Life as a Vet

As I spend my days speaking with more and more veterinarians about the way we spend our days, I find a common theme that pervades almost every conversation. Sometimes this job is a lot more than we signed up for. Dr. Joanne Intile has written a perceptive article about the secret lives of veterinarians  that details some of the things about being a veterinarian that might not be that obvious to a pet parent, mate or friend.


Dr. Intile described the following main points:

  • Your veterinarian has a lot of debt.
  • Your veterinarian is a master of multitasking.
  • Your veterinarian is not an animal psychologist/communicator.
  • Veterinarians take their work home with them.
  • Your veterinarian never stopped learning after graduation.

Reading this made me want to give all of the vets in the world today huge hugs–from those who have been at it for 50 years and maybe are considering retirement to those who are finishing their senior rotations and will be out and practicing in a few short months. It’s an amazing profession to be part of, and one that requires strong emotional, time and life management skills to be even remotely successful. (And by successful I mean not curled up in a corner rocking back and forth.)


Vets put a lot of time, heart and energy into getting into school, making it through vet school alive and then being the best veterinarians we can possibly be. We leave vet school with enormous debt, a naiveté about what a day in the life really is going to be and a determination to be everything to every one of the important forces in our lives: patients, clients, coworkers, family, friends and, often last, ourselves.


Recently there has been a lot of talk about suicide in the veterinary world, and it saddens me to think how not surprising it is to hear these stories. Veterinarians are compassionate, giving people, trying ultimately to create the best plan for their patients and some of the most self-sacrificing people in the world, and it follows that some time that burden is more than they can take.


It is comforting (yet distressing) to know that so many others had the same struggles I did when I was in private practice–transitioning from euthanasia to a new puppy visit in five minutes, not having the opportunity to eat the lunch of leftovers I had purchased on the way home from work the night before, spending hours on the Veterinary Information Network after a long–AFTER I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OFF WORK–day to research a case that had me worried-CAN’T SLEEP UNTIL I FIGURE OUT WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS LITTLE CAT.


So, to all of the pet parents, vet spouses, friends and family, please understand that there is a lot more going on below the surface of those calm and cool characters walking through the door in their white coats. And cheers to the ones that can maintain calm and cool.


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