We lost another good one today...
I didn't know her, I didn't know her family, but I've known many just like her.
She was smart, friendly, and loyal to a fault. She always wanted to please everyone around her and always put everyone else ahead of herself.
My heart broke for her. My heart broke for her family. Most of all, my heart broke for all the people who worked with her.
It breaks for all of the people of the veterinary community just like her suffering silently.
Veterinary suicide is becoming all too common.
According to the Center for Disease Control, "out of 10,000 veterinarians surveyed, one in six has considered suicide".
This statistic is terrifying to me. I work with and have worked with many wonderful veterinarians. This means that at least one of them has considered suicide. Sadly, it may be more than one.
I often wonder if anyone who works outside of Veterinary Medicine really truly understands what goes on in our world...or in our heads for that matter.
Every day I watch these brilliant-minded people give all of themselves doing what they do.
They give to the animals they see, the people that own them and the environment they work in.
Veterinarians and their support team of veterinary technicians struggle to find the answers when their patients can't tell them what's wrong. What other doctors have this struggle? We push to fix everything and often lay awake at night wondering if we did all we could. i watch veterinarians fight to save the ones they cannot save. I watch their hearts break when they can't.
The owners we deal with are attached to these animals. It adds emotional stress for all involved having to attach a price tag to every service we perform. We constantly battle to provide the best medicine for our patients while working within the financial constraints of their owners. All the while we know that sometimes these two things will never meet in the middle. What other medical profession has to do this? Add to this, helping an owner say goodbye to their best friend is absolutely crushing...especially when we have known that patient and that owner for years and have garnered their trust and friendship.
Consider also that in the back of their people-pleasing perfectionist minds, veterinarians may be worried about their own crushing student loan debt while calmly dealing with owners who have their own stresses making ends meet each and every month. We are expected to find ways to finance expensive new medical equipment to keep up with the times and to provide your pet with the best veterinary care opportunities. Many small hospitals are being swallowed up in a world of big corporate "fish" who are buying up veterinary practices right, left and center. Some months it's hard to stay afloat. Veterinary medicine is not a "license to print money" and veterinary wages are ridiculously lower than those of our human counterparts. The veterinary world as we know it is changing incredibly quickly and we struggle to keep up. We manage staffing and business finances and work long hours both in and outside the clinic. it exhausts me just thinking about it.
Finally...there is dealing with the dark negativity that has suddenly surrounded our profession. The online bullying, the constant soul crushing "you are only in it for the money" or "if you truly loved animals you would do it for free"...
Can you imagine if a veterinarian sees 25 appointments in a day and 20% of them reiterate these same sentiments or blast them with negative online reviews? That's 5 appointments a day, 35 appointments a week, 140 appointments a month, 1820 appointments in a year telling you that you are "worthless" or that "you should have done better" or "you should give me my money back because my pet did not survive"...
It doesn't surprise me that the suicide rate is high and on the rise. Day in and day out, veterinary professionals work so hard to save every patient and please everyone (else, that is!) and yet we are being told "you are too expensive" or that "you are worthless". Please don't forget that we are human. We are often already overwhelmed by all our personal worries and the other stressors in our lives and many days we get more of this at work...in a job we went into out of love, not "for the money".
As I said, it's not just the veterinarians either. I see it in the team of people that work along side these talented veterinarians. The veterinary technologists (nurses) and the customer service people (receptionists) that have huge hearts and do what they do because they love animals. They work long hours for little pay and stay late despite having nothing left to give at the end of the day. These are the people that my heart breaks for when I hear about another veterinary suicide statistic...because it could be them too.
Don't get me wrong...Every day I see many amazing things happen in Veterinary Medicine. Caesarean sections that save puppies, vaccines that protect cats and dogs alike and even the ability to provide the gift of peace and comfort. All these things give us joy and hope.
That said, I am pleading with pet owners to listen.
We know you are scared, We know you are stressed and we know you love your pet because so do we. Every minute of every day at the hospital we are doing the best we can for your pet and every day, many times a day, many times a week, many more times a year we are also hurt and sad doing something we love. Please just take a moment before you say or post those hurtful things and remember we are just like you and in it for the same outcome...health, happiness and hope for all our animal companions.
A concerned Veterinary Practice manager and pet owner.