From 1948 until the late 1970’s our little city had one veterinary hospital. A guy built this hospital, sold it to another, who sold it to my boss, who eventually retired and sold it to me in 1981. The city was and is kinda the ugly sister in this area. The residents who worked, worked factory jobs, had Bob or Stan stenciled over the pocket of their shirts, inhaled asbestos, got dirty hands. At best our city was lower middle class, except for those bad neighborhoods that lay claim to the worse economic titles critics lay on the unemployed, the old and lonely, or that bunch they simply dismissed.
We kinda had the corner on crime, ignorance, and irresponsibility, and our clients reflected this. For decades, nobody else wanted to try to run a veterinary practice here. And then some doctors I knew announced that they were going to open a veterinary hospital in our city, and this made it into the local newspaper. I found out about it when one of our more annoying clients, Clair, threw it in my face. She was not a sweet lady. She was a bit profane, a touch more than a little crude, monumentally ignorant, and lacking in the social graces. She sneered into my face, and with that same tone that a nasty sixth grade girl uses when she really wants to hurt your feelings, she told me about the new hospital, and then to really rub it in, she injected that now that we would have some competition, we would have to lower our fees.
You know, those fees that were always too high for her comfort, the ones that were making us rich at her expense. We cost her more for her cat than her own medical care. She’d tell you that without having to ask.
Now, I knew the doctors who were gonna be across town, and they liked to practice the highest quality medicine possible in those days, and they charged appropriately for their work. So they were going to have much higher fees than this woman had ever seen, particularly at our practice. So I quietly mentioned to this woman that if we used her logic, flawed as it was, we would actually be able to raise our fees. She was dumbfounded. She had no clue then, and probably still does not.
Today I did a little research. Very little, very quickly. Pardon if some of these numbers are a tad inaccurate, but even if there’re a bit off this makes what I checked out far more accurate than the information many use to draw certain conclusions. For they are working from little or no information, whatsoever.
According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 954,000+/- physicians in this country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a government agency, we have 691,000 people working as physicians in this country. Which either means we have a hecka number of unemployed physicians around here, or some folks aren’t real good with numbers. Who do I believe? Eh, I don’t much care.
I just needed some numbers to make a point. And since these are simply numbers, albeit big numbers, and figures don’t lie, but liars sure can figure, I will toss out some of these for your perusal. Hopefully, what I have to say, using actual numbers for illustration, will carry a bit more weight than the spouting of those folks who have no bleeping idea what they are talking about. Or about which they are talking, if the niceties mean that much to you.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2,737,000 registered nurses work here. And although I think this number a bit low, the Bureau says we have 61,400 veterinarians. From this I hope you will agree that we are a small profession. We don’t have a lot of clout. Up until recently we were more like a friendly club than an industry. We operate in this tiny niche, and try to get by without making a lot of waves. And we deal with our clients as individuals, and not from the perspective of massive industry.
Calling upon the BLS again, I noticed that the median income for physicians is about $166,000 per year. Median is not the same as “average”. It translates into half the physicians make less than this figure, and half more. The median income for veterinarians is $82,000. And in case you were wondering, the registered nurses’ median income is $65,000. For comparison, truck drivers have a ‘mean’ salary of about $40,000. ‘Mean’ is a bit different from median. This one does mean average, and the BLS uses the average earnings for most jobs and apparently reserves median for those overpriced professional. So I guess they are ‘mean’ to those plain ole workin’ folks.
In case you are wondering, I’m here to defend my fellow veterinarians against the charge that we are money grubbing liars and thieves. I’m not here to attack the earnings of physicians or nurses. And I’m certainly not going to disparage truck drivers. Truth be known, I’ve always wanted to drive truck, long haul, cross country. Might even try it after I retire from this nonsense.
I like truck drivers, and admire them. Any driver that borrows $100K for his own rig, deals with the cost of diesel, the retard four wheelers, the inconsistency of insurance companies and the irrational insanity of government regulation earns his/her money. And every time they get on the binders in time to keep from squishing that mini-van full of women and children they should be paid brain surgeon money. But let’s be real here. You can get a CDL after days of schooling and with some proper mentoring, you can do that job just fine.
Registered nurses are angels, and I’ve trusted my life to them on occasion and I admire what they do. I absolutely fold when I have to deal with sick people. Nurses are worth every penny and more. Many have advanced training and advanced degrees, but you can become a nurse with an AA.
Physicians put in those eight years of college, plus internships and residencies. That truck driver has been working for ten to fifteen years before the physicians draw their first serious paycheck.
Well, veterinarians put in those same eight years of college, and many have the internships and residencies. We also bring a little something to the table. For this we do twice as well as the ‘mean’ truck driver, a bit more than the median RN, and less than half what a median physician nets.
So why did Clair think we cost her more to care for her cat than she paid for her own medical care? Well, mostly because Clair was WRONG! And she had no clue.
Ya see, Clair had a good job that paid benefits. One of those benefits was a medical plan that gave her access to doctors and hospitals whenever she wished, and it cost her a $5.00 co-pay to see her doctor and another five for her prescriptions. Small wonder my charges were higher. Her doctor visits were worth about $75.00 in those days, and the prescriptions many dollars more. Her hysterectomy cost somebody over $30,000, but she paid five bucks. When I spayed her cat, I charged far less than 0.5% of that $30K. But yeah, I cost HER more than her own medical care.
That medical benefit cost her employer more than $1000.00 a MONTH for Clair’s family. But Clair never saw that. She just expected it. I cost her more than she WANTED to pay. She WANTED to spend her money on fun stuff. I ruined that. My fees infuriated her, for she thought I took everything away from her and took it home. So I was getting rich off of her.
Don’t matter at all to Clair what I was actually making. After expenses, at that time I was taking home about 14% of what I charged, before taxes. Clair never figured that out. I was not out-performing her physicians, or their nurses.
But to Clair, I was simply a money grubbing liar and thief. And that, was that.