] The Plumb's web app and, and had it open and, you know, I've Plumb's Pro access. And so I already like when we were a little bit slow, I was going through and just like favoriting, you know, you can star your favorite, monographs or whatever. And I was putting a star on the ones that, like, I might need in a hurry, like anaphylaxis, you know, I was starring those, and I was skimming through things like acute pancreatitis or, you know, feline urinary obstruction and things that, like, have a fair likelihood of walking into an ER or an urgent care at 9:00 at night. And then when we got busy, it was already open, I was already logged in and I had it, I was calculating drug dosages, using Plumb's on my phone because, I have forgotten all of my drug dosages like that. That was a surprise, because I used to be the one who could take a drug dose out of the air, like. And, I have forgotten all of them.

Dr. Beth [00:27:35] That is interesting because, yeah, you know, it's almost like you would hope it's like a song lyric where, like, it couldn't disappear, but it sounds like it's a different neural pathway.

Dr. Katie [00:27:44] I mean once I looked it up, it's kind of like a song lyric, like if you hear the song on the radio, you can suddenly sing along. So like once I saw it, I was like, oh, yeah, you know, but. I couldn't just pull it out of the air. In most cases, the only thing was like cephalexin, which we didn't have anyway.

Dr. Alyssa [00:27:58] Oh, no, that's one of my favorite antibiotics.

Dr. Katie [00:28:02] I know I did script it out because we had some cost concerns, and, we needed something, stat. So that was, you know, that was another surprise, I think is just not a surprise. I was expecting it, but, it was a reminder that, so much is out of your control and you can remember all the medicine you want to, but that doesn't mean you're going to be allowed to do it.

Dr. Alyssa [00:28:25] Yeah, I'll tell you, that is one thing, especially surgery that I find. You know, I'm having people double and triple check my math all the time. Whereas when I was in clinic every day, well, I mean, it wasn't a clinic every day, but when I was in clinic full time, I could look at a dose and know it was right. I'm like, oh yeah, that's the right amount for a dog.

Dr. Katie [00:28:45] 1.5 seems reasonable.

Dr. Alyssa [00:28:47] Seems reasonable. And it's it's even that that estimation. I was really surprised that even that estimation fell out of my head where I'm like, I have absolutely no idea if this volume is off by a factor of ten. You know, I have to calculate it. And so I do a lot of relying, you know, and we have there's a lot of great, you know, resources and, and apps now and, and drug sheets. But I still calculate everything every single. And so one of the reasons I do that is to try to get that back into my brain that that just estimated. Oh yeah, that seems reasonable for this size animal.

Dr. Katie [00:29:29] Yeah. For sure. I definitely had that. I calculated every drug dosage like 50 times. And especially we had to, sedate one pet, because he, his name was Kevin.

Dr. Katie [00:29:42] Oh, he was like, a little wiry haired. Like, he was just so. He was so cute. But we were like Kevin! Because Kevin just would not. He was not picking up where we were put down. And so we had to, we had to give Kevin love that.

Dr. Beth [00:29:55] It's like a scene from Home Alone.

Dr. Katie [00:29:59] Yes, it was hilarious. And he he was fine, but he he needed some, some happy drugs. And, I mean, I calculated that that dexmedetomidine dose, like, seriously ten times, because I was not I haven't anesthetized anything. I don't even want to know how long it's been. So that was definitely a little bit scary.

Dr. Beth [00:30:19] So Katie, obviously being out of the clinic for two years, not only were you away from the pets, but you were away from the pet owners. How was it being interacting with clients again? Had they changed since you were there last?

Dr. Katie [00:30:35] I kind of feel like, so I don't have kids, right? Which makes me, sometimes kind of the weirdo in the room of mom, mom vets because I don't have to go home and, like, suddenly take on my second job, which is. Which is nice. And I don't have kids by choice. But I kind of feel like working relief sporadically is going to be like being the fun aunt. You know? You're like. You're you're as a mom, you're like. Oh, my God, just give me to, like, let me pee by myself, you know? And then the fun aunt comes in is like, you guys are amazing. Like, let's go to the zoo. And then the kids are like, auntie whatever is amazing. And you're like, oh my God. Like, I would love going to the zoo. With you if I could just go to the bathroom in peace sometimes. And like, I kind of feel like it's like that I had a lot more patience with the clients and like. I actually really enjoyed.

Dr. Katie [00:31:28] Having the conversations with them. And like the FLUTD cat, you know, that owner was so grateful for the information. And I sent her home with a bunch of handouts from Plumb's. But I, I. She actually went home and left. I did not give the cat antibiotics, which is what she was expecting. She was like, the cat has a UTI. And then we talked about all the reasons it probably wasn't a UTI. And she went home and left us a really good review. And I'm like, obviously not every client you have a good conversation with is going to leave a good review. But it was a good, a good reminder that that client communication is such an easy thing to lose patience for. And no one can blame you because you're doing it day in and day out. But when you're fresh and not burned out, it really does make a difference. For them.

Dr. Beth [00:32:19] Yeah. Katie, I couldn't possibly agree more. I feel like that is almost one of the most surprising things to me now that I am only, you know, on more of a relief basis than a full or part time basis is the amount of energy. Like you said, it's like the aunt. The amount of energy I have for those clients is a beautiful thing, because I never found that energy within me and see. Yeah. Same thing. No, this is going to sound like a vague brag, but same thing. I got like a client, you know, client compliment. And I almost felt guilty because I wanted to be like, it's only because I had to be so much nicer than I ever used to be to clients. And so it is. It's we can we can deftly mark that as one big pro for kind of that less frequent. You know, less frequent attendance in the clinic.

Dr. Alyssa [00:33:05] Yeah. I love the fun aunt analogy. I'm going to use that one because and I have that too sometimes where the clients and I always feel so good when the staff says it too, oh, we love it when you come. And I'm like, yeah, yeah, I know, you know I don't have to be every day. And so when I come I'm excited. Yeah. So but people I have sometimes clients will request you, you know, and they're like, oh, well, we only want to see you. And then you have to tell them that you're not going to be there. And so I always try to keep my lines of like I have commitment issues. I can't be here all the time.

Dr. Beth [00:33:44] You should explain. Be like, I would be much less pleasant if I was here on a daily basis.

Dr. Katie [00:33:47] Yeah. You're getting my best self, you know. So it's better that I'm not here all the time. But, you know, there are also people who would hate doing what we do. They'd be so bored. Or they'd be like, I just don't see the point of this. Or, like, I don't want to write that promo copy. Like I'm not writing one more piece of promo copy. So I do feel like. You know, it's a matter of just, like, strengths based, leadership for yourself is sort of knowing, like, do I have other things that I'd really like to do. And is there a way that I can do more of those, even if it's in your clinical practice, like, you know, can you can you work some hours, you know, doing telemedicine appointments or, triaging things in the back or, you know, doing some kind of client education? You know, there's, there's some kind of novel ways that I've seen people leverage their willingness to stay in the world of that med and to help their colleagues and contribute, but also just either take a break or leave that that in and out of the exam room environment, which isn't just because that's not for everyone, does not make a person a bad doctor, you know?

Dr. Alyssa [00:35:01] Yeah, I think that's the biggest thing to kind of take away from this conversation today is that and and funny enough, we have another good colleague who is leaving practice for a little while. And she had mentioned feeling guilty about leaving her, her team and her staff, and she wants them so badly to succeed. And and she was feeling guilt about it. And, you know, one of the things that I said to her was, was, you know. You have so much to offer veterinary medicine. And right now this is what veterinary medicine needs from you. And so and that doesn't have to be in the clinic you know. Right. And and it can always be there. You can go back. And so knowing that it's going to be there that you can go back can be really freeing I think.

Dr. Katie [00:35:47] Yes. And it does help I think to like two years is a was a good chunk of time, but not that long. And I'm glad it wasn't ten years because I do think it's a lot easier to think, oh, I could go back. Like when I left my job at AAHA. You know, I wasn't sure what I was going to do next. I was still in talks about this job and I wasn't sure where I was going to end up, but I wasn't really that worried because as vets were in a pretty privileged position right now where you can go out and get a job or you can go out and get relief work because people still need veterinarians. And so I could have gone back to the clinic full time to pay the bills and, remind myself, you know, that I could be, gainfully employed while I was looking for the next right thing. I just I don't think that would have been a forever thing. I know myself too well for that. So.

Dr. Beth [00:36:38] And, Katie, before you wrap up, any other big pieces of advice for someone who might be facing something similar? As far as I know, no two people sabbaticals are the same or have the same circumstances. But what would your advice be to those who are maybe looking to come back but, you know, can't can't get over that hump of anxiety?

Dr. Katie [00:36:58] Yeah. I mean, I think first of all, I had to wait until the anxiety. I used to get like a feeling at the pit of my stomach at the thought of going back. And I had to wait until I went away to go back. Because I didn't leave. Because I had a kid and wanted to take time at home. I left because I knew it wasn't the right place for me to be right now. I mean, I think I had anxiety driving to the clinic every day for a very long time, and, that's no fun, you know? And so unless you don't have a choice, I would say one piece of advice is if you can. Give yourself time until it doesn't. You know, if you've taken time off and you're like, I. I still feel like almost like a post-traumatic reaction at the thought of going back, a visceral reaction that isn't good. Then it might not be time. And so unless you don't have a choice, it might be a good idea to give yourself a little bit more time. Nobody says you have to go back. It will be there. Like veterinary medicine will be there. But that doesn't mean you can't get involved in other ways. You know, I shadowed at a friend's clinic recently. That was really fun because it reminded me of all the reasons I love general practice, and I didn't have to do any of the any of the things that I didn't love about general practice. So it wasn't a paid couple of hours, but I also was I could have left after an hour. You know, I just I just hung out and like. And it was amazing. And, I would definitely do that again. And I will do that again. And I would highly recommend to anybody who is trying to decide whether it's time to go back. Try that. Find somebody who's low key and fun, and who practices the way that you would want to practice and go to their clinic or just hang out. And if you leave feeling good and being like, that was cool, I'd like to go back and do that again. That's a good sign. If you're like, oh my God, I'm so glad that wasn't my case. Maybe it's time to to take a little bit more. You know. And then once you get back in and I'm a big believer of this, like anybody who knows me, knows that I just put it all out there. I don't have a lot of secrets from people that I'm working with. And I think that's very important when you go back, like, I walked into those urgent care practices and one team was very new and the other team was very experienced. And I was like to both of them, I was like, you have to treat me like I'm new, like like I'm a new vet because I've been out for two years and so I have a lot of experience having some conversations, but everything's rusty. This is my first minute back into vet clinic in two years. So, like, I need you guys to be patient with me. Tell me outright if you think I'm making mistakes, like, help me gatekeeping myself. You know, and they were great. I mean, for all I know right now, they're like, that doctor was like, so, you know. But they did not treat me like that at all. And both of the teams were like, we really loved working with you. You did great, you know, and they kind of they kind of encouraged me through the shift, the way that I would have needed as a brand new doctor. And, I was glad for myself that I'd had those conversations at the beginning because it made me feel like I didn't have to pretend like I knew everything I could. I could be like, guys, I got to step back and look this up. You know.

Dr. Beth [00:40:13] You almost created the supportive environment that you needed by laying that all out on the table.

Dr. Katie [00:40:18] Yeah. And the beauty of relief is that if they had not been supportive about it, it would have been like, oh my God, okay. But like hurry up while you're looking at that drug dosage for the 50th time. Like I probably wouldn't have gone back there.

Dr. Beth [00:40:30] Right.

Dr. Beth [00:40:34] We love all of this. We love your story, Dr. Katie. And hearing everything that you've gone through. Your honesty shows through. And I think it's helpful, even just to hear you talk about your anxiety. And for anybody that's considering going back in the clinic knowing that that's normal, I think that's a very natural response that anybody would have. And like you talked about kind of jumping over some of those hurdles to get back in the clinic when or if you're ready. So I think that might bring us to our final segment, which is win of the week. If you guys have any wins to share with us this week. Anyone want to go first?

Dr. Alyssa [00:41:13] I can I can go first. So actually my win was is very appropriate for today's conversation. So like like I said I do really enjoy surgery, but I have been working several shifts at a clinic that has multiple doctors, and so I'm always on the floor. And then, but then my last couple of shifts have been, at a smaller practice where I'm the only doctor, and then so there's then, then I do get the opportunity to have surgical cases. But I had a a in heat, spay on a on a, like, eight month old German shepherd, as well as a cystotomy.

Dr. Katie [00:41:55] And there's the pit in the stomach feeling.

Dr. Alyssa [00:41:57] I literally had not done either in I mean months, months. I hadn't done a spay in a couple months, and I can't even remember. I think it probably been a year or more since I did the cystotomy and the cystotomy was much easier than the spay. But that my win was. I took a deep breath and I triple checked my drug doses, and I got in there and I, I did it and I, I also just like you said, Katie, I talked to my staff beforehand and I love my staff and they all know me. They've known me for years because I relief at the same practices. And so I said I was like, you guys gotta double check me, you know? It's been a while since I've done this one, but we're going to get back on that horse.

Dr. Katie [00:42:39] Yeah, it's so important. And like, they want to they want everyone to be successful. Like we want all of our team members to be successful. So I love that. And congratulations.

Dr. Alyssa [00:42:51] Oh. Thank you.

Dr. Beth [00:42:51] I was going to say that's a big one, Alyssa. I'm very proud of you.

Dr. Katie [00:42:54] It's huge. Literally.

Dr. Beth [00:42:56] Dr. Katie, how about you? It's been a while since you've had to deliver win of the week.

Dr. Alyssa [00:42:59] Yeah. I was gonna say, do you miss the win of the week segment?

Dr. Katie [00:43:02] I do, I have, like. Well, you know, I am a gratitude person, so I, I have to like two years of wins, like, stacked up, but.

Dr. Katie [00:43:11] So, yeah, I would say, my win is, and you guys know this from social media because I posted about it, but I went to the cardiologist this morning and I got a clean bill of health from her as far as my heart's concerned, which, right after I left, Clinician's Brief last time I had a medical emergency that, ended up to me, leading me realizing that I have a hole in my heart, which actually a quarter of us have, it's a patent foramen ovale which, you know, it's supposed to close up and it doesn't, but little blood clots can get through there, and then you can have a stroke. And it was very scary. And she was amazing. And, it's been two years now since that incident, and I feel, really great. And it's nice to know that internally, things are looking good. Your heart's pretty important, so I'm having a lot of gratitude about that today.

Dr. Alyssa [00:44:02] Your heart is very important, and your heart is huge. And we're glad that you're okay.

Dr. Katie [00:44:07] Yes, but not literally, thankfully.

Dr. Alyssa [00:44:08] Yes. Figuratively.

Dr. Beth [00:44:16] I don't know if I can top Katie's healthy heart, but, my win is also going to be vet related. And that that is, I we had a successful VMX experience, or I had a successful VMX experience a few weeks ago. And it was just the best. I encourage anyone that has never been there to go give it a try. It's just, of course, a huge veterinary conference. The energy is palpable. There's, you know, every possible industry represented. You can always find classmates. Your alumni association is usually there. And my real win, what I'm boiling this down to is that it's in Orlando, of course. And it happened to be the week that it was like subzero temperatures here in Ohio. And it was about 70 degrees in Florida. And I normally have the worst weather travel luck. So to be honest, this was nothing short of a miracle and it felt like a really big win on my end.

Dr. Katie [00:45:14] That's a huge win. And it was. It was so cold in Colorado too that week. And I felt bad for my petsitter having to take the dog out like cause he is cold when it's 75 degrees, but that was a huge win.

Dr. Beth [00:45:25] Better him than you, right?

Dr. Katie [00:45:26] Yeah. I mean, it was beautiful in Orlando and it was it was a great conference this year.

Dr. Beth [00:45:31] It was.

Dr. Beth [00:45:31] But anyway well Dr. Katie, thank you so much for being here. To our audience, you will hopefully see and hear more from Dr. Katie as we force her to keep coming back, on these guest appearances. And to our audience, we will catch you on next time.

Dr. Alyssa [00:45:46] Thanks, everybody.

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The Team:

  • Alyssa Watson, DVM - Host

  • Beth Molleson, DVM - Host

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This podcast recording represents the opinions of Dr. Alyssa Watson and Dr. Beth Molleson. Content is presented for discussion purposes and should not be taken as medical advice. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.