Welcome to There, I Said It- a column where we give you, the reader, a chance to get something off your chest in an anonymous fashion. Be it embarrassing, frustrating, or just something you didn’t want to admit out loud, it still might make someone else having a bad day feel just a bit better. If you have a story of your own, unburden yourself at TISI@drandyroark.com.
I’m not just a veterinarian.
I’m a young woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a niece, an aunty, a granddaughter, a girlfriend. I’m an avid reader and a keen equestrian. I love camping and sitting by a fire under the stars. I have a whole life outside of work, just like you. I need to spend time with my friends and family, just like you. I need time away from work, again, just like you. Because I’m not just a veterinarian.
If you want to talk to me about your pets, that’s ok. If you want to ask me for advice, that’s ok too. It’s not ok if that’s all you ask me about. It’s not ok for you to be annoyed with me if my advice is ‘take your pet to the vet.’ It’s not ok for you to repeatedly message me if I’m not replying to you immediately. And here’s why:
I’ve only been doing this for less than a year. I’m still making a lot of mistakes. There’s a lot I haven’t seen yet. There are so many times where I do a full examination of a patient and all kinds of tests and still I’m not sure what’s going on! And so sometimes I make recommendations that don’t work, even with all of that information at my disposal. Of course when you send me a grainy photo or an unfocussed video or a detailed description of your pet asking me what’s going on and what to do about it I’m going to say take it to the vet.
I’m not so arrogant that I think that at eight months of out university I can make an accurate diagnosis off a photo or description. (This attitude is unlikely to change even when I’m eight years out of university, or 10, or 20.) And secondly, can you imagine how we’d both feel if I took a guess, got it wrong and your pet got worse? Or if I said it’ll be ok until tomorrow and you woke up tomorrow but your little friend didn’t?
I work between five and seven days a week. I work after hours. When I finish work and I’m not on call and I’m not checking on patients through the night, I’m doing things I enjoy doing. And I need to do that, to not be just a veterinarian, to unwind from what can be an extremely stressful job. Heard of compassion fatigue? Google it. Google the suicide statistics for those in my profession while you’re at it. I don’t mention this as a kind of sick bragging right, I mention it because it’s a very real problem among vets and at eight months out I’m starting to see why.
I love my job, I really do. But I need time away from it, just like you. If I’m not answering your questions about your pet immediately, I’m probably spending some time with my family, my friends, my own pets. MAYBE I’m out celebrating someone’s birthday, or anniversary, or spending time with close ones during a difficult time. Hell, I could even be at the movies. Because I’m not just a veterinarian. Or I might actually BE at work. Sundays aren’t always a day off for vets. When I AM being a vet and I’m on call, I’m glued to my phone, waiting to respond to the next animal emergency and that’s quite stressful. Please don’t expect me to do the same on a weekend off. I relish not having to answer my phone immediately on those weekends I don’t have to. Wouldn’t you?
Either way, I will answer you when I do get a chance to check my phone or my Facebook. Because I do care about your pet. What I don’t care about is who you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re my housemate, my best friend, related to me by blood or marriage or someone I just met at a party, my advice will be the same. Take your pet to the vet. Where they can do a full examination, an x-ray, a blood test and make a much more informed diagnosis. You know what else they can do there? Give your pet the treatment it needs. There’s no way I can do that over the phone, is there? I might be many things as well as a veterinarian, but able to work magic isn’t one of them.
So feel free to keep asking questions, feel free to tell me about your pet’s problems and the concerns you have. Just understand why I answer the way I do when you ask me what to do. And understand that if that’s all you talk to me about I will remove you from my life. Particularly if you’re married to a guy I once worked with years ago and message me out of the blue from another country for advice.
I’m so much more than just a veterinarian. Let me be more.
The views and opinions featured on There, I Said It are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.