Wednesday, November 27, 2013

An Open Letter to the Next Generation of Vets

 I woke up this morning trying to come up with all of the things I am thankful for this year.   The usual things came to mind - the things I am thankful for every day, like my caring husband, my cute dog, my cool family, the fact that I'm in my 40s and still active and healthy, etc etc.  Like I said,  The Usual.

Then I thought about my profession, and how much I appreciate that I will be working with a new grad soon, mentoring her and helping her find her path in this field.  I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity over the years to represent the profession in a positive light, and I feel honored to be one of those who will mentor and help a new doctor find her way.

In some ways it's a lot of pressure.  I want to convey positivity and appreciation for the profession without tainting her with my own negativities that I've acquired over the years.  She will figure all of that out on her own, in time.

So I wanted to *sort of* write an open letter to this associate, in hopes that she will read it and share it and take it to heart.  Maybe print it out and stick it on the wall as a reference - a reference as equally important in her career as an Ettinger or a Plumb.

Here goes:

Focus on the animals. They are why you do this. Don't give in to the negativity. Humans are emotionally stunted and project everything onto everyone around them in an attempt to not feel so alone. There are entire professions dedicated to this very topic.  Always remember that, because it puts their craziness into perspective for you.

Find the most emotion-inspiring picture you can find and keep it handy. Sad, gut wrenching, happy or joyful - just find one that you can look at and remember why you do what you do. Stay connected to your humanity and fight the Compassion Fatigue Monster every day. Nothing is more sad than not feeling sadness sometimes. There is something wrong with a doctor who never cries.

 You will defend yourself daily. You will never make it about money, but the clients ALWAYS will make it about money. Stick to your guns. Euth is a viable option and a good one. We can end suffering for those we represent and it is a fair choice even when the owner accuses you of being cruel.  Always remember you are not cruel.  Do not absorb the attacks thrown your way.  They do not define you.  Your actions and your responses define you.

Remember that you will have limitations. You can be as big of a rockstar as you choose to be. Don't feel bad if you settle on being a "country vet" and don't look down on those "country vets" if you decide to specialize. We all have our "specialties" in many ways and no amount of schooling will teach you everything. Having a way with people and being able to communicate effectively is the biggest specialty of all. I don't care how many letters are behind your name, if you suck at simple communications, you are not a good doctor.

 Find humor in your day. Laugh at anal sacs. Keep finding poop and farting funny. Don't mind dog hair in your coffee or cat hair stuck to your face. Invest in lint rollers. They also make good door stops.

 Try to remember that they do feel pain, even those osteosarc dogs who lick your face and wag their tail, all while holding up their diseased leg, while their clueless owner stands by saying, "they aren't in pain". You are trained to know the difference; they are an emotionally stunted human who only sees black and white. You see gray. Every day, you see gray. And always remember that our ability to see gray is what makes us so great at what we do.

Our profession rocks, even when the scum suckers in the profession try to make it not so. (screw you, Andrew Jones and Marty Becker - we are all better than you will ever hope to be)

Stay human. Don't let the grind get you down until you can't get back up. Focus on the puppies and the kittens (and foals and calves for some of you!) that you save, the geriatrics to whom you bring quality of life, and all of those in between who just need preventive care.

Stay as current as you can and keep learning.  An idle brain is a depressed brain.  Go to CE every year without fail.  You will always pick up a pearl.

You are a healer. You may wake up one day not feeling like one, and wonder why you got into this profession in the first place.  But you will find that every day, you do everything in your power to try to heal the sick and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. When the 1 in 10 walks in and gives you grief, try to reach back in your soul and tell yourself they are suffering in their own way as well, and tell yourself that you are thankful to not be walking in their shoes. You will appreciate the same sentiment some day.

Most importantly, do not let this job take over your life. Enjoy your family and put them first as often as you can. Find hobbies that have nothing to do with veterinary medicine.   Get out in nature. Drink wine. Eat good food. Take care of yourself. Take a walk every day if you can, just to breathe fresh air and get your lymph moving so you can stay healthy. Keep moving forward and supporting this profession and making it better, because at the end of the day, what else can we do?

Always, always, always focus on the positive, even if that means death is the positive.  Sometimes you really do have to change your perspective in order to appreciate the true meaning behind a decision.

And always, always be thankful that it was YOU who got into veterinary school because no matter what, we all should still be very proud of being a member in this tiny profession that still represents so much integrity and honor that we risk financial ruin to pursue it.

Because that is the stuff of which we truly are made.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone,  from the West Coast Office of VBB!  :)