Author’s note: I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time, I just wasn’t sure the best way to get the message across. However, with the recent news of local paramedics being attacked, it’s time to share this information from a veterinary perspective, as our profession is no stranger to violence or death threats, and is plagued by mental health problems leading to the highest rate of suicides in the world. (Here is an article by my colleague, Debbie L. Stoewen that discusses just that, should you want to know more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4266064/, and another by Dr. Andy Roark about the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among those in veterinary medicine: http://drandyroark.com/suicide-prevention-the-staggering-numbers-plaguing-the-veterinary-profession/ )
As the saying goes, ‘you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,’ or something to that effect. I’m not suggesting that veterinary team members are flies, nor am I suggesting you bring jars of honey to your veterinary appointments (though it is tasty). Unfortunately, there is a general perverseness in society that tempers flare up when things aren’t going the way you hope.
It’s not okay to yell at your veterinarian or the veterinary staff (or anyone really for that matter). I can’t speak for everyone out there doing their best and working hard at their job, but it’s demoralizing when you get lashed out at, especially if you haven’t done anything wrong. Yelling profanities, wishing harm to the staff’s pets as retribution, and threats of violence (often directed to a young woman making minimum wage or just a bit more) occur in waiting or exam rooms at vet hospitals. And this happens at least once weekly across the country.
I get it. Your pets are a part of your family and you always want what’s best for them. Some of the times in a vet clinic, these situations occur with the passing of a beloved pet. We know it’s an emotional time and we can understand that some anger is part of the grieving process. I wish we could save every animal that comes through our door, but nature doesn’t allow for that.
Most of the time though these beratings are often due to the costs associated with pet care. Yes, pet care and pets cost money. The veterinary hospital you take your pets to is a business. We got into vet med because we love animals and we like working with people. So why is it that people who got into other careers doing the things they love don’t get the same treatment? I’m all in favor of equal treatment, but do people attack mechanics, plumbers, farmers, journalists, accountants, etc. the same way for expecting to get paid to do their job?
Yelling, shaming, berating, slandering anyone — whatever you want to call it, it needs to end. The world could use more kindness and being nice to someone costs nothing. Those of us in veterinary medicine will continue to take care of patients even on weekends and after hours, giving up time with our families, and being our own worst enemies by not taking time off. We do it because we care and we take pride in our jobs. If all else fails, focus on the one thing that connects us all in those moments of being overwhelmed: the love for your pet.
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with two cats, two dogs, two horses, and a rabbit. Dr. Llera also contributes writing to various other animal and veterinary related blogs. You can find more of his writing at www.DRRYANLLERA.com, or see what else he is up to on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
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*Please note that specific medical questions about your pet cannot be addressed and you should speak with your personal veterinarian. Disclaimer: All columns are personally written and my opinion and may not necessarily reflect those of current or former employers.