Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Open Letter to the Next Generation of Vets

 I woke up this morning trying to come up with all of the things I am thankful for this year.   The usual things came to mind - the things I am thankful for every day, like my caring husband, my cute dog, my cool family, the fact that I'm in my 40s and still active and healthy, etc etc.  Like I said,  The Usual.

Then I thought about my profession, and how much I appreciate that I will be working with a new grad soon, mentoring her and helping her find her path in this field.  I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity over the years to represent the profession in a positive light, and I feel honored to be one of those who will mentor and help a new doctor find her way.

In some ways it's a lot of pressure.  I want to convey positivity and appreciation for the profession without tainting her with my own negativities that I've acquired over the years.  She will figure all of that out on her own, in time.

So I wanted to *sort of* write an open letter to this associate, in hopes that she will read it and share it and take it to heart.  Maybe print it out and stick it on the wall as a reference - a reference as equally important in her career as an Ettinger or a Plumb.

Here goes:


Focus on the animals. They are why you do this. Don't give in to the negativity. Humans are emotionally stunted and project everything onto everyone around them in an attempt to not feel so alone. There are entire professions dedicated to this very topic.  Always remember that, because it puts their craziness into perspective for you.

Find the most emotion-inspiring picture you can find and keep it handy. Sad, gut wrenching, happy or joyful - just find one that you can look at and remember why you do what you do. Stay connected to your humanity and fight the Compassion Fatigue Monster every day. Nothing is more sad than not feeling sadness sometimes. There is something wrong with a doctor who never cries.

 You will defend yourself daily. You will never make it about money, but the clients ALWAYS will make it about money. Stick to your guns. Euth is a viable option and a good one. We can end suffering for those we represent and it is a fair choice even when the owner accuses you of being cruel.  Always remember you are not cruel.  Do not absorb the attacks thrown your way.  They do not define you.  Your actions and your responses define you.

Remember that you will have limitations. You can be as big of a rockstar as you choose to be. Don't feel bad if you settle on being a "country vet" and don't look down on those "country vets" if you decide to specialize. We all have our "specialties" in many ways and no amount of schooling will teach you everything. Having a way with people and being able to communicate effectively is the biggest specialty of all. I don't care how many letters are behind your name, if you suck at simple communications, you are not a good doctor.

 Find humor in your day. Laugh at anal sacs. Keep finding poop and farting funny. Don't mind dog hair in your coffee or cat hair stuck to your face. Invest in lint rollers. They also make good door stops.

 Try to remember that they do feel pain, even those osteosarc dogs who lick your face and wag their tail, all while holding up their diseased leg, while their clueless owner stands by saying, "they aren't in pain". You are trained to know the difference; they are an emotionally stunted human who only sees black and white. You see gray. Every day, you see gray. And always remember that our ability to see gray is what makes us so great at what we do.

Our profession rocks, even when the scum suckers in the profession try to make it not so. (screw you, Andrew Jones and Marty Becker - we are all better than you will ever hope to be)

Stay human. Don't let the grind get you down until you can't get back up. Focus on the puppies and the kittens (and foals and calves for some of you!) that you save, the geriatrics to whom you bring quality of life, and all of those in between who just need preventive care.

Stay as current as you can and keep learning.  An idle brain is a depressed brain.  Go to CE every year without fail.  You will always pick up a pearl.

You are a healer. You may wake up one day not feeling like one, and wonder why you got into this profession in the first place.  But you will find that every day, you do everything in your power to try to heal the sick and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. When the 1 in 10 walks in and gives you grief, try to reach back in your soul and tell yourself they are suffering in their own way as well, and tell yourself that you are thankful to not be walking in their shoes. You will appreciate the same sentiment some day.

Most importantly, do not let this job take over your life. Enjoy your family and put them first as often as you can. Find hobbies that have nothing to do with veterinary medicine.   Get out in nature. Drink wine. Eat good food. Take care of yourself. Take a walk every day if you can, just to breathe fresh air and get your lymph moving so you can stay healthy. Keep moving forward and supporting this profession and making it better, because at the end of the day, what else can we do?

Always, always, always focus on the positive, even if that means death is the positive.  Sometimes you really do have to change your perspective in order to appreciate the true meaning behind a decision.

And always, always be thankful that it was YOU who got into veterinary school because no matter what, we all should still be very proud of being a member in this tiny profession that still represents so much integrity and honor that we risk financial ruin to pursue it.

Because that is the stuff of which we truly are made.
 
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone,  from the West Coast Office of VBB!  :)

50 comments:

  1. Hey, a little optimism from VBB, I like it! Thanks for the encouraging and truthful words here.

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  2. And remember, there are many out there (here) who have great respect for your profession and are so grateful for all you do :)

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  3. From a 4th year student (who is currently freaking out over Boards), thank you. Your soon-to-be mentee is very lucky.

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  4. It's nice to see some uplifting insight on VBB for a change! Even with all the problems in vet med today, all of us can still find plenty to be thankful for, no matter how sarcastic and battle-hardened we may be. ;)

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  5. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom.

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  6. Replies
    1. Sounds like you need to work for someone else, or if you are the owner its time to bow out of the profession. Because we are not yet corrupted by insurance companies, if you focus on the patient first, and practice high quality medicine the revenues will be there. Unfort whether your a DVM, an MD, or a Mechanic you will find individuals in the business for the wrong reasons. All you can control is how YOU act and react.

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  7. From a fourth year at OVC, thank you!!!

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  8. As a semi-new veterinarian, your words really hit home. Your mentee is lucky to have someone like you.
    As a long time VBB reader, I do feel the need to correct you - Dr Marty Becker was taken out of context by a network he had a long term relationship with and trusted. He is a passionate advocate of the veterinary community and was absolutely distraught over the way he was misrepresented and has since cut ties with ABC.

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    1. Well good ole Dr. Becker sure hasn't tried very hard to make it known he was taken out of context. #daggerintheback

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    2. Gotta disagree, dude. Becker cut ties with ABC after 17 yrs. That's a pretty serious personal step for him to take, and sends a pretty strong message in the media industry that such reporting won't be tolerated. Kinda like the AVMA- words don't matter, I'm watching what actually happens. Becker put his money where his mouth is.

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    3. Actually, Dr. Becker wrote a response to the 20/20 interview in DVM 360 online. He makes it pretty clear he was led to say things that could be taken out of context. In addition to cutting ties with ABC, I'd say it's pretty clear he did not agree with the message from the 20/20 segment. http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=829398

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    4. The DVM 360 article was a very good one. I'd say he made a good decision for his own moral standing. I'd be upset too if my words were twisted to make my profession look shady.

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  9. Your mentee will not be the only one who prints this out and tapes it up for reference :) Thanks for this.

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  10. I read this as I look out my window at a my palomino mare that would have been lame the rest of her life if you had not learned all you learned. Today she is sound thanks to your knowledge of stem cell therapy. And hey! You put up with me! We miss you Erica and Brady in Nevada. You have a passion for your job. I can still hear you as I lead my horse away as you yell "give me shout if you have any questions '" Your positive energy is infectious. All vets should remember to focus on the animals because the owners can be an emotional wreck and could be embarrassed if they do not have the funds to pay at that time. How lucky new vets are to be able to start their careers working with such a positive attitude.

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  11. Thanks for all the great advice. I need to find a 24 hour vet in Adelaide but I want to make sure to find a good one. My dog is my best friend and I want the best for him.

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  12. It's been a rough holiday week...even 5 years post graduation, this was much needed this morning!! I will be summarizing this letter in my staff training tomorrow - thanks for sharing with all of us!! :-)

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  13. As a soon to be graduate of the class if 2015, I hope to find a mentor like you. I would consider myself lucky and privileged to come across a vet/mentor like you. I will definitely be printing this out. Thank you for this!

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  14. Just an FYI: Dr. Marty Becker's recent comments on 20/20 - to which I assume you are referring - were taken out of context. He was interviewed for nearly 90 minutes, during which he repeatedly denied that veterinarians "up-sell" to their clients. He also defended routine examinations and preventive care for pets. Clearly, the producers had an agenda and took a only few seconds from his interview out of context of his overall message. Please, check out his post on DVM360.com. Not only did 20/20 try to paint the veterinary profession in a bad light, they also tarnished the name of a veterinarian who has been a consistent proponent for preventive care and routine examinations for pets.

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    1. Elizabeth above already pointed this out. I'll be impressed when he writes us a letter here at VBB instead of just the usual DVM360. I will say I was impressed by something I saw on FB today, written by another journalist, in defense of Marty... And skewering this Andrew Jones Joke of a Vet. We all know Marty was taken out of context but I'm annoyed because the man is experienced with this stuff and I question if he sincerely regretted it or if he merely had buyer's remorse because of the backlash he received from the veterinary community. Either way, I hope you all are right and that he is sincere.

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  15. To the rest of you and your lovely comments: you are all most welcome for the post and I truly hope it helps many! It helped me just to write it. :). XOXO from the West Coast VBB!

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  16. Thank you for this post. It has been a rough week between my own fur-kids and the constant difficulties of preparing for vet school finals, and this was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!

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  18. I have to wonder why someone should ever "feel bad" for working as a rural veterinarian? Interesting way to present a paragraph about not judging others.

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    1. I think you're being a little too sensitive. If you don't ever "feel bad", that's great but I live in a rural area and I'll admit to sometimes feeling a little inadequate when I compare myself to friends in wealthier areas who have more resources and such. I doubt I'm the only one but the point of the paragraph was that you shouldn't feel that way and instead focus on what *you* can do. I think you're bringing your own negativity into your interpretation of what was supposed to be a positive article.

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    2. Thank you tbdvm - I'm always amazed at how we all interpret things differently. This time I will blame it on poor writing on my part. I was trying to say "be proud no matter what you choose" and instead I can understand why someone might interpret it as a slam on a country vet. FTR - I AM A COUNTRY VET!!! :) Thanks again for the feedback, and alguthrie I'll try to do better next time. :)

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    3. No problem, thanks for the response. I'm not a country vet, I just was taken aback by the wording (probably just me being too sensitive) but the article as a whole is a great read.

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  19. This was a wonderful post. Thank you. I am very new in the profession, but grateful to have wise words that keep my spirits lifted!

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  20. Thanks so much for this post. I often come her for a laugh or a shared groan or a pick me up when I'm having a bad day and I was having just such a morning. I read this and it was just what I needed!

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  21. Thank you for posting this. I love it. I have a colleague who needs to read this. I will be sharing it to him.

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  22. Shared this with my fellow veterinarian and he was so touched by it. He is currently the subject of a client's malicious blog. I am glad that this post of yours has helped lift his spirits.

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    1. CATS you tell that colleague of yours that he is not alone, and if he feels the need to reach out, we are here, ready to listen. Hugs to you both.

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    2. Doctor Sarcasm Thank you very much. I want to share the link to you. http://thelightstarter.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-veterinarians-play-with-your-pets.html#comment-form I'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks again. :)

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  23. Great post, I can't believe I missed it initially! Thanks for posting.

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  25. Thank you for your post. It means everything for me. I'm dealing with great depression almost a year after work as junior vet. But my senior in my workplace seems didn't care enough with my progress/difficulties and tend to neglecting me.

    I was struggling all by myself to fit in and understand my profession. Sometimes I get lost and I have no one to ask for advice.

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  26. Hey there,
    just wanted to let you know- this post (and the blog maybe!?) reached Germany, Europe right now. So you must have written something that almost every vet can identify with.Pfew... respect!

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  27. Thank you for this! I was just accepted to RUSVM and I'm gonna print this out and put it above my desk along with an inspiring picture :)

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  28. I thank God for the wonderful DVMs who care for our animals. Maybe we are rare, but if our animals need it, they will get it...including any lab work, dental work, etc. These pets are an important part of our family, and the DVMs are such wonderful people. To have a vet who acts as if he or she likes animals and cares about yours is a wonderful thing. We love and admire you and are grateful you did get into Vet school.

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  29. Boom.
    I love what I do. The people no so much. The gems of people are rare anymore.
    I people were more like dogs the world would be a better place.
    Unfortunately for all of us we no longer live in the same world we grew up in.
    Everyone feels entitled and privileged. Its never their fault. They never take responsibility. They choose to air the dirty laundry on line. The take the internet as gospel. it applies not only to veterinary medicine but most anything now days.
    It is about the animals. Focus on that.
    FWIW you should try working in a low cost spay neuter clinic where your own peers look down their nose at you.
    its tough but I hang in there because I know what the alternative is I have worked in shelter medicine and done humane work.
    I remind myself daily spay neuter is the answer warehousing animals is not
    haters gonna hate
    To have faith gratitude and belief
    Don't be afraid to put your ego in your back pocket and reach out to peers for the sake of an animal.
    I do have a life outside veterinary medicine and I cherish it without guilt*
    *vet students it will take you years to master this
    Screw Dr Google and his master Petmed express or what ever online company chooses to bastardize veterinary medicine
    at the end of the day..look at the pets lives you have touched..if you have loved all and served all then you have had an AWESOME DAY!
    peace out


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  30. As a 4th semester student at Ross University struggling through 2 exams a week, Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Though I see reminders of why I am here every day, your words have helped me realize that although this can be a hard profession to get into, I can make it.

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  31. Beautiful letter, I can't wait to share this with my classmates, as this 2nd semester of 2nd year at CSU is draining many and we can always use such positive insight!

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  32. as a 6th semester student at FMV Lisbon University, Thank you!! Beautiful letter, indeed

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  33. After an especially trying few weeks on the job, I came here and read the comments under this post, and I have to say thank you to all of you. It really brings tears to my eyes to know I've reached out and helped *some* by writing it. That's the whole reason we do what we do. None of us have to feel alone or hopeless. Always remember that. Find your own peace and hold your heads high!!! :)

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