Dr. Chyrle Bonk is a great multitasker. Working as a professional in any industry while balancing side hustles and raising a family is enough to make most anyone feel at least a small amount of fatigue. But Chyrle is mainly grateful, as she’s been able to achieve what so many of us both crave and undervalue, all at once: balance.
Working in the veterinary industry is a tougher undertaking than perhaps it should be, from a mental standpoint. Chyrle discovered that the compassion fatigue — the feelings of helplessness when faced with an animal beyond assistance — took a toll on her that was difficult to manage, and it made her stop enjoying her career.
“Mental health is a huge deal,” Chyrle said. “I’ve come to realize that it’s really important to be able to step away and have another part of your life. It’s been a struggle for me, but finding a way to balance doing multiple things has really made a difference.”
Finding the Perfect Fit with Clearwater Valley Veterinary Clinic
Living in Orofino, Idaho, Chyrle says the local veterinary practice, Clearwater Valley Veterinary Clinic, is set up well for part-time work. Together with the practice owner, Dr. Duane Wolverton, Chyrle has created a balanced and flexible schedule that not only works better for her and her family but also suits the business’s needs.
“The practice has changed a lot since I started,” she explained. “I’ve been here my whole career, and we used to have a satellite office which is no longer open. I was working six full days a week at first, but now we’ve settled into mostly taking just regulars and not a lot of emergent care cases. It works out well for me to work in the mornings and then have the afternoons available for other things.”
“Other things,” for Chyrle, consists of picking up her two boys, ages four and nearly two, from daycare and helping her brother, Curtis, with their family cattle ranch. Chyrle also moonlights as a freelance writer, usually spending a few hours in the afternoons writing or prospecting for new clients. It’s a busy life, but Chyrle says she prefers the variety to doing the same thing all day, for the sake of her own sanity.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing now,” she said. “I could never picture myself as a stay-at-home mom, but once you have kids it looks a lot different. I’ve been able to make this work for me, and I feel like I am better off for it when I look back.”
Of course, societal and industry norms might dictate that an all-out, full-time schedule is the only way to make a successful business. And while this is certainly applicable in many cases, Chyrle says where there is a will, there’s usually a way.
Finding Happiness Through Flexibility
“I know veterinary medicine used to be a seven days a week type of job, after hours calls, all that,” Chyrle said. “But now you really can be more flexible, and with so many of us now having families it’s necessary. My boss was one who was a part of that older generation, always working and never at home with his kids. I honestly feel that he has been more flexible with me because he knows how much of a difference it makes to have a degree of flexibility.”
Chyrle says that her family has become adept at juggling responsibilities. Her husband, Scott, works for the Idaho Department of Lands as a forester, which often takes him out of the house for much longer days. Chyrle’s flexibility allows the family to keep childcare costs low and, most importantly, spend time together as the boys grow up.
Chyrle wants other veterinarians to know that this balance is possible, and it’s also important. “The most important thing is to not just try to ‘power through’ if you’re struggling,” she advised. “Recognizing issues, seeking help, and making changes are so helpful and it’s something I’m very glad I prioritized.”