I haven’t been in veterinary medicine as long as many of my colleagues. Most of them have been technicians for years before they came to school, or they grew up with family members as veterinarians. However, I have had animals my entire life, which has let me see the profession.
Obviously, the profession will change. From the way people look at animals to the way medicine advances by leaps and bounds each decade. The profession is changing, although there is a change I don’t think we were expecting to see.
The change I am referring to is that regarding the trustworthiness, integrity, and character of veterinarians. Although I would argue that this has not necessarily changed, the perception has. There was a time when someone could tell you they were a veterinarian, and they were automatically one of your favorite people.
Now there are classes in law school on how to sue veterinarians. People can sue when you make a mistake, or even if an accident happens. Social media will attack someone, ruin their business, and go so far as to drive someone to suicide. Recently, there were two articles implying that all of our food animal veterinarians struggle between misplaced loyalties and conflicts of interest.
We have been sitting ducks for a long time. Physicians have been dealing with this for a much longer while than veterinarians. We aren’t trained in how to deal with being sued. We don’t have “people” at our practices who can handle bad publicity, lawsuits, or horrible media reports. Most veterinarians put in hours that make it impossible to deal with this on top of a regular workday. Veterinarians are the type of people who work hard, and hope that people will see how much they care about their clients and their patients. They don’t realize that sometimes (or often) that isn’t enough. Certainly there are bad apples, as with any profession, and those people need not be overlooked.
We have our local and state associations, as well as the American Veterinary Medical Association, but even that may not always be enough. I think we need to better support one another, spend more time educating ourselves about the options (yep… still need more hours in the day), and know when to ask for help.
I don’t think that all hope is lost, but I do believe we need to realize that times have changed. We need to be engaged with more than just the medicine part of the job.