Road Warrior Wellness

Here are tips for living healthier if you’re an ambulatory veterinarian, brought to you by Merck.
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Although ambulatory veterinarians have many challenges in living a healthy lifestyle, small changes can make a big difference in overall wellness.

Ambulatory equine practitioners spend many hours of the day on the road, and many drive upwards of 35,000 miles each year. All this windshield time can pose a health risk due to the hours spent sitting, the difficulty in finding healthy food on the road, and the distraction while talking on the phone behind the wheel.

Despite these challenges, veterinarians can choose to have a healthier mobile lifestyle. Here are some tips.

Body and Brain Stiffness

As the years in practice accumulate, so do the various injuries and the consequent aches and pains. Because sitting in one position for 30-45 minutes can cause joints to stiffen up, when getting out of the truck, you might find yourself Grade IV/V lame! Consider doing some gentle stretches when you arrive at your destination.

If there are horses turned out in pastures that need simple procedures or examinations, consider walking out to where they are grazing to get a few limbering steps in.

Obviously, if they are horses that are difficult for their owners to catch or patients that resist veterinary attention, this is inadvisable. But the mental break of slowing down the rush and enjoying your surroundings outside on a beautiful spring day might bring you more relief than just an easing of your hip and knee pain. Having an opportunity to enjoy the small moments of your day can be uplifting.

Feeding the Body

Lunch for road warriors is often limited to gas station hot dogs, drive-through burgers and fries, or slices of pizza because most ambulatory doctors don’t have time for a sit-down lunch unless it’s behind the wheel. Consider packing a cooler or thermos with healthier food from home.

Grazing all day on yogurt, fruit, crackers with peanut butter or cheese, and leftover vegetables and steak from last night’s dinner is better than fast food for maintaining a stable blood sugar and energy level. Better eating can also help you keep a healthy weight.

In the winter, a thermos full of chili or soup and a hunk of whole grain bread is a welcome midday meal. Just tuck in a blue surgery towel for a bib and spread one in your lap for the inevitable spills.

Always keep healthy snacks like nuts, dried fruit and popcorn in your truck for those unexpected late days when you’re hungry enough to eat a stethoscope. If you pass a roadside stand selling tomatoes, strawberries or other munchable produce, treat yourself! It helps to keep a salt and pepper shaker in your center console and a roll of paper towels in the cab.

Feeding the Joy

When you have many miles between calls, taking a break from your work is pleasant. Instead of making callbacks about lab work or rechecks, consider calling a friend for a visit or listening to a podcast about a topic that interests you. Catch up on global topics on National Public Radio or listen to your favorite music or a new audio book.

These mini-vacations can decrease your stress and increase your daily quotient of joy.

Safety First

Intense phone calls are a regular part of an equine veterinarian’s life. When they occur, you should strongly consider pulling over to the side of the road, especially if you are in traffic. Distracted driving is very dangerous, and your life could change forever in a split second.

Never text while driving. Reading texts and emails while operating a large vehicle at 60 mph is foolhardy. Your loved ones are depending on you to arrive alive at the end of your day. Make it a new habit to check your phone every time you arrive at a destination, but not with every “ping.” Set up a different ringtone for your emergency service so you know to answer. Safety on the road is essential for wellness.

Take-Home Message

Although ambulatory veterinarians have many challenges in living a healthy lifestyle, small changes can make a big difference in overall wellness. 

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