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July 26, 2021
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All About Pets

Mickey Zeldes
Why veterinarians are so stressed
June 18, 2021

Have you tried to get an appointment for your pet with your veterinarian lately?  I’m hearing about waits of 6-8 weeks for routine care appointments and it will only get worse as the summer gets busier for most practices!  With business booming in the veterinary care area, and a nationwide shortage of veterinarians and vet techs, we need to pull out our patience and realize that there will be emergency situations that will sometimes bump ahead of our scheduled appointment time.  Please be kind to your veterinarian and their staff!

Did you know that there is a crisis right now of veterinarians committing suicide?  There is a movement called NOMV (not one more vet) referring to the high suicide rate.  It has always been a high-risk career, with suicide rates at least three times higher than average.  There are so many reasons for this, not the least of which are the abusive clients.  Veterinarians tend to be caring, compassionate people.  Why else would they go into this field?  Human medicine, which is actually less competitive to get into, pays a whole lot more!  These people want to help but they also have a business to run–with rent, equipment costs and staff to pay.  They cannot just give your pet free care!  No wonder so many are selling into veterinary corporations!  What a relief to not have to deal with the business part of the profession. You cannot imagine the number of times a vet must hear the comment “if you really cared, you would (fill in the blank – “do this,” “give me that”) for free.  Or “you’re going to let my pet die because I can’t afford this treatment?”  Clients think nothing of posting mean comments on social media when a vet doesn’t do everything a client wants, or when there’s a negative outcome regardless of the care given.  I read a very sad story from the angry husband of a veterinarian whose practice had been targeted in a social media attack.  Why?  Because the owner of a puppy declined the vet’s advice about vaccinating his dog and then waited until the puppy was severely ill with parvo before bringing him in and proceeded to question the expense of every procedure the vet wanted to do to save the puppy.  She even took the puppy home to be able to keep an eye on him overnight (at no charge) and despite all her efforts the dog died.  And the owner didn’t think he should have to pay for any of the care given and let the world know in a very nasty way.

I know lots of people who work in local vet clinics and they are all stressed and burning out.  They tell stories of being yelled at, accused of not caring, sworn at and spoken to rudely and that’s from the human side of the business.  They are also trying to not get bit or scratched while they handle frightened cats and fractious dogs.  And deal with the emotional side of working with sick, injured and dying animals.  Sound like a fun job?  And they have the same pressures that you and I have of dealing with family, children, their own pets, personal health issues, the pandemic and so on.

Vet clinics are busier than ever.  Adoptions during COVID have been at record highs as people who are lonely and isolated look for companions, and hiking/work-at-home buddies.  As people have been home more they figure it’s a good time to take care of some medical things like dentals and spays/neuters that they just haven’t had time to get done.   Add to that the shortage of veterinarians, and the additional time needed to adhere to new COVID protocols and you can see how stressful this environment can be.  An article I read told how vets were extending their hours and opening extra days.  One was quoted as saying she had been working six 12-hour days without a break for the past year.  A recipe for burn-out and compassion fatigue.  And it’s still not enough!  

I’m declaring this month – no, this year – as official “Be Kind to your Veterinarian (and Staff)” year!  All you have to do to participate is send a note to your veterinarian expressing appreciation for all that they do.  A plate of cookies, or tin of popcorn, would be extra nice.  Plan ahead and call for a routine appointment well in advance so the wait isn’t an issue.  And be understanding when an emergency comes through the door that means you have to wait longer.  After all, that could be you and your pet and you would want the priority treatment!  Be compassionate and polite.  It’s the least we can do to show our support!

 

 Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at mzeldes@rpcity.org.