In vet school, I was taught extensive anatomy, physiology, histology, pathology, and medicine in dogs, cats, ruminants, birds, and equines. I learned how to auscultate the heart, lungs, and digestive tract of all of these species. I learned how to treat IMHA, GDV, colic, conjunctivitis, Addison's disease, VPCs, and the ABCs of resuscitation. I learned how to make radiographic diagnoses, when to vaccinate animals, how to spay a cat, and how to remove a portion of a cat's small intestine.
What I was not taught was how to deal with career exhaustion, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
I blissfully entered the field sporting an invisible cape and hero suit on which "Super Vet" was emblazoned - at least that is who I wanted to be. Lo and behold I am not the superhero veterinarian I thought I was, but rather one who has come to question his future.
There are alarming statistics regarding career burnout in veterinarians. Vets are four times more likely than the general population to commit suicide. This is truly shocking. Please read the entire article here (I think the author went a little nuts about veterinarians' abuse of the drug ketamine, but I digress).
Why is this? Vets are typically happy-go-lucky people who have "the best job in the world," right? As pets become ever-increasing members of the family, the quality of their health and care must increase in tandem. This puts increasing pressure on veterinarians to perform, to heal, and to cure, added pressures to an exceedingly-high pressure profession.
Attesting to this fact, many vets are perfectionists, therefore a lack of "success" in treating veterinary patients and medical errors can lead to feelings of utter failure, lack of self-esteem, and eventual depression.
I was not taught that I would have to deal with eccentric and overly-demanding pet owners. I was not taught how to deal with the stress associated with such pet owners, difficult-to-manage cases, a physically demanding job, euthanasia, and grieving clients. I had to do this on my own. Self-taught, I believe I was only partly successful. I do, luckily, have other "teachers" to get me through this...
Given the statistics regarding occupational (mental) health in veterinarians, it is incumbent on veterinary schools everywhere in the world to sensitize veterinary students and prospective veterinary students to the many stress-related issues facing veterinarians today, these issues unfortunately eschewed by veterinary institutions.
I want to finally accept my limitations as a veterinarian, and as a human being so that my feelings of ineptitude and guilt can finally be extirpated from my being.