Veterinarian’s oath: Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.
Beyond healing and helping sick animals, veterinary science is integral in preventing livestock plagues, illnesses, and zoonotic diseases (those that jump from animals to humans) that can affect our population and economy. They keep us safe by helping our animals stay healthy.
Veterinarians go to school for a minimum of 8 years and come out with considerable debt (the average is $183,302 according to the AVMA but doesn’t include undergraduate loans). Many come out of school with over $250k in school debt but have the lowest starting salary of any medical doctor. Their salaries can be as low as $40k a year, with the average being 96K, and the top end $150k. The average salary for a dentist is $166k and a human medical doctor is $210k with some making $400k or more. The rest of the veterinary team makes even less, and some are barely at minimum wage.
It can cost well over half a million dollars to open a veterinary hospital. The business only earns on average an 8–12% profit margin, which in comparison to most other businesses is very low. A dental practice makes on average 25–40% profit. Low profitability means higher stress. Veterinarians realize that medical services may be expensive for pet owners, but it’s the true cost of care.
Not only does this mean they must understand physiological differences between species, but they also know how to treat cats, dogs, rabbits, large animals, and more. They must know anatomy, diseases, pharmacological differences, and so much more.
While humans go to specialists for various conditions, like cardiologists or gastroenterologists, or even dentists for their teeth. Veterinarians are often your pet’s medical doctor, dentist, surgeon, and pharmacist all in one! All these areas require significant and broad knowledge and skills. It also requires a significant number of team members to deliver all these services well.
Providing optimal care to patients requires veterinarians and the entire staff to obtain regular continuing education and training. For licensed individuals, like veterinarians and veterinary nurses, this is a requirement to maintain their credentials. These courses and labs are done during their own personal time and most often at their own expense for the benefit of their patients and the pets’ families.
It’s as advanced as those used in human medicine and often requires veterinarians, veterinary nurses, technicians, and assistants to obtain additional training to use it. And there’s a lot of it, from blood analyzers, radiograph machines, ultrasounds, oxygen chambers, anesthesia monitors and equipment, specialized surgical equipment, and many, many more things.
There are many times they must wear several hats at once. Beyond providing veterinary care, many veterinarians must act as business experts, HR managers, marketing specialists, and a lot more. This is especially true in smaller practices and for practice owners.
A typical day is a minimum of 10-12 hours of non-stop appointments, calling clients, etc. At the end of their day, after they’ve seen their last patient, they don’t get to just clock out and go home – they spend the next few hours writing up notes for EVERY patient they saw that day for inclusion in their medical records.
They are there for their owners too. They are counselors, advisors, and provide support much like a friend, helping them through their journey with their pet.
Clients can understandably be in a vulnerable state of mind. However, cyberbullying has become a very real problem.
They care for some of our most precious family members. It’s a highly emotional job that leads to what’s called “compassion fatigue.”
Definition of compassion fatigue: A condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others, often described as the negative cost of caring. It is sometimes referred to as secondary traumatic stress.
Whether it’s because of a natural end of life, or high cost of care, or terminal illness, it’s never easy to do. Veterinary teams feel the pain of losing their patients and they absorb the sadness of their families. It doesn’t get easier the more they do it.
Female veterinarians are 3.5 times as likely, and male veterinarians are 2.1 times as likely. Veterinary nurses/technicians are as high as 5 times more likely.
There are many groups within the profession trying to combat these grave statistics and support veterinary professionals. These are just a few:
The patients they see need help and medical assistance that is sometimes costlier than the client can afford. By way of example, 50% of adults have dental coverage, but less than 2% of pet owners have health insurance for their pet, making the cost of care a factor. This often means they must come up with less expensive alternative options for care. They know that the pet is not getting the best option available, which is emotionally draining.
After they’ve provided the best care possible, some people “skip out” on the bill. It can feel like a personal and hurtful attack.
Dogs and cats can scratch and bite at any time for any reason. Large animals can kick hard. The potential injuries caused by animals can risk a veterinarian’s career and livelihood. Additionally, veterinarians and their staff are exposed to many things that are hazardous to their health and they deal with a lot of disgusting, vile, and 💩 things 🤢.
While this doesn’t happen often, veterinary team members have been attacked, injured, and traumatized by aggressive animals, especially when not warned in advance by their owners.
Veterinarians have this extra challenge in treating and diagnosing their patients – making them both scientists and super sleuths.
Veterinary professionals are human just like the rest of us. They don’t always have all the answers (their words, not ours!), but they are doing all they can to help our pets. They care a lot and understand the significance pets have on our lives! A little patience and understanding go a long way.