Being new to the veterinary field is unnerving. Whether you’re a new doctor, licensed technician, assistant, or receptionist the pressure is intense and there is so much to learn and to take in.  No matter how good your grades were, there are some things that can only be learned through experience. Learning through experience means your will make mistakes. A lot of them.


When I first entered the vet world, I was an assistant with no experience. Zero. I started off pursuing the field because I loved animals. They are the purest of creatures and will never hurt you the way people can. One of the realities of being new to vet med is, well, you’re going to get a lot of crap. The 120 pound angry Rottweiler will be the least of your worries. The fact is, there are people in the field who are going to hurt you.


When you start out it is very likely that your first introduction to the hospital will be grunt work. You will do all the jobs that the more experienced team members don’t want to do. You will see the clients that no one else wants to see and will work the worst shifts. You will occupy your time with busy work. It isn’t very rewarding, but it gets your foot in the door and if you have the courage to stick with it, you can survive this field.


When I was new, one of my least favorite jobs was cleaning cold storage after the cremation service picked up the animals inside the area. I would climb in and hope that no trauma cases had come in. I remember scrubbing the walls with warm soapy water, wondering if I should just throw in the towel. I will never forget that smell.  It reminds me of how much I had to prove to drag myself up and out of that freezer.


hazingThere are people that will doubt you and some may even take pleasure in your mistakes.  There are people who will enjoy razzing the new kid about their lack of experience.  You may be called a “newbie” or “green”. To be honest, that may be the kindest version used to describe you. There will be eye rolling if you don’t have the “right” answer or do the “right” thing.


These people are, simply put, dicks. They take joy in making people feel small and trying to crush the dreams of the bright eyed.  Once you’ve proven yourself or learned to fit in, they will probably leave you alone until the next person comes along and the cycle continues. Don’t get me wrong, there are many people who are supportive in the field, but the ones who broke us down will always be more memorable than the ones who didn’t.


To put it bluntly, this is an age-old form of hazing which is predominant in veterinary medicine and, truly, many other fields. People have accepted it for decades and gone through their rites of passage. Only the strong survive. When they do, they will most likely continue this behavior.


So I say to all of you, WAKE UP! Stop this behavior! In the time of burnout, compassion fatigue and losing some of our greatest mentors to suicide, BREAK THE CYCLE! Show support and guide our new colleagues.  Teach them and watch them flourish.  We will never know the talent we have lost due to this abuse. We don’t have to put others down to show we are strong. As individuals we will remain divided, but together we can create a new culture. We can create a culture that brings kindness, growth and change. Medicine evolves daily. Maybe as practitioners, we should evolve too.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.


About the Author

Jade is a licensed technician of 9 years who lives in Port Orchard, Washington. She enjoys emergency and critical cases, dentistry and creating a bond with her clients and team. During her off time she is busy keeping up with her two crazy Basenjis!