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Veterinarians Smile And Play With Animals All Day…Not Quite!

If only veterinarians were always this happy!It can be quite humorous when I am reminded how so many perceive what it is like to be a veterinarian.  Like the picture here may imply, being a veterinarian in the eyes of many is treating cute and fuzzy creatures all day with owners that are always so grateful that you have the compassion to use your scientific and medical knowledge to care for their innocents.  And of course, we smile all day and skip home dripping with anticipation to get back to the animal hospital tomorrow to do it all again.

The reality is quite different, and some of the differences are anything BUT humorous!  I will itemize a few of the differences:

  • Not all cute and fuzzy creatures are happy to see us, and bite, scratch, and generally try to maim us.
  • Not all owners are grateful. Worse yet, some even feel entitled to free care when money is tight  because we are veterinarians and should work for free because they said so.
  • A big portion of our day is spent analyzing lab data, writing medical notes, and spent on the phone doing call backs.
  • Medical cases are sometimes stressful and highly technical.
  • Surgeries are sometimes stressful and highly technical.
  • We always take work home with us mentally, are paged by the hospital after hours and on days off frequently, and call clients from home or on the road often.
  • Losing patients after pouring your heart and soul into saving their lives hurts.
  • We have to do business with zero to no business training.
  • Did I mention that some patients bite?
  • Did I mention that not all owners are grateful?

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and I thank the good Lord every day that I get to be a veterinarian.  But, it’s not all s–ts and giggles and it can serve up some of the most stressful, nerve racking, and heartbreaking experiences in life.   There is a reason that veterinary medicine has the number one suicide rate of any profession.

I bring awareness to this, not because I want pity or to discourage people from pursuing a career as a veterinarian, but so that people understand that while veterinary medicine may be fulfilling, it is difficult and carries as much stress and emotional toll as any profession.  With most people that choose veterinary medicine as a career possessing a combination of deep empathy and perfectionist natures, the stress and emotional strain that comes with the job takes a greater toll on the veterinarian than it may for the average person.

So the next time you may feel inclined to judge a veterinarian, understand first that there is a real person with real feelings underneath that white coat that carries a great deal of responsibility on his or her shoulders.  While this most certainly does not give the veterinarian license to behave with impunity or accountability, perhaps it may earn us the occasional benefit of the doubt.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of subjects and platforms.  In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport.  He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health  blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game

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