Can Veterinary Medicine Feed Your Soul?
Veterinary medicine has a suicide problem. According to a study by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, female veterinarians are 3.5 as likely to die by suicide as the general population. The majority of veterinarians who succumb to suicide worked in a small animal practice.
One of the main reasons is that veterinarians tend to be overworked overachievers with no overdraft protection on our empathy reserves. Of these ten reasons identified by Tomasi as occupational factors in our profession, how many are stressing you out right now?
- Long working hours
- Client expectations
- Unexpected outcomes
- Communicating bad news
- Poor work-life balance
- High workloads
- Rising veterinary care costs
- Student debt
- Lack of support from more senior colleagues
- Professional isolation
Working fewer hours and taking more breaks may resolve the problem for some of us, but others may be questioning their career choice as a whole. We knew going into this that the job was challenging, but it’s also changed a lot in the years since we viewed veterinary medicine as the dream of all dreams. The hours we spent volunteering at the local veterinarian’s office, on a farm, or in a shelter gave us a picture of what life would be like.
But things have changed since we were kids, as the landscape is shifting toward the corporatization, consolidation of practices, product manufacturers, and distributors, as well as a growing sense of depersonalization. Pressure from management to “push the products, push the labs, and push procedures” can ethically and emotionally push one over the edge, causing one to seek an exit, one way or the other.
Fortunately, we can change the tide and remember that this career path was not a mistake, and that a veterinary medical degree opens doors to limitless creativity and flexibility. We can choose to pursue that which affirms our love for animals and allows us to take the time we need to treat them in the way we would want to be treated. We can opt to ally with clients and learn about rest of the animal’s family so that we can gain deeper insight into the day-to-day challenges that factor into our patient’s presenting complaints. But, doing so may take time, introspection, and soul-searching to remember what we want, why we’re here, and how we make it back to a life that’s fun, creative, and a new adventure every day.
For some, this may mean leaving the corporate climate and opening a small, low-overhead, bond-centered veterinary family practice that offers fear-free, integrative care as part and parcel of everyday care.
Many have found that by delving into areas of medicine that were largely omitted from veterinary school, such as medical acupuncture, photomedicine, massage, and rehabilitation reawakened their love for learning. It also recaptured a sense of wonderment at the complexity and capacity for self-healing that every individual has. And, by seeing how science solves so many of the mysteries that puzzled ancient peoples, they became fascinated by the ways in which medicinal plants act pharmacologically on their patients, giving them new ways to connect with clients about the risks and benefits of herbs and supplements in an educational, rather than confrontational, way.
That veterinary medicine has more to offer than a one-size-fits-all career path gives us endless options. It means that that job you found right out of school where you worked for long hours, little pay, and even less gratitude isn’t a life sentence. It also means that those of us who seek to love more, laugh more, and dance to the tune of a different drummer can carve for ourselves a career that ignites our lives and fills our hearts with hundreds of reasons to stick around.
A Better Way Out for Veterinarians
At CuraCore, we are passionate about equipping veterinary healthcare professionals with the skillsets they need to offer optimal care to their patients while also returning joy to the practice of medicine. How do we do this?
Toward this end, CuraCore has founded a 5-part certification program known as PRIMA (the Pain, Rehabilitation, Integrative Medicine Advantage). PRIMA certification asserts that the recipient has completed hundreds of hours of curricular content involving rigorous study and supervised hands-on laboratories geared to optimize wellness and facilitate healing.
If you’d like to learn more about the ways in which veterinarians have found deep meaning and ongoing job satisfaction with integrative medicine and rehabilitation, visit our home page at CuraCore.org/vet/ to see how Shawn, Alissa, Allen, and more changed their lives by following their own paths in veterinary medicine.
Benefits of Having a PRIMA™ Practice
Did you know that veterinarians who begin a PRIMA™ practice can experience the incredible benefits below?
- An improved work/life balance
- More flexibility in working hours
- Greater ability to meet client expectations
- Less bad news to deliver to clients
- A better-controlled workload
- Independence from the dictates of corporate medicine