Yesterday I had a frank conversation with a veterinary colleague and (male) friend about MumsVet. It was a really thought-provoking and interesting chat as always and I was reminded to be mindful that there are always two sides of every argument.
MumsVet was a concept developed by four female equine vets (our brilliant male committee member joined us later on…) to tackle the headaches and challenges posed by our jobs as equine veterinary surgeons. Despite a huge amount of advice on government websites and the like on safe working in pregnancy the equine field poses its own unique challenges that have historically relied on anecdotal advice from a “phone a friend” network.
MumsVet was launched to provide a support network and one-stop shop for advice and resources for Mums and Dads…and the colleagues that invariably end up stepping in to help support them. But what about employers? How does a pregnant assistant affect an equine veterinary business? Has anyone stopped to consider the effect of multiple maternity leave (s) on the on call rota of a small equine practice? My friend has had his fair share of assistants on maternity leave so knows the score in terms of ensuring his assistants are supported through pregnancy and maternity leave but realistically how does this affect his practice? We are all acutely aware of the fickle nature of equine clients and their “preferred vet” and the long process of ensuring a new member of the team is accepted by all of the equine clients, but what happens when two members of our team simultaneously announce they are pregnant? Suddenly the remaining vets (and often the long standing and already over worked assistants and partners?) have to shoulder the responsibility of calls because the client “won’t have anyone else”. Is this a problem of our own making?
Additionally, what happens when a prospective partner in your practice suddenly announces that she’s pregnant? Where does that leave you in terms of staff/budget/client complaint/workload responsibility for the next 9 (if you are lucky) months? How many potential partners do equine vet practices lose to motherhood? There are clearly some notable exceptions (and none other than our remarkable BumpVet blogger and her amazingly supportive practice) but what happens to private practice owners if the female vets all get pregnant and decide to work part time. Is this a feasible option or is corporate equine practice the only answer? Who is fighting the (male?) senior partner corner?
The answer is BEVA MumsVet. Scratch beneath the slightly misleading name (we liked it and Family Vet just didn’t have the same ring to it) and look at all of the inspiring real life stories, podcasts and resources. Part time working CAN work in practice and if employers embrace the concept of flexible working then they will hopefully be rewarded by experienced, hard working parents who are happy in their jobs and willing to give 100% effort albeit not full time in a traditional 8-6 role. There are plenty of people who have the experience and WANT to stay in the profession but is it possible to combine equine practice with family life? A debate at BEVA congress 2015 which asked, "does equine practice need to change to be compatible with family life" showed 92% of the delegates voting in favor of the motion. This was reiterated by the 2016 BEVA congress session about alternative careers where Anna Hammond discussed the benefits of part time working... But how can we help employers?!