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Comments on the dilemma in the May issue: Taking a full lunch break


In the dilemma discussed in the May issue of In Practice, you join an experienced veterinary team and rapidly learn that taking breaks is frowned upon. When members of the team do take breaks, one of the practice partners encourages them to return calls, write up records and see walk-ins. Is this OK? (IP, May 2017, vol 39, pp 238-239). Anne Fawcett and Juliana Brailey suggest that discussing the importance and evidence for taking breaks with a senior colleague might prove persuasive. Perhaps inviting a senior colleague on a short walk might role model this benefit. Vets have a choice as to whether they take breaks, but the issue should be addressed because it will impact employees negatively.

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FAWCETT and Brailey write about the Australian veterinary context. The scenario they describe appears to be common in the UK; the poll results reveal that 73 per cent of respondents believe that owners and management personnel don't give vets sufficient time for breaks.

In ‘Taking a full lunch break’, the partner is ultimately abusing his or her power to pressurise veterinary staff to skip breaks. Furthermore, a culture has developed in the veterinary hospital so that working through lunches has become normal practice. The new employee questions the situation based on their training and relative newness to the hospital.

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Fawcett and Brailey describe the negative consequences of the partner's approach to the overworked vet, their colleagues and patients. They employ a virtue-based approach to argue that the new member of staff should stand their ground and communicate with the boss. Any reasonably defensible moral theory could be used to challenge the partner's attitude. Indeed, the partner's statement of ‘millennials having it so easy’ and their claim to the effect that s/he didn't have long lunches is suggestive of perfectionism, a moral theory that is difficult to defend.

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