PET DOCS COLUMN: Must love people to work with pets
Q I am a college junior and am interested in pursuing a veterinary career. What do you enjoy most about being a veterinarian?
A: That's a great question and my (Dr. Henri Bianucci's) answer has changed over the years.
I have had a lifelong love of and interest in animals and have loved science since the fourth grade. This combination drove me inevitably into my current profession.
I thought for a time that I would be a human physician, but working with people, especially sick ones, did not grab me. And I also didn't like the idea of being in medical school for eight years. As it turned out, when I decided to become a veterinary specialist, it added four years to my training, making for a total of eight years.
So my initial answer to this question was that I love working with animals. This would have been my answer 15 years ago. But as I have slugged it out day after day and spent countless hours working after-hours, on weekends and holidays, my view has matured.
Some days are incredibly sad and stressful or disappointing, as cases don't always go so well. There are days when even this profession begins to feel like a job. But those days are few and very far between. I honestly cannot imagine any other profession holding my interest and my heart for so many years.
It's still the animals, but the people have been the key to my professional satisfaction. I get to meet incredible people who share my love of animals every day. These include staff, colleagues and clients.
I try and connect with each patient and client personally before I ever go to work on a patient. I try and get to know the owners' story and their history and connection with their pet. I find that getting a bit attached to the patient and the owners ensures that I will do my best on every case.
Over the years, I have come to realize that although I am working on the patient, I am working for the client and the veterinarian that sent them to me. I am working to earn their approval and their trust. I am motivated by their love for their pet. The people I work for are inseparable from the animals. If I didn't enjoy working with one, I would not enjoy working with the other.
From the veterinarians to the clients that I work with, I cannot imagine meeting a more interesting range of people. For example, you would think that when a case goes extraordinarily well the customer relations would always be smooth. Not so.
I remember one time I was particularly vexed by a client who could not be pleased despite a great outcome to what had been a very poor prognosis. I voiced this to a colleague, Dr. James Coker of Kingstree.
“It seems like i'ts when you do everything right that you get the most complaints over the smallest things,” I said.
“Well partner, you are aware that they crucified Jesus, and I'm pretty sure he did everything right,” he replied.
That was a vintage Coker comment and it has carried me through a number of interactions. It's vets like that who have helped make this job great.
So, I began as a veterinarian thinking the best thing about it would be working with animals, but I have discovered that to continue to love this profession, you must also love working with people. And I am fortunate, because I really do.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.