I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I can say that I was busy, but I suppose I didn’t make the time either. Over the summer I worked as a CEO (Chief Experience Officer, essentially a tour guide) leading overland tours through the U.S. and Canada for G Adventures. I was very busy. I met some absolutely amazing people and had some amazing experiences. I worked usually 17+ hours per day and was utterly exhausted for most of the summer. I drove a van/trailer and had to set up camp and teach passengers how to camp. I researched areas where I was touring and found the best routes and stops between destinations. I often had to choose between taking a shower or calling my boyfriend. I only showered every 2-3 days and called my boyfriend less than that. My boyfriend hurt his back over the summer and I feel as though I jeopardized my relationship with him between not calling him often and not being able to come home right away when he hurt himself.
Overall working in the tourism industry was an interesting experience. I truly did love meeting all of my passengers and getting to know them a little. It’s funny that when I went on tours I always figured that the tour guides probably wouldn’t remember me and I’d be lost in the sea of other tourists in their mind. For me that isn’t so. I remember all of them. Meeting all of them and the other amazing CEOs that were my colleagues over the summer was the absolute best part of the experience and I lucky to have had the opportunity. Now the summer is over.
I’m back at home. I have picked up some veterinary work since I have returned. I’m not excited about it, in fact I dread it. I dread it more than is likely reasonable to do so.
The bottom line is this: Working in the veterinary field makes me despise the human race; working the tourism industry gives me renewed faith in humanity.
I was sitting at home looking at the veterinary classifieds when I got a message from my friend, who is a veterinary technician. Her message was as follows: “We had a lady call in saying her dog was bloated. When it came had to carry it on a gurney, because it was completely unable to walk due to a steak knife in its abdomen. The lady stabbed her dog 3 times to relieve the gas. We took it to surgery, it was a complete cluster fuck. We euthanized the dog this a.m. of course.”
That is only one example of the many things that make life in the veterinary field difficult. My friend’s text was a bitter reminder of the world I will re-enter if I go back into veterinary private practice. I had the urge to burn the classified ads that I was looking at.
I ended up picking up some work in a small clinic last week, filling in for a veterinarian on vacation, then I returned to looking in the veterinary classified ads. Today I found out that a prominent and talented veterinarian, Dr. Yin has committed suicide. It is a tragic blow to the veterinary community.
Suicide is very common in the veterinary industry. The veterinary industry has the highest suicide rate, more than any other profession…. or so I keep hearing… again and again. I have personally known two veterinarians who have committed suicide, and a handful more who have either attempted or considered attempting suicide. It’s tragic and sad. My friend, Melanie, a classmate of mine and a wonderful veterinarian, has posted a related blog that is worth a read.
It makes me angry. I have been a veterinarian for 9 years. There are aspects of being a veterinarian that I like, but overall I can assuredly tell you that I have not loved my profession. It has not been the dream job I imagined as a child. It is a stressful and difficult job. I find that veterinarians are riddled with guilt, debt, stress, doubt, compassion fatigue, and burnout. I believe veterinarians feel pressure from many directions that push us to the limits, and results in veterinary medicine consuming our lives. I believe it is killing us. I see very little being done to change this.
I have been lucky and haven’t personally had suicidal thoughts or tendencies. (Don’t worry mom). But I have definitely been feeling unhappy in the profession. I also have felt pressure from others when I tried to make changes to my life to deal with this unhappiness. At first I tried changing jobs, and repeated that when it didn’t solve the problem. Then I transitioned to part time, then to independent contracting work selling my veterinary services to practices who need shifts covered for veterinarians ill or out of town. I could feel the pressure from others and received comments like “Every job will have its issues,” “bloom where you’re planted,” and “most people don’t like their jobs.” When I left the profession temporarily for the summer to work for a tourism company I got to hear more: “What a waste of your degree,” “why would you ever do that?”, “But you worked so hard for your degree,” and “don’t you love animals anymore?”
I have also received a lot of advice within the field when dealing with unhappiness in the profession and a lot of it consisted of: “go to a therapist,” or “go see about getting prescribed antidepressants.” Although I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeing a therapist or using antidepressants if they are necessary, I have to say that my gut response to this advice is: “For fuck’s sake! Why can’t I work in a job that doesn’t make me depressed? Why does this whole profession push people to suicide?, can’t anyone see there is something wrong here?!” I have had jobs outside of the veterinary field and they didn’t have the same soul sucking quality that life in veterinary private practice has had for me.
I have wanted to love it. I wanted to be a veterinarian since I was six years old. I worked very hard to become a veterinarian and I have worked very hard as a veterinarian in practice. I am a good veterinarian. That isn’t the issue. Being a good veterinarian is stressful; it has made me care too much and burn out. It has made me overly sensitive to negative comments from clients. It has made me overly sensitive to the tragedies that occur daily when dealing with sick animals and stressed people. I have also learned that a six year old doesn’t really know jack shit about career planning and shouldn’t be in charge of my fate.
I have been told that: “Nobody really likes their jobs” and “someone has to do it.”
I’m no longer convinced that that someone has to be me.
I want to work doing something that I love and feel happy doing every day.
I want to choose happiness.