What are the best and worst parts of being a vet?
Forgive me for promoting a clich, but the best part of being a vet is, of course, helping animals.
It is endlessly rewarding to relieve a hurting animal’s pain, or to see a formerly too-sick-to-eat dog chow down a bowl of food, or to see a cat with a history of life-threatening urinary obstruction urinate with ease. (Who could imagine that cat urine could bring joy to a person?)
I treat a large number of critically sick animals. For many of them, there is a moment when one can visibly see them start to feel better. The spring comes back into one dog’s step. A former hang dog smiles and wags his tail. A cat rubs against the front of her cage. A dog barks when they she hears a car pull into the parking lot. I live for that moment.
The worst part of being a vet also is clear cut. It is the paper work.
People generally assume that performing euthanasias or giving bad news to pet owners is the worst part of my job. Make no mistake: I do not enjoy these tasks. But in almost every case in which I perform it, euthanasia is the only way to relieve an animal’s suffering. It is a way — a very sad way — to help an animal and its family.
Giving bad news to clients is a difficult task as well. But if I am able to do it with empathy and kindness, I feel that I am helping the situation. I do not create the bad news. I am the deliverer, and if I deliver it in a good way I do people a service. People want and deserve honesty. Delivering bad news is an inherent part of my job, and I knew that when I applied to vet school.
Paper work serves a purpose, too. Medical records are a vital part of any pet’s care or treatment. Writing medical records is a critical part of the job.
But the writing of medical records, when done properly, is a grind. It consumes a significant portion of my working hours. There is nothing enjoyable about it. It is simply work — necessary, but not exciting and certainly not fun.
Many vets cope with this issue by writing inadequate records. They write next to nothing, and their patients suffer as a result. The next veterinarian to see the pet may not know which medications it has received or when they were administered. The vet may not know when vaccines are due, or whether the pet has been spayed, or whether the pet has any allergies or sensitivities. This can result in drug overdoses, excessive vaccination, unnecessary surgeries, and adverse reactions.
Paper work is the worst part of my job. But I will continue to do my best at it, because it very often helps my patients get to the moment when they smile, wag, eat, or — I can’t believe I’m about to say this — urinate.