It's World Veterinary Day: Celebrating 6 years in the surprising career of veterinary medicine

 World Veterinary Day: I never believed I had what it takes to work in veterinary medicine

World Veterinary Day: I never believed I had what it takes to work in veterinary medicine

When I was studying print journalism and photography my life consisted of photographing and interviewing indie bands, hanging backstage at Bluesfest, and designing TV guides. If you told me then that I would go from interviewing Ron Jeremy, photographing the Never Ending White Lights, and drinking beers with Slightly Stoopid and Matty Mays, to working in media for the veterinary industry, I would have barked at you. I've loved animals my whole life, but working in a compassion-based industry was something I never wanted. I don't have what it takes. 

Fast forward to January of 2015 when I stumbled into a job as a client service representative at a mixed-species animal hospital. I was excited to work with animals and learn more about veterinary medicine. I was soon promoted to team leader, then made the obvious switch to Media Coordinator, and now I'm a Communications Manager for two feline veterinary practices. But in 2015 I was nervous about supporting clients through the difficult moments they would face with their pets. Journalism prepares you to question everything, have a thick skin, and mask your emotions to get the story. I was not prepared to work in a compassionate industry or an industry that dealt with death, and it was terrifying. 

It's World Veterinary Day: Celebrating 6 years in the surprising career of veterinary medicine

Now I train new receptionists and I tell them that their #1 job duty is to have empathy. Making connections and identifying the needs of pet owners, especially when they are emotional and grieving, is essential if you want to succeed. You need to establish a level of trust that is above what you would in other industries, and the only way to do that is to think of their pet like your own. Trust is more important than competency. Veterinary medicine is not an easy industry to work in, and medical education came easy. But the first time I supported a client through their pet's euthanasia, I thought I was going to be sick.

That's the worst moment you will experience as the owner of a pet. The amount of pressure I felt to make sure I did everything right is indescribable. Knowing when to hug and when to not, if it was okay to cry with them, when to stay and when to go, and making sure every final wish and request was not just followed through on, but that I went above and beyond what was expected. I remember getting a Facebook review from a client who mentioned me specifically by name, thanking me for supporting her through her pet's euthanasia. I've had clients who have lots multiple pets and I've been there for each one. Sometimes I would be the CSR for five euthanasia appointments in one day. I've even assisted with family pet's euthanasia appointments. I've gone home from work after we lost a patient and cried myself to sleep. 

It's World Veterinary Day: Celebrating 6 years in the surprising career of veterinary medicine

It's not the only aspect of the job, but it is the moment you discover if you have what it takes to work in a compassionate industry. It turns out I do have what it takes. A big part of working in veterinary medicine is a lot of fun. Adorable puppies and kittens discovering the world, doggy kisses, kitty head boops, connecting with amazing clients, fundraisers for animal shelters, learning about animal care, working with a funny and amazing team, winning awards, when clients ask for you by name, and doing everything you can to make sure the pets in your community are happy and healthy. These are the moments that make the tough stuff manageable. That's why I tell all of my trainees that working in veterinary medicine is tough, but if you do it right, it is incredibly rewarding. As a manager, I spend less time on the floor, especially during the pandemic. But for almost six years I was in the thick of it, and it was very rewarding. I hope I did it right.

World Veterinary Day 2021 is focusing on how the veterinary industry responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. Working in vet medicine is hard on a normal day. Enter the pandemic. There are not enough snacks in the world to make this easy. Physical distancing and curbside service make showing compassion more difficult. Vets have become so busy that many have very little appointment availability, can't see emergencies, and can't take new clients. Veterinary teams are suffering because they want to help as many pets as they can but the circumstances prevent it. Some clients are becoming irritable and Covid-fatigued, and are taking out their emotions on veterinary teams. We've lost some in our community to suicide. We are trying our best to maintain our mental health, but it's a balancing act. I commend all of those working in veterinary medicine for all they have endured and sacrificed, silently, as our industry is not the one on the morning news being showcased for empathetic viewers. 

Thank you veterinary medicine teams all over the world. I know first hand the difficulties you are facing. I also know how hard you work and above all how much you care. Don't give up, our pets need you!

It's World Veterinary Day: Celebrating 6 years in the surprising career of veterinary medicine

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