3 Things They Never Taught Me in Vet School

I was one of those kids that knew that I always wanted to be a veterinarian.  Since the age of 5 my whole life revolved around becoming an animal doctor.  Twenty years later that became a reality when I graduated from veterinary college.  Little did I know that vet school only teaches you the medicine, and it is only through years of practice that you learn the important things about being a vet.

1.  You have to love people, as much as you love animals.  I remember before my first interview for vet school, a classmate advised me NOT to say I wanted to be a vet because I love animals.  He said that EVERYONE says that, and to stand out you should say “I love working with people”.  I know that is not why I was finally accepted, but it did lay the groundwork for why I do what I do.  I love people because they are the most important thing in their pets lives.  You have to love people because some will make you crazy with the foolish things they do in the belief it is the best thing for their animal.  Some will make you nuts by not following your medical advice even if you have told them the same thing 10 times.  Yet they will make you smile when they are just as excited about their new puppy or kitten as you are.  They will make you cry when they have to make that heart breaking decision at the end of a pets’ life.  And they will make you glad you are a vet because you can make a difference in their pet’s quality of life, which makes their life better, which is ultimately why I do what I do.

2.  Providing animal health care means having to talk about money.  I struggle with this every day.  I am not a business minded person and certainly have little financial training.  Time and again I sweat when I know I have to provide a pricey treatment plan to an owner because I was never taught how to balance talking about money and providing veterinary care.  We live in a society where we are blessed with a public health care system.  As such we have no concept of what our medical bills usually are because OHIP picks up the tab.  So when it comes to animal health care, a lot of people are surprised by how much it costs because they have no basis for comparison.  As a practice owner I have had to learn how to discuss the costs of a pet’s treatment plan, and work with the owners budget as best I can.   My one wish would be that we have OHIP for pets so cost would never have to be a factor.  But the reality is we still have to request payment for services rendered, because I can’t do what I do for free.  If I did my staff would be out of a job and I would be a bag lady.

3.  You will keep learning, all the time.   New grads are hit pretty hard with the reality that we learned very little in vet school.  I remember thinking in the first 3 years of practice that I had made a huge mistake becoming a vet because I felt like I never knew what to do. It took me about 5 years of practice to be comfortable with my surgery skills and medical decisions.  Still over a decade later I am always learning, and in this day and age of technology the learning curve is steep.  My clients constantly teach me things, and I find myself keeping an open mind because sometimes I hear the craziest things, but after my own investigation learn a new pearl of wisdom.  I go to conferences and keep a membership with a veterinary network to keep my medical and surgical knowledge up to date.  But the world is constantly changing and as old beliefs are proven to be wrong we have to evolve our mindset to keep up with the change.  Especially with the internet and Dr. Google, I must keep learning so I can guide my clients through the information overload that is this wonder we call the web.

My Thoughts for the Day, Dr. Erin