I realized with a start this morning after leaving work that I have never really talked about veterinarians and how to choose one or NOT to choose one. Nor have I ever really talked about the vast differences in how medicine is practiced.
The general population seems to be under the mistaken impression that all veterinarians are the same in terms of quality. This is as ridiculous as thinking that all human doctors are the same. It's just patently untrue. Veterinarians run the gamut from incredibly motivated, intelligent, inquisitive individuals with a drive to pursue excellence and do the best they can for their patients to those veterinarians who could care less as long as they receive a steady paycheck to those veterinarians that hate what they do and take it out on the animals (and everything possible in between).
I was 19 when I first worked for a veterinarian. I had taken a year off of college between freshman and sophomore year, moved home, moved in with my boyfriend (later to become my husband), and was looking for work. I took a job as a receptionist at a local veterinary clinic. My duties were manifold and included not only reception work but occasionally assisting the doctor. It was there that I was first exposed to veterinarians.
The vet I worked for was in his mid-40s. His wife was the office manager. She was bitter and spiteful; he was a jerk. He regularly made sexually suggestive comments towards me. That I could handle (although all of my natural instincts now cry out against it). It was the beating animals that drove me away. He would lose his temper with an unruly animal and out of nowhere, lash out. I once saw him grab a biting chihuahua, pin it in the corner of its cage, and punch it repeatedly. Another time, he was annoyed with a goofy Cocker spaniel, so he used its leash to sling it against the wall.
I was a coward and did nothing. Voicing my strong objection to this man would have probably led to my being fired on the spot. Further, I just wasn't as confrontational and confident in myself as I am now. I was 19. Looking back, I sincerely regret that I did not intervene or report him to someone. Needless to say, that job lasted 6 months. I still drive by that clinic on my way to my parent's house and think about what I observed there. I also think about reporting him - even now. It would be my word against his, and he is well-respected in my small hometown. That experience formed me so strongly that I will not even tolerate my technicians speaking harshly to an animal or calling an animal names when they lose their tempers. Forget about ever doing anything malicious or even over-restraining in my presence. It is not tolerated.
When vet school started, my expectation was to be surrounded by excellence. And for the most part, my classmates were driven, intelligent, and caring individuals that I would trust with my pet. There were a handful however that scared the living daylights out of me. People that seemed to have no interest in animals, that didn't even seem to like them or want to touch them; students that didn't care about grades, personal achievement, or learning anything.
I could regale you with these types of horror stories for hours, but the point of this post was not to scare you away from veterinarians. I want to alert my non-vet readers that NOT all veterinarians are the same. There are definitely quality differences. My goal is to help you guys figure out who is doing a good job, who is doing an excellent job, and who hasn't kept up on their CE and has no interest in offering top quality medicine. Since this post is already running toward my typically long-ish format, I'll save details for the next post.
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