Saturday, May 14, 2011


I was followed by a high school junior today who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She told me that she has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a tiny little girl, that she loves animals, and that she wants to do something to make the world a better place. She said (and I quote) that "If she could help one sick animal, it would make her worlds happier."

It broke my heart a little.

Not because veterinary medicine isn't a great thing to do, but because of her starry-eyed naivete. It's ok to be naive at 16. Who isn't?? I look back at my 16 year old self and cannot believe that we are the same person.

Still, I wanted to tell her about the realities of veterinary medicine - the financial burden of vet school loans, the horrible cases of negligence and ignorance, the difficulty of making people understand that veterinarians have to eat too, the gut-wrenching feeling when euthanizing a sick or injured animal. I wanted to tell her that to be a veterinarian, you must be a social worker, a financial counselor, a psychologist, a minister/spiritual leader, a teacher, and a doctor - all rolled into one. Oh, and by the way, you'd better like working with people, because if you can't work with people - you'll be hated by your technicians, fellow doctors, and most importantly, your clients.

Then I thought about how much I genuinely love what I do, the satisfaction I get from a day like today - steady with patients, no tragic euthanasias, and clients following my recommendations, and the rush I feel when I really, truly save a patient, and I know that there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

How do you convey that to a 16 year old?


sarahMTSBB said...

She'll see the reality of vet med soon- let her stay sweet and 16 right now. I am soooo thankful to my practice back home that I worked at through college b/c I walked in the same way- excited, eager, wanting nothing more than to work hard and learn and see my dream fulfilled. They were gentle with me, but gave me the opportunity WITH TIME to see and do all the hard stuff... so I wouldn't start vet school without seeing firsthand how awful clients can be, how often pets are euthanized unnecessarily, and even being the hand that peformed euthanasia. There isn't anything better than the highs of vet med for me- but the lows were too heartbreaking- so now I'm a med tech. There are moments I regret giving it up, but I wouldn't be nearly as at peace with my decision if I hadn't had spent so many hours at such a great practice fighting for my dream.

Alyson said...

You write a blog. -Salutes-

Sixteen-year-old, signing out.

(Not the same one in the post, though. Good for her for shadowing!)

Anonymous said...

Well, that's what you learn from shadowing and gaining experience for yourself, which is what she's doing. I think I started shadowing/volunteering around the same time, and realized that although veterinary medicine isn't all about happy puppies and kittens, my love for medicine and goal-oriented nature led my path to vet school.

Anonymous said...

I tell students:

1. If you have $130K in loans (2010 average), your monthly payment will be around $850/month, for 20 years. If you want to go to veterinary school, figure out how to pay for it; if your family can't afford it, consider the military, rural veterinary loan forgiveness, etc. Go to a state or community college for most credits to further minimize debt.

2. I work with people, and they're my greatest challenge.

3. If I work at cost or at a loss too often, my practice will close, and all of my clients and patients will lose my services. Same goes if I volunteer all my time at free clinics vs. working for money (see loans, #1 above).

4. The routine aspects of being a veterinary become old and boring fast. I explain some things so frequently that my husband (who knows nothing about veterinary medicine and is not particularly interested) can quote me at length. Veterinarians explain simple concepts not only many times every day, but many times to the same client, sometimes every day.

Would I be a veterinarian again? Yes, but I'm finally figuring out how to pay the bills, maintain interest, and avoid interpersonal drama. How? I practice part-time, work part-time in a regulatory capacity, and hope to add part-time work in research. Full-time practice is not for everyone, long-term, and IME the more caring, intelligent and enthusiastic the veterinarian, the harder the fall to burnout and disillusionment.

Can'tSpell, DVM said...

You actually have clients that follow your reccomendations? Where? I want some!

Elizabeth said...

Can't Spell: There are some of us there who do follow our Vets advice.. I promise :)