Veterinary Medicine is bleeding, vets are leaving the profession fast, and sadly this career has one of the highest suicide rates of all professions.
It doesn’t end with just vets though, as a veterinary nurse, I want to try and explain the chain effect that runs through the entire veterinary medicine industry. We need to love our vets and vet nurses more!
I love helping people’s pets and working with our patients. I am incredibly passionate and try to give my job, my best every day. However, It has its challenges.
I work in a small animal practice, that has a special interest in skin conditions and problem skin cases.
We haven’t been running long, we are a fairly new business, and we are trying to get going.
Veterinary nurses are there with the vets, I’m constantly thinking of ways to make my vet’s life easier and save them from negative drama.
Veterinary Medicine has incredible highs but also bad lows.
I wanted to describe one of my mornings, out of many, and how I work alongside my vet. I see and feel how their day is going.
It is Friday yay! End of the week, it has been a busy one and I’ve done over-time.
I get up prepare both my young children for daycare and head out to work.
I get to work slightly early winning! I set up for our day and begin to clear the emails and phone messages left from the night before.
My Vet arrives in the clinic and she looks tired. She still puts a smile on her face.
I know she hasn’t slept the best, I just read the email she forwarded me.
It is a nasty email from a very unhappy client who is going to call today.
I manage the phone, I feel anxious about this confrontation, Were clueless about what went wrong.
The email was in response to a clinical summary.
The reply didn’t consist of much just:
” Jesus f*****g Christ, this is what I paid for? ridiculous I will call you tomorrow’.
The consult was so successful, my vet solved a dog’s ongoing skin issues.
Normally a dream for dogs plagued by problem skin.
We conclude It must be money and he feels he paid too much for what we gave.
We spent 1.5 hours on this case, we ran blood tests, took samples, sent samples via urgent courier to the lab, dispensed medication, fully explained the findings, and plan with the owner.
Not to mention the hour my vet spent on her weekend, writing a comprehensive report, that he just threw back in her face.
Sigh! I’m gutted for my vet, she seems deflated.
This phone call will loom but the day must go on.
The first consult of the day arrives, I walk out to greet them with the biggest smile and welcome.
The client and patient look miserable, the dog’s skin is flaring again, the owner has an extremely tight budget and my heart aches for them both.
My vet runs 30mins late with this client and does not charge enough to cover her time let alone mine.
We can’t provide the dog with everything it needs.
Its hard knowing we could do more but the owner just doesn’t have the funds so we do what we can.
The next client has been waiting and is becoming agitated.
My phone rings…
I get off the phone from a very emotional owner, who is considering euthanasia unless we can now fix the dog’s skin, and with her extremely low budget.
I know this is an impossible task, but how can I condemn a dog to euthanasia? I book them an appointment and pray its a simple fix that won’t cost much.
Sigh! Think I might just need to write today off and go into survival mode.
Oh No! The clients still waiting, she’s looking more and more pissed off with each passing minute. Where is my vet?
My vets trying to write her notes bless her, I know she doesn’t want to take them home for the weekend, but the longer this next client waits the worse their mood will be.
What to do, I feel awful hurrying her, well I reluctantly go in disturbing her, she’s rushing to get vital consult information written down.
She knows the client is waiting, and this is my gentle prompt that she should see them ASAP to save herself more drama.
She stops her notes, and see’s the next client.
The next patient arrives early, oh dear..
I go out and chat with the owner for 15mins, cooing over her adorable dog to give my vet time.
I have other pressing jobs to do, but I want this day to go better than its currently panning out. Plus patting the dog isn’t exactly a burden, he really is adorable.
This owner has lots of questions. I discover that after 4 weeks of a food elimination trial, without talking to us or checking all the instructional paperwork, the owner has decided to add meat to the diet.
I now have to break the news and explain again that the whole point of this trial is to avoid different protein sources and find the allergy.
She just wasted 4 weeks and the money she spent on the special food we recommended. I can see she’s upset but there’s nothing I can do the damage is already done.
I leave her with a polite smile. My poor vet will be having this entire conversation again in the consulting room. I don’t see us catching up on time.
My Vet feels guilty like it is her fault the owner didn’t listen to us or read the instructions we sent her home with. She asking if we should discount our fees or food.
I tell her for the hundredth time, If we discounted every owner we felt bad or sorry for the business would not exist.
It’s not your fault this happened.
As the morning goes on I’m feeling more anxious about this looming angry phone call.
I decide I need to get it out of the way while I have some time.
There’s no answer.
I email a polite reply prompting him to get in touch so we can hopefully resolve his issues.
As I’m processing the payment for the next client, she tells me how this bill now means she can’t buy groceries for the week.
I feel terrible, but what can I do? I need to earn a wage or I won’t be eating either.
I process the payment and try to make a joke about how her dog will need to start up a kissing booth to pay his vet bills, luckily she laughs and the mood is lifted.
Maybe she was joking about the groceries? Or having a dig that she felt it was too expensive?
I hope so.
Little does she know I haven’t had a pay rise in 3 years and the minimum wage is creeping up on my wage, for my qualified position.
I won’t repeat this to my vet she has enough to worry about this weekend and not about people potentially going hungry to pay for their dogs care.
It’s only 11:30 am and I’m mentally exhausted we have a full day of bookings, if we use our lunch break to catch up on time, we might run on time for the afternoon.
I make my vet a cup of tea and grab a chocolate biscuit. Chocolate is a girl’s best friend right. We will get through this day together.
This is a typical day for us we go through so many emotions in this industry big life saving highs to losing a patient low.
However, what this industry doesn’t need is the constant judgments and assumptions, that we are money hungry and don’t care for animals unless we do everything for free.
Please remember a vet clinic is a business it needs to function as one or none of us can help anyone’s precious pets.
The next time you or someone you know feels like complaining or taking frustrations out on your vet. Remember that the industry is bleeding vets and needs love!!
Evie the cuddly Burmese cat has an incredible survival tale. Prompting us to share this…
If you've ever adopted a cat or had to re-home one yourself. You've probably asked…