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In the world of veterinary medicine, nothing runs truly to schedule. Whether you’re a practicing veterinarian, a student on clinical rotations, or a nurse in training, this profession doesn’t ever seem to run predictably. You may not know exactly how late you’ll stay each day, where you’ll be from one week to the next, or what cases you’ll encounter.

This can be challenging to deal with. It may make you feel anxious or unsettled without structure in your life, or lead you to make poor decisions around your workload that can further impact your health and well-being. For this reason, creating a routine in veterinary medicine is extremely important, one that makes you happy, energized, and in control of your career.

Morning

1) The early bird catches the worm

Choose a wake-up time that works for you and stick to it for the days that apply. I would recommend this to your bedtime routine too. But this is often harder to choose depending on the intensity of your schedule – so start with the morning. Pick a time that works for you regardless of the day’s events. So don’t set it extraordinarily early in case you have to stay late the previous night, and not too late that you’re rushing to get ready in the morning.

I believe at least an hour before the time you have to leave the house is ideal, but whatever works best for you. Keeping this consistent will allow your inner body clock to stay calm and settled, making things easier for you to get good quality sleep.

2) Make a list of non-negotiables

List off the things you believe MUST happen in your day no matter what. These non-negotiables may be things that contribute to your mental well-being or your physical well-being. For some people, this may be your morning coffee run. For others, it may be talking to family/friends/partners or as simple as taking the time to wash your face and take care of your skin before bed. List off three things you must do daily, even if you’re not in your usual location. Having control over these things can help settle your mind at the end of a long day. You can look back and tell yourself you did it despite the intensity of your day—a small empowerment to keep you going. 

3) Take advantage of your weekends

Not everyone gets a weekend, or your “weekend” may not fall on the traditional days of Saturday or Sunday, but any time off should be used to its full extent. This means that if you are tired – rest. If you have things you need to catch up on – do them. It’s a lot easier said than done, but with an irregular schedule, sometimes the weekends can make or break your week. You can use them to plan your week ahead or reflect on the week prior. I usually spend one of my weekend days doing absolutely nothing productive. This means I turn off my alarm, wake up when I’m ready, and do what I really want to do, like watch Netflix or spend time with my friends. The other weekend day is spent being productive in different ways that aren’t veterinary-related to make my life feel together again for the week ahead. This is what makes me feel happiest and energized for my oncoming week and ready to tackle whatever life throws at me. 

plan

4) Plan things when you can

The premise of this post is that life is unpredictable, but sometimes you do know when things are coming up, which means you can plan for them. Use a planner or a calendar and schedule the things you can control. This means that even if you don’t know what you’re doing with 80% of your week, the 20% in your to-do list or calendar can bring some organization. It also clears up a lot of space in your memory. Writing it down rather than trying to remember it when you’re very busy can be a huge weight off your shoulders. 

Veterinary career success roadmap

5) Don’t take on too much

Being busy can be fantastic, and many of us in this profession love our jobs. We love our clients, patients, and colleagues, so the unpredictability of our day often isn’t caused by life throwing things at us. It can sometimes be caused by our inability to say no. Saying no is a skill that can take a lot of time to practice. But the importance of it shouldn’t be undervalued. If someone asks you, no matter how well-intentioned, to do something that can wait until you’re available or be delegated to someone with a less stressful schedule, politely say no. It’s important to look after yourself. You aren’t letting anyone down if it’s really what you need for your well-being and to bring some peace to your day. Be selective with your time and energy. That isn’t being selfish. That’s practicing self-love.

I hope this post can help bring some routine back to a life that isn’t very routine. Unpredictability and variability are what make veterinary medicine exciting and challenging. However, bringing small pieces of regularity into your life daily or weekly can help ease your mind when a set structure is not an option. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself things that you can stick to and focus on. That way, you can enjoy the tumultuous nature of your day-to-day in veterinary medicine.

Jess Cliffe

Jess Cliffe

Final Year Veterinary Student

Jess Cliffe is a final year Veterinary Science student at Massey University specializing in small animal medicine with an interest in exploring all areas of veterinary practice. During her time at veterinary school, Jess has been utilizing her interests in video media by helping and educating prospective/current veterinary students on YouTube.

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