Reasons to be a Veterinarian

The best reasons cannot be explained on a balance sheet.

Making a difference in your patient and client's lives is a great reason to be a veterinarian.

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Punch the numbers until the paint wears off your calculator, but there’s no way to financially justify owning a kayak. At least not if it’s only used for pleasure and you never expect to earn any income regardless of the time spent on the water. So, why would anyone own one? The obvious answer is that numbers on a balance sheet don’t tell the whole story. For many people, there are enough intangible benefits to more than justify spending money to pay for and maintain a kayak.

Only a few of our clients could justify the financial cost of owning a pet. Happily for them, and us, the intangible benefits far outweigh the costs. Maybe this is another point of connection between veterinarians and pet lovers.

Because of an array of current economic factors, it’s becoming more and more difficult to justify choosing veterinary medicine as a career. And there have always been easier ways to make a living. Still, the demand for acceptance to veterinary colleges remains high. It seems logical then that an important driving force behind that demand is the reality of intangible reasons. Benefits found only in a career as a veterinarian.

Chances are most students who apply to a veterinary school already have some understanding of those intangible benefits. But maybe the following thoughts will bolster their resolve and remind current veterinarians of their own reasons for being part of our profession.

Veterinarian working with dairy cows

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Veterinary medicine is hard work, but the intangible rewards can be worth it.

9 Intangible Reasons for Being a Veterinarian

  1. You appreciate the value of intangible rewards.

After the symptoms are gone and life gets back to normal, veterinarians get to enjoy the love and gratitude of both the pet and the client.

When the time comes to sell your practice, an intangible entity called “goodwill” exerts a significant effect on practice value, even if the term does not appear in the contract.

  1. Your brain works best in biological and medical studies.

“Why did it take me so long to learn how to calculate tax strategies?” That’s a question I found myself asking in the middle of a required course for certified financial planners. I had the desire to become a financial planner. But, I finally learned the hard way that my brain comprehends biological and medical knowledge far better than financial and accounting knowledge. Hence, another reason for me to be a veterinarian was confirmed. 

  1. You enjoy using all 5 senses to perform your job.

That’s not to say that it all comes naturally. Our senses become valuable tools when combined with training and experience.

The lack of verbal communication with our patients compels veterinarians to rely on the five senses to take the best steps toward a diagnosis.

For example, an experienced vet can detect the salty taste of cow’s milk indicating mastitis. It doesn’t take long to learn the smell of a puppy with parvovirus or ears infected with yeast.

  1. You are comfortable working in a complex environment.

At its core, practicing veterinary medicine is a complex endeavor. Veterinarians work in the center of a three-dimensional relationship: the patient; the doctor; the client. With each encounter, whether face to face or by some other means, the veterinarian must consider both the patient and the client. That means gathering information from both, then communicating to the client what will be most beneficial to the patient.

  1. You value and respect the ethical responsibilities of being a professional.

Ethical responsibilities for our profession are founded in the Veterinarian’s Oath, which is sworn to by graduates before entering the profession. Following the principles found in those words defines what it is to be a veterinarian.

 Exemplary professional conduct upholds the dignity of the veterinary profession. All veterinarians are expected to adhere to a progressive code of ethical conduct known as the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.

These ethics come from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which states:

I. A veterinarian shall be dedicated to providing competent veterinary medical care, with compassion and respect for animal welfare and human health.

II. A veterinarian shall provide veterinary medical clinical care under the terms of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR).

III. A veterinarian shall uphold the standards of professionalism, be honest in all professional interactions, and report veterinarians who are deficient in character or competence to the appropriate entities.

IV. A veterinarian shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes to laws and regulations which are contrary to the best interests of the patient and public health.

V. A veterinarian shall respect the rights of clients, colleagues, and other health professionals, and shall safeguard medical information within the confines of the law.

VI. A veterinarian shall continue to study, apply, and advance scientific knowledge, maintain a commitment to veterinary medical education, make relevant information available to clients, colleagues, the public, and obtain consultation or referral when indicated.

VII. A veterinarian shall, in the provision of appropriate patient care, except in emergencies, be free to choose whom to serve, with whom to associate, and the environment in which to provide veterinary medical care.

VIII. A veterinarian shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health.

Creativity is a valuable characteristic of veterinarians. However, in order to make meaningful contributions, a rigid set of principles must first and always take priority.

  1. You thrive on overcoming challenges.

There is that moment in almost every day as a veterinarian when you look across an exam table into the anxious eyes of a deeply concerned owner with a seriously ill or injured pet lying between you. Whether spoken or unspoken, you’re expected to answer, “What’s wrong with her, Doc?”

Then, after your adrenaline kicks in and you determine a diagnosis and a great treatment plan, you’re often faced with the challenge of finding a way for the client to pay for it all.

veterinarian with dog

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Making a difference in your patient and client's lives is a great reason to be a veterinarian.

  1. You enjoy learning.

All the veterinarians I know get excited about opportunities to learn something new. Of course, we all have our own method of learning that we prefer, whether it’s reading, lectures, power point presentations or hands-on.

If you’d rather spend your time doing things other than learning, perhaps veterinary medicine is not a good career choice for you.

Besides, the Veterinarian’s Oath includes a commitment to lifelong learning.

  1. You’ve learned to handle stress well.

There’s no shortage of documentation indicating the reality of stress-induced burnout, depression and even suicide in our profession.

Most practicing veterinarians can relate to the description of a stressful day in the life of a vet. The author of a Word Press blog, OCTRIVET makes this observation:

“Being a veterinarian is not glamorous.  It is often an ugly, depressing, heart-wrenching job.  To say that it is stressful is a gross understatement.”

At the end of her post she adds:

“I’m here because I make a difference. Because I can handle the bad and cherish the good. Because I won’t let people define me by their parameters.  Because I believe that, in the long run, I can improve the education level of my clients and the quality of life of my patients.”

One more stressor to be aware of is that most clients are unable to see and appreciate many of the realities of practicing veterinary medicine.

  1. You’d like to leave a legacy.

“My mother always told me that as you go through life, no matter what you do, or how you do it, you leave a little footprint, and that's your legacy.” Jan Brewer

Leaving a legacy is more than making a monetary donation to a worthy cause. Years of honest, dedicated service to even the smallest of communities will build a legacy that will live on in the hearts and minds of people touched by your actions.   

What are you reasons for being a veterinarian? 

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