“I love that I can go to the clinic, focus on my patients, but when I leave, I’m done for the day,” said Dr. Roebuck.
Throughout veterinary school, PetIQ District Medical Director Dr. Heather Sutton wanted to practice equine medicine, so she thought her dream came true when a prestigious practice in Florida offered her an internship.
However, she quickly learned that not all dreams live up to their name.
“During breeding season, I was up at 4 a.m., and I might go to bed by 11:30 p.m. That was my schedule for five months straight without a day off. Burnout hit really early, really fast and really hard,” Dr. Sutton said.
Dr. Sutton tells a story that’s common among new veterinarians. Fresh out of school and new to the profession, veterinarians find themselves overwhelmed by the day-to-day expectations of general practice.
PetIQ wants that to change.
“No matter how much we love what we do, we’re still human beings,” said Senior Regional Medical Director for Wellness Centers at PetIQ Dr. Amy Bowman. “We still need that time with family. We need that time to let our brains operate in a different place. We need creative outlets. We need rest.”
In Dr. Bowman’s words, PetIQ wants to “disrupt” the veterinary industry. This disruption includes several structural innovations – clinics in retail locations like Tractor Supply and Walmart and a focus on preventive care – but also a focus on the veterinarians’ needs as people.
PetIQ offers flexible schedules ranging from full-time to part-time to contract hours, and there are no surgeries, on-call hours or emergency services, and no euthanasia. All of this creates a low-stress environment in which veterinarians can thrive.
“I need that work-life balance,” said Dr. Jessica Roebuck, a District Medical Director at PetIQ. “I love that I can go to the clinic, focus on my patients, but when I leave, I’m done for the day. You can really just love what you do but also be able to have all of your hobbies.”
Dr. Roebuck uses her flexibility to manage her farm.
“I have a beautiful little farm … my personal pets: six dogs, four cats, countless chickens. I have peacocks, geese that guard the chickens, ornamental pheasants. We also have cattle, and I have my horse, of course,” said Dr. Roebuck.
Dr. Sutton, who now works at PetIQ, insists that this time away from the clinic, the time veterinarians have to recharge, not only improves the quality of life for the clinicians but also makes a difference in the quality of care received by the pets.
“When you’re burnt out, you can lose your empathy. I think the PetIQ structure allows our veterinarians to relate more and actually spend time educating the pet parents on the importance of wellness and preventive medicine,” Dr. Sutton said. “When you’re in a better mind space, you do a better physical exam. You are less likely to miss things.”
Most important to the doctors is that the PetIQ structure not only provides a career path for veterinarians facing burnout but also helps provide all pet parents with access to care.
Or, as Dr. Bowman puts it:
“We’re there to meet pet parents where they are. We want to help educate and serve those pet parents and those pets that may be underserved. We’re open for everybody.”