Blog · Lifestyle

Confessions Of A Veterinary Surgeon – Everything Comes With A Price

There are not going to be any cute pretty photos here. Just text, for the ones, who do really want to read it.

I was wondering whether to post this here, as it probably doesn’t concern too many of you, but in the end I decided to do it. Because it is part of my life and, after all, this is a lifestyle blog. About my life. So, there you go!

Every once in a while somebody messages me to ask me what it is to be a vet. Is it hard? Is it complicated to graduate? Well, my loves, graduating is the easy part. So, that’s why I decided to put together this little post and I highly recommend for you to read it, even if you’re not a vet or planning to be one, but just a pet owner. I do believe many of my colleagues have the same thoughts and sometimes wish they could share them with their clients, but for one reason or another, don’t. In any case, if you do decide to read this, please, do not take offence. I am merely trying to depict the reality of our daily struggles and emotions, while doing the job we love. And if you’re just about to make a decision whether to start studying to become a vet, then know, that I am not trying to talk you out of it. I am just trying to tell you everything that nobody ever told me when I was signing up for this. So, let’s begin…

  • It is hard. The time you spend in university is long and exhausting, you will be seeing most of your friends graduating before you, getting married, having children…while you’re still stuck trying to study for the next exam.
  • Having social life is a challenge. My classes at uni were pretty much all day, every day. But once you graduate, things don’t really change. You will still be working 10-14 hour shifts, weekends, public holidays… You will really get fed up with explaining to your friends why you have to plan your social outings 4 months in advance and why you can’t go out THAT Saturday.
  • People are mean. Yes, you will get the lovely pet owner, who will appreciate your efforts, but unfortunately clients love to bully us as professionals. If we don’t manage to miraculously cure their dog after it has been vomiting for two weeks and they decide to bring it in URGENTLY at 6pm on a Friday evening, they will get mad at you. And it is going to be your fault. The fact that they have an animal but can’t afford its treatments is also your fault. If they have to wait 15 minutes past their appointment time, because you’re stuck doing surgery on another poorly fluff, it is again your fault. And they will complain. Without thinking of the work load that you have and the pressure you’re under.
  • Vets have one of the highest suicide rates. That’s right. On your first year after graduation you will be thinking – but why, it is not really that bad! Well, I will ask you again in a few months. Every loss, every failure, every complaint and every unhappy patient and client will get to you and will break you down. On the next day you will have another client hugging you and thanking you for saving their pet, which will restore your hope and strength, but you will have bad days. And you will feel like quitting. The job, not life, if you’re lucky.
  • Vets do NOT earn a lot of money. Even worse is the situation with vet nurses. For some reason most of the general public thinks that vets shower in money because the vet fees are so high! No, love. Health care is expensive. Only a fraction of your bill actually comes in our pocket and if you need an example – a bus driver earns more money than vet nurses and most of the young vets.
  • On the money topic – “YOU WON’T BE ASKING FOR MONEY IF YOU REALLY CARE ABOUT THE ANIMALS!” This is one of my favourites. If you work in a supermarket and I come to get food, but at the till I tell you – “Oh, I am a vet, I care about the animals”, will you give me my food for free? If you are a mechanic and I ask you to fix my car and tell you – “Oh, I am a vet, I care about the animals”, will you do it for free?
  • People will remember you exist only when their pet is sick. Sad, but true. There are people who haven’t bothered to ask me how am I doing for the past 10 years, yet they will message me at 6am in the morning, because their Fluffy has licked the soap (true example, by the way). And you will reply to them and spend the precious few hours you have outside of work trying to figure out how to help Fluffy, because you feel guilty and bad to just say – I am really sorry, I do need to stop thinking about work for at least 2 hours a day, please do visit the nearest vet in your area instead of asking me. I have had people (STRANGERS!!!) calling me on Facebook at 11pm on a Saturday night because their dog’s ear is swollen or because they want me to issue fake documents as they can’t be bothered to follow the appropriate procedure.
  • And last, but not least – it is not always puppies and kittens. You will lose patients. No matter how hard you try. They will die and you will suffer and blame yourself even if it has nothing to do with your abilities as a vet. You will doubt yourself. Constantly. Did I do enough? Did I do it right? Am I good enough? Am I a failure?

 

You will hate your job and you will love it. You will have days, when you’re wondering why you’ve wasted your life by becoming a vet and there are going to be days, when your career gives you your purpose in life. People will love you and people will hate you. This profession is an emotional rollercoaster and it will always be – you’re putting to sleep a beloved family’s pet and in the next minute you have to be happy for the new puppy of your next clients. It is exhausting. It is rewarding.

Think it through. Choose wisely.

Dr. Melina Mihaylova, MRCVS, MSc.

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