Every job has it's moments. Whether it's teaching, being a veterinarian or a mom, there are moments of all of our vocations we could do without.
I would be fine with never expressing an anal gland again, or never wrestling an aggressive dog or evading an angry cat. My old body and joints would be fine with it too. At first glance, I would also add never changing a diaper again. On that one though, I would change my mind as I thought of it. My son is growing up so fast! Yes, I do want him potty trained, but I don't want to give up the cuddles and snuggles- the innocence that goes with this season. He is entering a new stage in his life and yes, I'm happy with the natural progression, but especially as I helped sort through baby clothes last week, nostalgia swept over me. Yes, my husband I hope to have more kids. Yet as with many things in this world, that is a gift and we realize children are not to be taken for granted.
That same feeling doesn't go with veterinary medicine for me right now. I was at a continuing education conference today and one of my fellow veterinarians commented, "Becoming a vet was the worst decision I made." While that is a sad case and I don't completely share her feelings, it started a conversation among the veterinarians. Many of them are now government veterinarians. They said how they had a moment when they just couldn't do any more anal glands or deal with any more difficult clients. In some ways, I told my husband, I wish I was in human medicine. At least human doctors can be rude. While that probably sounds awful, it just relays some of the pressure we have on us in this profession. My husband has come to agree with me that he would trust some veterinarians better than some doctors, we have a solid medical education, but the most difficult part of our job is not the medicine. It's the people.
People like to order everything online (I'm an Amazon junkie too, there's something about getting what you need in your pajamas). But getting veterinary advice online? That can even be deadly. People are changing their expectations of all the service industries. While we like to think of veterinary medicine as a healthcare industry, it's the service part of our jobs that pays the bills.
There are emotional highs of saving people's pets and building long-term bonds with people. Unfortunately in this day of, "the millennial mom will eat you for lunch" as one of my veterinary publications put it, the human relationships are the hardest. I don't have to fake my love for a cute puppy. I do have to fake it for a dog/cat that wants to kill me or an owner who is rude, won't listen and is difficult. As one veterinarian I heard said, "Is our profession evolving or devolving?". I don't know the answer to that question. I do know that mental health, burnout and the suicide rate among veterinarians are frequently becoming a topic. I'm not sure if it's an epidemic, but I wonder if in this era of Dr. Google and an ever-changing society I am going to recognize my profession in 10 years. On the one hand I don't see myself as a small animal practitioner in 10 years, on the other, maybe I will look back at this time with nostalgia.