A letter to the veterinarian who hates her job
Dear Veterinarian who hates her job,
At the last Fetch dvm360 conference I went to, you were sitting next to me during a discussion about women in leadership. The topic at the moment was fair wages for veterinarians, and there was a heated debate going on—the older practice owners in the room didn’t feel they could afford to pay higher wages, and they were sick of hearing new grads complain about their student loans. As an older millennial, I belong to the younger generation that graduated six years ago with student loan debt worth as much as my house. But I am currently making a fair wage as a medical director, so I was very interested in the discussion.
The moderator was trying to calm down the situation when you spoke up. I was impressed that you chose to talk in such a large group, as you seemed a little shy while sitting next to me. You stated that you were one of the first female veterinarians in your state, and you own your practice. I was in awe sitting next to one of the pioneers in our industry—but then the next thing you said floored me.
“Becoming a veterinarian was the worst decision I’ve ever made,” you said. “I have struggled to make a living, am exhausted after 40 years of practice, and am underappreciated by my clients.” Wow! You just took all my worst nightmares and verbalized them.
I wanted to cry after you said that. Being a veterinarian is not my life—I’m a wife, mother, runner, hiker and much more—but being a veterinarian is an essential part of who I am. It’s a hard and often thankless job with long hours, employees who are difficult to manage, animals that sometimes want to eat you, cases that can’t be solved … but it’s also a great job. In one day I can educate a client about building a bond with their puppy, trim a macaw’s beak, take a spleen out of a cat that would otherwise die, help a family say goodbye to their beloved 15-year-old Lab, and deliver a litter of puppies. The magnitude of honor and pride I have from doing all those tasks is enormous.
I know your journey has likely been difficult—everyone’s is at some point. I’ve worked for less than I was worth, struggled to pay my bills, been called multiple names by angry clients. At the end of the day, though, I’m still proud of what I do. In the end I hope you can be proud as well.
I’m so happy I was sitting next to you that day; it allowed me to think about what I could say to you. And I want to thank you. Thank you for paving the way in this field for people like me. I also want to thank you on behalf of the numerous puppies and kittens you have saved with good vaccines and preventive healthcare. Thank you for all the lifesaving surgeries you have performed so those animals could go back to their families, thank you for helping countless families say goodbye to their furry friends with a dignified ending and, most of all, thank you for choosing this path. It has mattered to many people and animals—that I am sure of. So thank you from one veterinarian to another.