When Calling in Sick Is Okay: Understanding the Importance of Self-Care Within the Veterinary Clinic

22 May 2024 -

In today’s fast-paced world, the pressure to show up for work, rain or shine, is deeply ingrained in our work culture. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that calling in sick is a sign of weakness or lack of dedication. However, this mindset often overlooks the crucial role that self-care plays in maintaining both personal well-being and productivity within the veterinary clinic and the overall duty of care to our patients. If we are not well, we are not 100% on the job. 

While it’s true that consistent attendance is important for the smooth functioning of any clinic, there are times when calling in sick is not only acceptable but also necessary. Here are some scenarios from our research where we have found that it’s okay to prioritize your health and well-being:


1. When You’re Contagious: Coming to work while contagious not only puts your own health at risk but also jeopardizes the well-being of your colleagues and pet owners that come into your clinic. Whether you’re battling a stubborn cold or a stomach bug, staying home until you’re no longer contagious is not only considerate but also helps prevent the spread of illness. Certain illnesses could be zoonotic or zoonoses to patients and it’s also important to think about immuno-compromised patients and Nosocomial / Hospital Acquired Infections


2. When You’re Physically Unable to Work: Whether it’s due to a sudden injury, chronic pain, or a debilitating migraine, there are times when physical limitations make it impossible to perform your role effectively. Pushing through pain or discomfort not only compromises your own health but can also lead to avoidable errors or accidents. Providing compassionate care to animals is at the heart of veterinary care and as such veterinary professionals cannot afford to make mistakes which could cause further physical injury.


3. When You’re Mentally Exhausted: Just as physical health is important, so too is mental health. Burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression are all becoming more prevalent in the veterinary community2 and as such they are valid reasons for needing a day off to recharge and prioritize self-care. Ignoring mental health concerns can not only lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism in the long run, but even more severe mental health issues which could then affect the team and patients in your care. 


Calling in sick is not a sign of weakness but rather a demonstration of self-awareness. By recognizing when it’s okay to take time off and communicating effectively with your clinic manager, you can maintain a healthy work-life balance and contribute more effectively to your clinic. Taking care of yourself is not only beneficial for you but also for those around you. 



Ref 1. http://www.osha.gov/  https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4395.pdf   

Ref 2. https://www.aofoundation.org/vet/about-aovet/news/news-2024/2024_02-destigmatizing-mental-health-issues#:~:text=According%20to%20Not%20One%20More,public%20to%20have%20experienced%20depression