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Nov 24

Veterinarians & Their Assistants Must Be Many Things

People often get angry when speaking with veterinarians like myself. “Oh, that procedure costs far too much money!”, “I bet all you are interested in is the contents of my bank account!”, “You clearly don’t care about animals at all!”.

Have people ever stopped for a moment to consider their veterinarian’s job? Veterinarians and Vet Technician wear many hats, and we must perform many jobs and roles. We try to do this with a good heart and attitude for our patients that we treat (and equally importantly their owners too).

We have to be grief counselors. We are always there to hold your hand, pat you on the back, offer countless tissues, while listening to your stories about Snowflake when it is time for Snowflake to go. We often hear stories about the human tragedies too – this beloved pet belonged to your mother who recently passed away, and Snowflake is all you have left of her. Or this cat belonged to your daughter, who died tragically at 22 the other week in a car accident.

We have to help owners through the sorrow of having to watch the light in their beloved pet’s eyes dim, and we must watch the dimming of the light in the owners eyes as they watch it happen. We can feel awful, holding that evil syringe of pink liquid. We feel just as helpless as the owners do, unable to stop death, we grieve with them too. Even though we move onto other patients and other situations and scenarios, a tiny part of our hearts went with their pet.

We must also be financial counselors. Helping to guiding you through the countless decisions involving a pet’s expenses and care. We frequently try to discount or won’t charge for services so we can make sure that, that “special” pet get better. We try to trim down surgery times, even though in reality it took us over an hour to remove that chewed up sock from your dog’s intestines. We stay late if we have too, just to help make finances manageable for you.

We need to be relationship counselors and mediators between couples who start a war over the decisions of Snowflake’s pet care. We take phone calls from each individual pet owner, sometimes within minutes of another call, having to answer the same difficult questions over and over. We always do this with a generally good attitude and patience. We try to soothe agitated couples and suggest possible recommendations with tact. We always try to make sure that both pet owners leave the hospital or phone call happy. We’ve also recently had set up a new virtual pbx for emergency purposes so owners can contact us a little easier. It’s a much better system, however, I wish it warned us when someone on the other end was in a bad mood.

At the end of all this, we ARE doctors. Not just one kind of doctor either. If you ever had to visit your MD, he would look at your skin lesion and would then refer you to a dermatologist. We must skin scrape your pet, before culturing the lesion, then start your pet on a course of appropriate treatment.

I wear many hats as a veterinarian, both at home and at work. Remember that when you next see your veterinarian. Remember that he or she is a person too, with hobbies, a family, dreams, sadness and tragedies, just the same as you do. Much like you, they are all working hard and trying to do the best that they can each and every single day.