It’s been a rough 18 months in veterinary medicine. From the pandemic stress causing our lives to be turned upside down, to the covid kittens, parvovirus increases, out of control owners and rise in case load many of you are thinking, “Has she gone mad?! How can we be grateful for this profession?” Throughout this year I have said it on my podcasts, blog and vlogs.
I’ll scream it once again, “Veterinary medicine is the best profession!!”
I’m a Lifer
I always knew I was going to work in a career that involved animals. In high school students were required to take a “career aptitude test.” I failed the test. My parents and I were called to the guidance counselor’s office to discuss my results. I had not scored high in any potential career. I didn’t want to go into construction, become a lawyer, electrician, engineer or become a surgeon. In short, the counselor was concerned that I had no drive to do anything in my life. I listened to the counselor’s concerns and replied with a simple, “The test didn’t have any questions about animals. I want to work with animals.” I always knew I wanted to work with animals since I was a small child.
At the time I didn’t know what my career would be and I enrolled at the University of Maine in Wildlife Management. I very quickly realized I didn’t want to count deer in a field. It wasn’t a career where I’d be working with animals. Instead, I would be observing animals. I needed to find another major. After changing schools I dualled major in Animal Science and Veterinary Technology. I knew in my first semester that my heart belonged to Veterinary Technology. I was going to become a life-long Veterinary Technician.
"We were all brought into this profession for our deep love of animals."
For many of us we resonate with animals better than we do with people. We make fast, deep connections with species that are not human. We all knew from an early age that pets had souls and emotions. We considered them family, not just “like” family. We knew they were special and we were honored to be in their presence. For this reason we went into veterinary medicine. We wanted to save, help and care for animals because every ounce of who we were as human beings called us to do so.
We all agreed to the sadness and loss we would experience when we connected with our patients and then had to say goodbye. We agreed to work hard, give of ourselves and not “be rich.” We knew it would be difficult and we embraced it. Saving pet lives replenished our hearts, mind and souls. Despite all the hardships of the profession we said “yes” when others said “I don’t think I could do what you do.” We said yes because we knew were making a difference and it brought us joy.
We all went into this profession because we love animals deeply and we love medicine. It’s not just a profession or job. It’s our passion. Think about the first time you neutered a dog, placed an intravenous catheter, or saved a pet’s life from a trauma. Remember that feeling? You told friends and family about it. You were excited, proud and said in your head, “I get to do this!” What about the first time you got to lance a huge abscess? It was gross and thrilling all at the same time. Veterinary medicine is awesome. We are all the same in that we love animals and love medicine.
It’s Hard to Remember the Good
In the past 18 months we feel like we’re under attack. Clients and the world have become more on edge and short-tempered. Our case load counts have increased dramatically causing many to have record-setting overtime hours. Burnout is at an all-time high. Suicide rates also remain high.
If you troll social media you will find countless posts of “I’m quitting the profession” to “Don’t join the profession.” These posts happen multiple times a day. If you only looked at social media it would tell you veterinary medicine is the worst profession in the world. Even some industry leaders only focus on the negativity, the worse, the ugly side of veterinary medicine. Their cries of “everything is wrong” and “we need an overhaul of the profession” are deafening.
I’m not one to put icing on top a poop-cake, but I always have been one to look at the facts. There is a lot of truth in the issues of veterinary medicine. I will continue to call out overarching issues that need to be changed in this profession. We have a lot of things that need to be improved upon so that we can go back to loving our passion, but with that said veterinary medicine is still the best profession.
What Can We Do?
For those of us who deeply love this profession we are hurting right now. When we speak up with positivity, we are shut down by social media calling us crazy because “veterinary medicine is horrible.” We all need to do our part, as a professional, owner or leader. Whatever you have influence on (your attitude in how you show up to work or the ability to change wages) focus on those things. We all have the ability to improve veterinary medicine. Help yourself so you can get back to loving your passion. Help your team, hospital or entire organization if that’s what you have influence over. Do your part.
We do have many hospitals and even companies that are trying to improve the long-standing issues in veterinary medicine. I recently joined one such company, Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG). While I don’t mention them often because I like to keep my work as Veterinary Team Training separate from my role at VEG, it’s all I can do not to brag about the awesome things they are doing! I’m thrilled to be a small part of it. Joining VEG this year has allowed me to find my passion all over again. I have watched a positive culture grow into a movement and salary ranges for veterinary technicians/nurses/assistants climb to some of the highest levels. It brings my heart joy to see hospitals like VEG make big positive impacts.
And it's not just VEG. I know many of you reading this work for great hospitals! For me, I have seen some awesome things being done in the industry. People and companies throwing out the bad habits and replacing them with new, positive, healthier ones. In fact, I have seen more positive improvements, changes and real movements happening in the past 2 years than ever before!
Why is it when a hospital or company does something positive, nay-sayers scream “it’ll never last” or “you will fail!” Ignore them and focus on what you have influence over. Be the best version of you and veterinary medicine. If you are doing great things and working in a great hospital, enjoy it! Stay on the positivity train and keep doing great things! I'm loving what people are doing right now.
Why is Veterinary Medicine the Best?
Lots of Jobs
There are plenty of jobs. In fact, according to United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession of veterinary technician is expected to grow about 30% over the next 10 years. That is significantly higher than most professions. Salary is also expected to increase slightly higher than the rate of inflation. No one in veterinary medicine can complain there is a lack of jobs. In fact, if you’re unhappy with your current role you can quit and get another job the same day!
If you’re a veterinary technician/nurse your skills are being used more now than ever. Don’t misunderstand me. We still have a long way to go in utilizing our veterinary technicians/nurses to their fullest, but compared to the early 2000s, utilization has dramatically improved. The veterinarian and technician/nurse team is stronger than ever and hopefully will only continue to improve.
Shut the front door! The patients of the veterinary hospital are arguably the best patients of any medical profession. They cause veterinary employees to make baby noises at them, smile and laugh over their antics. We work in an environment where pet therapy is everywhere. Anyone who has known someone who went to the “dark side” of human medicine knows they always say the same thing, “I miss the veterinary patients.”
Diversity is Huge
What a veterinary professional can do is quite diverse. While most work in general practice, the field has the largest diversity of any profession. How can you get bored in this profession? As a veterinary professional you can do anything!
Pick the specie:Lab, companion, large, wildlife, exotic, zoo.
Pick a specialty: Radiology, emergency, anesthesia, surgery, behavior, dentistry
Pick a role: Consultant, researcher, owner, manager, teacher
Pick an industry: Pharmaceutical, pet food industry, research
Pick a size of hospital: Small, medium, large, ginormous
Pick an employer: Private, corporation, government
Medicine is Awesome!
I continue to have pinch-me moments 23 years later. My jaw hits the floor, my eyes go wide and I think “Did we just save that animal’s life?! Wow!” I am continuously amazed at the medical part of veterinary medicine. I started out hand-dipping radiographs. I still remember the chemical smell. Now I click a button and in a nano-second I get a radiograph image on the screen. Get out of town! I never would have thought that would be a thing when I started out!
There are heart valve and kidney transplants happening in pet patients. We have dialysis for animals! We now are creating prosthetics for pets with amputated legs. Are you serious?! Medicine and science is freaking awesome!
Veterinary Medicine is the Best Profession
There is no greater profession. There isn’t. Despite our flaws, we are a beautiful profession. Actually, we are a drop-dead gorgeous profession. We save animal lives. We keep pets healthy so owners get to keep them in their lives longer. Very few of our animal patients say thank you, but that doesn’t stop us. We alleviate pain, suffering and we cure illness and injury. We do these things with our minds and hands. We are super-heroes, first responders, and essential workers. We are awesome and what we do is amazing.
During this holiday season as you troll by the haters on social media, have conversations with burned out colleagues and hear statements like “I don’t even know why anyone works in veterinary medicine,” tune all that out. Remember your passion. Remember your love of animals and medicine. Remember why you went into the greatest profession in the world. Be grateful for all the amazing things you get to do as a veterinary profession. You get to work in the best profession. Enjoy your job. Love this profession. It’s awesome. Strut your stuff like the unicorn you are.
Thank you to all the veterinary professionals who work the holidays. We are especially grateful to you.