Set boundaries to protect life balance
When you reach out, be honest about how much time you are willing and able to commit to an organization. It is better to be
honest and set reasonable expectations for your involvement than to over-commit and then quit or produce sub-par results because
you simply don't have the time to do exceptional things. Points you might like to make at the very beginning include:
Travel constraints. If you cannot travel more than once or twice per year, make people aware of that at the beginning. Work-life balance is tough.
Associates simply do not have the flexibility in their schedules that practice owners do, and using all your vacation days
for organized medicine commitments is not fair to yourself or your family. Offer to telecommute or read minutes from meetings
you can't attend. If the position requires someone who can travel more than you are able, then it's better for both parties
for you to remove yourself from the running for this spot early on.
Schedule constraints. Let people know when you can be regularly available. If your day off is Tuesday and the committee you're assisting has conference
calls on Thursdays, ask if the committee could move it to Tuesday. If not, ask to schedule it early or late in the day, or
possibly on the weekends. Maybe the committee could schedule every second or third call on a weekend so that you and other
associates can participate. Some people will balk at the idea of having calls on weekends, but if these groups want participation
from young veterinarians, then they would be wise to consider it when asked by a willing participant. Don't expect everyone
to leap to your schedule, but don't be afraid to ask if the group can make some changes.
Standing committees. If you have had positive experiences with a group and are passionate about the topic of a standing committee, then this may
be the best position for you. Take it if it fits with your goals, but don't feel like this is the only way to involve yourself.
If it doesn't fit your goals, don't be afraid to decline participation on a standing committee. Even if you can't commit for
2 to 3 years, you can still volunteer to support these committees and help them on an "as needed" basis.
When it comes to organized medicine, you get out what you put in. Don't miss the many chances to be involved, to be connected
to your peers and to learn about an entirely different aspect of our profession.
If you reach out to one group or committee and it isn't a good fit, then find another one that works better for you. Just
be clear about what your interests and passions are and about how you want to be involved. Start slow and ease in until you
are doing as much as you want, but not any more. You will be more passionate, creative and productive if you take this approach.
Organized medicine can be a wonderful addition to your career, and it will almost certainly be even more rewarding if you
approach it on your own terms.
Dr. Roark is an associate veterinarian in Leesburg, Va.