Behind the smiles, the enthusiasm in our voices when we discuss your new kitten/puppy’s care, the spring in our step when we cuddle those adorable fluffies; lies a story that is unique to each and every veterinarian.
I vaguely recall the personality tests we undertook on our final years of veterinary school and the powerpoint presentations that described the general traits a veterinarian typically possess- Type A personality, empathy, finesse and the list continues.
The up side? A dedicated veterinarian that will do all that it takes to ensure that the welfare of your animal is being looked after.
The downside- an individual that takes each failure personally, one that spends hours after their day job, plowing through research material to find the most up to date treatment protocol for the patient they saw earlier today.
I can’t speak for others. But since graduation, I personally know 2 veterinarian from my graduating year and the year above me who have taken their own lives. Countless others who have been diagnosed with depression and are currently undergoing treatment. The statistics on suicide and depression amongst veterinarian are alarming. I can’t help but wonder at times if I would fall victim to this insidious disease.
Since the inception of my career I have had my fair share of ups and downs. I left my first position just after 8 months of practice. It’s been years since but that feeling of dread i felt each morning, the persistent migraines, the emotion turmoil i experienced still haunts me like a bad dream on replay.
How often do we give thanks to our vets for seeing and treating Fluffy? For saving the dog that ate too much chocolate, for spending the time to go through the causes of Fluffy’s skin condition?
Yet how many times have vets been called money-mongers for the charges that was incurred to save your elderly dog’s cough that has been going on for weeks due to an ongoing heart condition? How many times have we been described as cruel for advising humane euthanasia as has Fluffy’s had collapsed due to his unregulated diabetes and his severe sepsis due to a concurrent maggot-festered non-recovering wound?
The advent of the internet has brought about a new age of information exchange. I, for one love reading blog reviews of new cafes, restaurants and even beauty salons. But it has allowed for an uprising of internet trolls who more often than not leave irresponsible reviews/ comments whilst hiding behind their computer screens.
The recent name and shaming of veterinarians by heartbroken pet owners in Singapore have honestly incited some fear in me returning to practice. As a trained professional, reading those articles highlighted a clear lack of understanding of these medical condition (which is entirely normal for the layman), but most importantly a breakdown of communication. That being said, no one deserves to be publicly humiliated and potentially having his/her career ruined.
To all pet lovers/ owners out there, please understand that it pains us too. It haunts us when we are unable to cure your loved ones from that advanced/ terminal condition. It traumatises us when we have to discuss the option of humane euthanasia to ensure that Fluffy does not have to suffer anymore. We do resent having to put a dollar value to medical treatment. However the truth is that bills do need to get paid and clinics are indeed costly to run. Ultimately, veterinary clinics are private businesses that are trying to stay afloat too. Unlike human medical care when the government provides subsidies, veterinary practices do not.
So before you yell at your veterinarian and call he/ she cruel, before you sit behind that computer to name shame your vet, do take a step back and try to see things from the other side of reception desk.