“You’re just in it for the money”
“I bet my pet’s bill paid for your (car/house/practice/equipment/etc.)”
“If you really cared about my pet, you’d do _____ for free”
Every vet student knows that the above statements, or some iteration thereof, will be thrown at them too many times during their career to count. Every vet and vet student are not in this industry for the money; we’re here because we have a passion for our animal patient and the field of veterinary medicine…but this often falls on deaf ears.
When we accepted our seats to vet school, we did so knowing full-well the enormous financial burden we were accepting along with it. A debt ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars that we will spend the greater part of our working career paying off, with monthly student loan payments that rival mortgage payments. A debt we will work to pay off while earning a discouraging fraction of what we owe, with one of the worst debt to income ratios of any profession. Most often, clients see the “Dr.” prefix, and assume that vets are making what their human physician might.
But a veterinary education costs so much more than just the debt we are shackled with when we receive those 3 extra letters at the end of our names.
Rewind to high school. Most vet students were out there, taking AP or post-secondary classes, building a well-rounded resume to get into the collegiate institution of their choosing. There was strategic planning, hours of discussion weighing programs – what would have the best chance of eventually getting them into veterinary school? Days and weeks of college visits, AP testing, ACT/SAT prep; anything to boost the academic fortitude of their application. Countless hours dedicated to music, art, sports, volunteering…all the little things that would make them stand out for a pre-professional program.
Fast-forward to undergrad. 4 more years of maintaining academic excellence and well-rounded-ness. Most standardized testing. Veterinary school visits, applications, interviews. 4 years dedicated to making sure that their application would stand out against a competitive pool of driven, well-rounded, academically elite individuals.
And once in veterinary school? Wash, rinse repeat, and take everything up a few hundred notches.
Weekends are barely a time to catch up on basic tasks like laundry or grocery shopping. Some days you might be lucky if you get to sit down to eat a meal or two during the day, rather than existing on caffeine and pop-tarts for 3 days straight. Veterinary student pets get moved down the list of priority after their patients. Sleep, cooking, cleaning, seeing daylight, pets, family, friends – all suffer immensely from a veterinary education.
Holidays get fewer and farther between. You become the friend who can’t ever socialize with non-vet school friends, save for religiously planned and meticulously orchestrated events. It takes a strong, supportive group of people around every veterinary student who can understand and respect the social seclusion as we succumb to a veterinary program. Trust me – we’d much rather be spending time with loved ones than studying for our 8th exam in 2 weeks, but a veterinary program demands every bit of a vet student to be committed to their education. At times, it might cost us relationships that can’t accept that fact.
It might cost us our health – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.
I could go on – but it would sound like I regret the path I’ve chosen, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. But the truth is, becoming a veterinarian is a sacrifice, Every. Step. Of. The. Way.
And it doesn’t end once you are a veterinarian, either. The lifestyle is hard, it can strain relationships, it demands attention more than a ‘regular’ 9-5 job does. Our patients don’t take a break or a holiday, and as a result being a veterinarian is more of a way of life than it is a profession.
If you’re a client, please think about this the next time you want to be upset with your vet, their recommendations, the cost of care, or whatever it may be…before you post that review, before you tell them how little they care, or that they’re just in it for the money, think about what they’ve given up to be in that exam room with your pet. What they’ve sacrificed and continue to pay for, just to carry the title they have. The things they’ve given up, persevered through, and the things they’ve paid for just so they could do what makes them the most fulfilled – taking care of your pet.