What Does it Take to be a Vet?

Nearly every day, someone tells me about a child who dreams of becoming a veterinarian. A very small percentage will actually make it. Loving pets is only the beginning; there is a lot more required of us!

Here is a quick guide to help young people decide if veterinary medicine is a good fit.

Future veterinarians should be:

1. Industrious- Students must work very hard to be accepted into veterinary school, which is more selective than medical school. Once accepted, they must study even harder! Additionally, most vets work long, often stressful hours- animals don’t know that it is lunch break or someone’s birthday or Christmas Eve when they have emergencies!

2. Emotionally strong- Seeing animals suffer is hard. Telling someone that their beloved pet has a terminal illness is hard. Euthanasia is hard. Immediately following these emotional experiences, we must walk into the next exam room with a smile; that family has no idea what just happened and they deserve our best. We often do not have time or space to process our own emotions, so we have to be caring but also tough!

3. Flexible- This profession is unpredictable! At any moment, a pet might be hit by a car or stop breathing or have a prolonged seizure. No matter what else is happening, everything stops while we focus on saving a life. Then we have to pick up right where we left off because people have waited. Or three patients of different species with different problems might show up at once, despite their scheduled appointment times. No two days are the same and many are chaotic–vets have to think on their feet and roll with the punches!

4. Patient- Some animals are terrified at the vet; we have to be gentle, patient and encouraging to put them at ease. Their owners may be anxious or frustrated or grieving too! Even with a waiting room full of people, we must allow people to take their time absorbing unexpected information or making a difficult decision. Sometimes we have to be the fall guy for emotions that owners simply cannot handle. There is a misconception that vets work with animals because they aren’t good with people but we have to be more patient with the owners than the pets!

The physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion inherent in this profession is absolutely worth it but it is not for everyone! – Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa