Mums Amanda-Jane and Jacqui say working out-of-hours is allowing them to spend more time with their children
There’s no denying it — out-of-hours work gets a bad press.
A month rarely goes by without someone implying it can play havoc with quality of life.
But it doesn’t have to be that way — and at Vets Now senior staff have been given autonomy to draw up rotas that support good work-life balance and encourage recruitment and retention.
Among those benefiting are vet nurse Amanda-Jane Erne and vet surgeon Jacqui Seymour.
Both are mums who prefer to work unconventional hours because it allows them to spend more time with their families.
Amanda-Jane, or AJ, joined Vets Now seven years ago when she’d not long had her fourth child. Now, as principal nurse manager of the Coventry clinic, she exudes energetic commitment to her small, hard working team.
But it was the the flexible, family-friendly shift patterns that drew her to Vets Now in the first place.
“The way the rotas are organised means I don’t miss out on the school runs,” says AJ, whose children are now aged between eight and 18.
“I get to see the kids before I go to work and I get to spend time with them during the day and school holidays.
“It’s also very flexible, unlike some shift work. The most shifts we ever do in Coventry is three in a row so we can take up to a week off without having to eat into our annual leave too much, and we can swap shifts, too.”
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AJ, whose role combines clinical work with overseeing the running of the clinic, as well as training and recruiting staff, admits out-of-hours work has its challenges, particularly in the early stages.
But, for her, the benefits far outweigh the negatives in terms of both work and personal life.
“The first six months of shift work can be hard, and there’s definitely a settling in period,” she says. “What works for me is having a strict routine. I go home and have a hot chocolate and relax before going to sleep. I make sure I stick to that routine.
“I couldn’t bear returning to the routine of daytime practice. I like the unpredictably of out-of-hours work. At the weekend we had 20 consults. One moment it was calm, and then, all of sudden, loads of cases came in at once.
“But I thrive on not knowing what’s going to happen next. That’s partly what makes working at Vets Now special.”
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Vet surgeon Jacqui Seymour, who is based in Gateshead and has two children aged one and three, echoes those views.
She believes the secret to achieving good work-life balance is having a strong support network in place. “I'm lucky in that I have a very supportive husband, family and grandparents,” says Jacqui.
“The shift patterns mean I can fit a full-time week in quite happily, working three days a week with four days off. My team also often swap shifts around to suit our different interests.”
Jacqui is firm in her belief that working out of hours is more family-friendly than the traditional nine-to-five model, but she says vets or vet nurses keen to follow in her footsteps must be disciplined.
“You need to use the days between shifts to catch up on sleep,” she says. “For example, you can't work a 15-hour night shift, grab a couple of hours of sleep, and then do another 15 hours.
“This is probably the biggest challenge people face when starting out-of-hours work. But as long as you get the balance right it can be a great way to work.”
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Jacqui adds: “The shift patterns at Vets Now work for me because they allow me to see my kids more. I have dinner with them in the evening, go out to my night shift, and I’m back in the house for them getting up for breakfast.
“My husband and I are also keen climbers and because I have four days off a week, we often go to the crags in Northumberland or the Peak District during the week. We have the advantage that we're not fighting for climbing space on the weekend.”
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not only motherhood that unites AJ and Jacqui.
They are both passionate about continual professional development and are always striving to improve themselves. AJ, for example, was involved in Vets Now’s pioneering evidence-based veterinary medicine programme and is about to start studying for a masters degree in advanced practice veterinary nursing at the University of Glasgow.
Jacqui, meanwhile, has completed the Cert AVP in emergency and critical care and now has Advanced Practitioner status. Both were supported through their studies by Vets Now.
“One of the other great things about working for this company, aside from the shift patterns, is it always wants the best for its staff,” AJ says. “I wouldn’t have been able to achieve half of what I have if I hadn’t had the support of so many of my colleagues."
Are you a working parent who wants to enjoy both family and work time without feeling you're not giving 100% to either? If you're a vet the solution may be our Refresh Your Edge programme. It's a flexible induction programme designed for vets who are keen to do ECC on a family-friendly rota pattern.
Our next intake is in January, and places are filling up fast. We are also recruiting vets for Cutting Edge and vet nurses for various roles. If you, or any vets or vet nurses you know, are interested in applying, please call the Vets Now recruitment team for more information on 01383 841181 or click here.