Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet several bright, young veterinary students. Some are just finishing their education in the Spring and will be a real, live, DVM. I also met with others who are just starting out their time at Vet-School experience and feel like it is finals week everyday.
Interacting and having conversations with these amazing, ambitious, young adults has made me reflect on my own career as a veterinarian and what awaits these students as they embark on the great adventure ahead of them.
I love being a vet and looking back over the last 3+ decades of my career, I am extremely proud of where I came from and where I am today. Like most of my colleagues, I try to focus on all the positives of my chosen profession. After all, who wants to hear about the hard days or the stress veterinarians and their team face? Yet, I cannot help but think about what awaits these incredible students and also about the changes I have witnessed over the past 31 years in the “trenches” of veterinary medicine.
Through my career, I have worked with all species from dogs and cats to horses and cows. I have done cesareans on cows and watched a canine patient beat the odds and live a long and happy life following amputations and severe trauma. Our clinic is a 65/35 companion to large animal place of healing and care. On any given day we will give dozens of new puppy and kitten shots, spay/neuter, C-section dogs and cows, preg-check, AI, vaccinate, x-ray, stitch wounds, treat infections, and observe any combination of pet or livestock ailment or injury. I get to laugh and also grieve with my clients on an almost daily basis, and I can tell you that every moment is a privilege; a privilege to be so trusted and included into such an important relationship in your lives.
It is an exciting time to be a veterinarian. Gone are the days of James Herriot and “just give ‘im a tincture, doc.” Advances in medicine, surgery, and diagnostic imaging have provided pet owners with access to more treatment options and cutting edge care, than ever before. While advanced treatments may not always be in the best interest of every pet/pet owner, it is amazing that we can now offer our patients these options. Our goal isn’t to make a quick buck but to provide the best healing option for your loved one where there used to NOT be an option.
The problem of course, is the cost and time involved of delivering this kind of care. What might be news to some people, is this: veterinary clinics are a business and as humans we only have so many hours that we can be available. The public expects and deserves access to cutting edge treatments and care for their pets. They want and sometimes even demand 24 hour availability of veterinarians in the event of an emergency. They deserve compassionate, skilled veterinarians to help them make the best decisions for their beloved family member. And perhaps you already see where this is going…of course the public would like all of this at the lowest possible price. In a nutshell, this is the dilemma facing every veterinarian along with these young students as they embark on their chosen career. The popularity of many television series and social media accounts is creating an expectation from clients and for new veterinarians that is often times the exact opposite of what is feasible or reasonable for a small town clinic such as ours.
Our team works hard to stay current and provide excellent care to our patients. We care deeply about each patient we treat and we care about our community. I can guarantee that we are NOT just “in it for the money.” Our amazing team of hard working employees who come to work, day after day, with a smile and a genuine desire to improve the quality of life of our patients, are hear to listen and advise and be a source of help and comfort for you and your pet. We really are trying to help you. There are limits to what we can do whether it be location, extent of health issue, or simply because of availability. Loyalty to one doctor over another is understandable, but sometimes interferes with providing the very best care possible. Often it is easy to dismiss the “new kid” and not give them a chance because of perceived inexperience, but lack of experience does not equal lack of ability or care. I remember starting out and feeling like I wouldn’t be able to prove my worth if no one gave me a chance. I made mistakes and learned from them. I also brought fresh eyes to problems that helped create a quicker healing environment and aided in garnering new loyal clients.
The wonderful thing about the new generation of veterinarians is their desire to share what they know and what they don’t know. They want to show their community what they do and to talk about the pressure and stress, as well as the success and rewards, of modern veterinary practice. An open dialog provides new avenues of support, exchange of ideas and solutions to the challenges our profession faces. It is an exciting time in our profession and I am excited that we will soon have part of this new generation in our own clinic. That’s correct. We are hoping to add another doctor to our community by the end of Spring 2023. Many hands make light work and even better if those hands are skilled and talented like these young adults I have recently been speaking with.
To all the students, first year and beyond, that stopped by our table at the job fairs over that past few weeks, we wish you all nothing but the best. You have an amazing career ahead of you. No matter where you land, I encourage you to practice your calling with integrity, celebrate your successes with openness and humility, learn from your failures without defeat, stay relatable and reachable, and above all, keep up the open dialog. Ask for advice, request mentoring, stay humble. Veterinarians are a small niche of doctors with a common goal for animal health and well-being. We are all in this together and that is an amazing place to be.