Thursday, December 26, 2013
The Disconnect Has Been Duly Noted
Greetings from the Midwest branch of the VBB Animal Hospital. As the New Year approaches, we often take stock of our lives, our livelihoods, and we look for areas to change and improve. That is actually what I have been doing for the past year. Professionally, I have grown cagey and anxious. I am worried about the attacks on my profession, and I have had a growing dissatisfaction with the public. When you get right down to it, there are just more bad days than good ones.
Because of this, I have started to explore what I can do with my hard earned veterinary degree, OTHER than seeing patients and clients all day. In order to begin to make a career change I have explored positions in both academia and the animal health industry. Surprisingly, what I have learned is that the institutions that produce veterinarians, and the industry that makes medications and products for our use actually have no idea what it is that we actually DO all day.
After a couple of days of interviewing for a position at one of our nation’s veterinary colleges, I learned that they are extremely hopeful about the future of veterinary medicine and they see a positive, if not completely idyllic future for their graduates. I expressed concern that class sizes are increasing, student debt is rising, graduates cannot find jobs to pay off their loans, and the public is becoming more and more hesitant to spend their money on their pets’ health care needs. Not so according to the universities!!!! Class sizes are increasing because that is in their budget! The increase in tuition adds to hiring additional faculty. More papers are written, more specialists are produced and everyone is happy. If they are not producing specialists, they can certainly produce general practitioners who will find wonderful, well paid, fulfilling jobs where the public will flock to them with all of their concerns for their well loved and well cared for pets. I was assured that “Things will turn around - You just wait!” Now, these people with careers in academia are surely much smarter than me, yet I remain skeptical.
I have also interviewed for a position with a large animal health company. During a long day of interviews and meeting a variety of people, I was asked questions similar to the following:
Them: “Do you get stressed out having to meet deadlines?”
Me: “uh, no, not really. I have to meet 20-40 urgent deadlines every day”
Them: “Do you have a hard time making decisions?”
Me: “No. I can make decisions quickly. I rarely have owners who allow me to have enough information to make an informed decision, however. It would be like heaven to actually have a fairly full picture prior to having to made decisions regarding treatment plans, recommendations, and euthanasia.”
Them: “You have a very active job currently. How would you transition to sitting at a desk most of the day?
Me: “Are you kidding me?! That would be fabulous!!!! I’m so exhausted by the end of my day that I can barely lift the wine glass to my lips!!!” Well, ok, that wasn’t really my answer, but I think you get the point.
These experiences have made me realize that there is HUGE disconnect in this profession. The institutions that produce us, and the companies that sell products to us actually have little idea what our day-to-day existence is like. I think they would like to believe that we play with healthy puppy and kittens all day, with appreciative owners who trust us and follow our advice. If this were true, I don’t think we would have the highest suicide rate of any profession. Currently, I feel like I exist in a very shaky house of cards, built on a pyramid scheme.
So, I go back to doing what I do and try to find joy in it. I look for the things that make me happy, and help me to make a difference to someone. Because occasionally there is that ONE pet, with that ONE owner, who wants to work with me as a partner to ensure that their pet gets the best healthcare possible. And THAT? Well. THAT is nirvana.
at 6:31 AM