While most of my experiences have been worthy of a James Herriot novel, there are many that…well…um…have not. We (your veterinarians) know how much you love your pets. You really, truly do! We love them too. In fact, we probably love them more than we love you. (yep, I really just said that). But, if there’s one thing I know for sure, your pets don’t sign the checks (or have the password to your PayPal account).
So, you and I, we’re in this together. And since we both agree that your furry bundles of joy are what’s most important—and we both love them so, so much—we need to work as a team. I promise, I will give you all the BEST medical knowledge I have, and I will use the MOST PRECISE surgical skills that I am capable of. BUT, you need to carry your weight in this relationship too.
You may be asking “but Dr. Lynn, what does that mean? How do I do that?” Well, favorite pet parent of mine, you can do that by NOT making my job harder (that’s right, I said that one too). I know, I know—you never, ever planned to do that. Yet, there have been so many times that I’ve exited the exam room, promptly looking for a wall to bang my head against, that I’ve begun to question that notion. Maybe they ARE doing this on purpose? Maybe Ashton Kutcher is somewhere watching hidden camera footage laughing his ass off?
I get how all of this must sound. Like I’m an ungrateful, heartless shell of a human. After all, being a veterinarian is one of the greatest jobs in the world, right? People have dreamed their whole lives of doing what I do. How could I possibly be so bitter about being in one of world’s greatest and most trusted professions?
Well, did you know that veterinarians are four to six times more likely to commit suicide than the general population? Even double the rate of dentists and doctors?
Yikes. That’s heavy stuff.
There are lots of reasons why veterinary professionals struggle emotionally. I won’t list all of them here, because they all center around the same concepts of compassion fatigue and inability to meet expectations.
And then there’s the whole euthanasia thing—that’s a major bummer.
OK, wow, this has gone down a pretty dark and depressing path, sorry about that (I’m sure I’ve ruined my chances to be on my alma mater’s recruitment and admissions team by now). But, when the world’s new mantra is “be true to yourself and your purpose” it’s clear that sugar-coating is not an option.
I can’t do warm and fluffy when my colleagues are dying. Literally killing themselves with hopelessness. Veterinary medicine truly can be one of the greatest professions, but not without help.
I owe this not only to those of us who are burning out at alarming rates, but also to those we are here to serve—the animals (and you, their caretakers). We can’t be the heroes you need us to be without revealing a few “truths” about ourselves.
So, here’s how this will work. Each new post will feature a new “pet-parenting tip”. A little nugget of wisdom acquired while dealing with our most frustrating scenarios. The ones that give my team and I continual grief (i.e. the one’s making us look for that head-banging spot). I hope to provide useful insight that will help you be both the BEST pet parent, and the BEST client your veterinarian has ever had! I can’t promise that it will always be easy advice to hear, but just remember, like your parents always told you, I only say these things because I love you…
Pawfully Yours,Lissa Lynn, DVM