When we accept our first job out of school, we are accepting a set of duties to attend to as a veterinarian. Many of us have been waiting for many years, maybe a decade or more, for the day we sign a contract with a veterinary practice. We are signing on to care for the animals of the community that we practice in. We take on the role of animal doctor for people’s animals that they care deeply about. Our clients put immense trust in us to take care of their beloved animals that many consider family members. Not only are we fulfilling all of those aforementioned roles, we are also accepting a lifestyle that we will have to function in on a day-to-day basis. The veterinarian’s role cannot be completed if the veterinarian themselves is not healthy and ready to function as a clinician.
It may seem new to some people to hear that veterinarians can lead drastically different lives depending on what type of practice they do, but the reality is that there are many different types of veterinarians out there. Every type of practice demands different things from us. In small animal primary care, much of the day is spent communicating face to face with clients and examining their animals. We talk to clients–a lot! Sometimes at the end of the day, my voice is even a bit hoarse. We see appointment after appointment, sometimes in quick succession. We frequently get behind on our appointment schedules, just trying to provide adequate care to our patients. Comparatively, during large animal ambulatory practice, I find myself having an easier time to think between appointments thanks to the fact that we have to drive from place to place. There is more time to think and process my thoughts before and after each appointment.
An idea I think of often involves the times when I feel most like myself and when I feel like I am doing the best medicine I can do. For me, those times are during small animal practice when I am treating patients and interacting with clients. I also feel like I am the vet I was meant to be when I am doing ambulatory practice on large animals as well as house calls for small animals. The closer I get to graduation, the more and more I know that I was meant to be a primary care clinician in the most literal sense of the job.