You’ve heard those conversations where vets pontificate about the injustice of their lot in life and their poor career choices. We love to share stories about old acquaintances who are invariably less talented and not nearly as smart as us (we’re vets after all – the cream of the intellectual cream…), yet they have magical careers where they do almost nothing all day and get paid squillions and have 3 month holidays every year that they spend frolicking on their yachts, while we express anal glands for 27 hours a day and get paid less than the pot plants in the reception area at the dentist’s office…
Well, I call b.s. Have you ever listened to a group of people from other professions complain about their jobs, especially when they’ve had a few drinks? The bitching! When was the last time you asked someone about the details of their job? About what they do on a day to day basis, about the politics, the paperwork, the bureaucracy – all the dirty nitty-gritty? But I bet many people have asked you about your job, because guess what – it’s friggin interesting! People love hearing about we do, while poor Kevin from accounts probably never even has the chance to complain about his job because no one ever asks…There are those individuals who genuinely appear to have shimmering careers that they truly seem to love, but to me, the vast majority of other people’s jobs seem to fall somewhere on a spectrum between soul-crushing boredom and high stakes ulcer-causing relationship busting stress.
Yes, our job has some very real challenges, but so does any career. What we tend to ignore are all the great things about a career in veterinary science. Variety, autonomy, never-ending opportunities for continued learning and acquisition of new skills, the potential for leadership positions, for business ownership. We can travel with our degree, we can work full time, part-time, night time. We can choose to be generalists or we can push ourselves into challenging specialties, or take a left turn into a completely different pathway, like teaching, industry or government. We get to do a job that people swoon over on the media.
Do you have any idea how many people would give anything to have a veterinary degree? To have the privilege of actually getting paid to work with animals. True, they probably don’t fully understand what it actually involves to work with animals, but the reality is that we DO get to do the thing that many of us dreamed of doing as youngsters. How many other careers can put all of that on their CV?
I’m all for striving to improve the profession and making it an even better career to be in, but sometimes we need to just get over ourselves a little bit and see the gift that we have under our noses. Yes, sometimes it’s hard being a vet. Sometimes work is hard. This is not a unique feature of our profession. And if your career really isn’t going the way you want it to, then maybe you need to re-evaluate how you’ve utilised your veterinary degree so far, rather than the fact that you to chose to have one to begin with.
“But the pay is so bad”, I hear you say Well, we’ll talk about that next time.
Been a vet for 31 years in small animal practice. While the author makes some good points he does not really compare ‘apples with apples’. Most vets compare themselves to other medical professions like human medicine and dentistry where the academic achievements are similar and even the type of work and hours. However, there is an obvious salary disparity especially with experience and specialisms. No mention of the higher levels of mental illness in the veterinary profession compared to others.
Hi Sanjay, thanks for taking the time to read and to reply. I totally agree with the comment about salary discrepancy, and I feel that this plays a big role in the high prevalence of dissatisfaction in our profession. While money doesn’t fix everything it certainly does help to feel valued! The point of this post was simply that we shouldn’t keep telling ourselves that being a vet is much harder than other jobs, including the other medical professions. Not implying that veterinary science is without problems, only that we won’t solve those problems if we keep banging our heads against certain unhelpful beliefs.
All the best.