Meditation: N. O. M. V. Suicide

It stands for Not One More Vet, and is an organization to give help and support to veterinarians, who are feeling overwhelmed by some of the unique problems, and stress of the veterinary profession. The suicide rate in veterinarians is about 2 times the national average when compared with the general population. On social media, you are seeing pictures of people in the veterinary profession, with N. O. M. V. superimposed on their profile picture. When people find out what that means, they are surprised to learn, that this is such a problem in the profession. The N. O. M. V. organization was started in the year 2014, when one of the most well know veterinarians in dog behavior, Sophia Yin, took her own life. I listened and spoke to her at many veterinary conferences, and her training methods, and her lectures, were the best I have ever experienced, before or since. I am sure I was not alone in my feelings, and that is why her death was so shocking. This organization has been around for close to 7 years now, and people are still are not aware, of what a veterinarian has to go through on a daily basis. They are not aware of what it means to be a veterinarian. It starts with the reason why people want to become a veterinarian. It is what gets people off on the wrong foot, before they even get started.

The vast majority of people that think about having a veterinary career, do so, because they have a love of animals. This sounds all well and good. However, it is the second word of the profession, you better love, medicine. As a veterinarian, you are going to practice more medicine in your career, than than any 10 MD’s combined. Even though veterinary medicine is becoming more specialized, the general dog and cat veterinary practitioner, is most likely going to manage, and treat cases involving, the heart, the liver, the kidney, the skin, the intestinal tract, the spine, the brain, and hormonal conditions, involving the pancreas, thyroid, and adrenal glands. The veterinarian will handle those cases from beginning to end. Even in cases, where a specialist should be involved, many people can not afford the cost, and the veterinarian will have to do the best that he or she can, under the circumstances. The amount of medical knowledge one has to consume in veterinary school, and continue to consume throughout one’s career, concerning diseases and conditions in dogs and cats can be overwhelming. You must have a never ending thirst for knowledge. Plus, you are going to be doing surgery, which is a totally different aspect of the job. Even though you may have a great love of animals, you are still going to have to deal with people, on a daily basis. You will have to deal with them, most of the time, in very difficult situations, when they are dealing with a sick pet, and financial difficulties. If you are not a people person, you are going to have major problems, in a veterinary practice. This may be one of the reasons, that in many surveys, less than half of the veterinarians surveyed, recommend their profession has a career choice. Veterinary schools need to show what it really means, to be working as a veterinarian. This is not to discourage people to become veterinarians, but to become veterinarians for the right reasons.

The other factor in making a veterinarian’s career difficult, is the overall sadness that happens of a daily basis. Veterinarians and their staff, probably see more people cry, than in any other profession. There is hardly a day that goes by that a veterinarian is not euthanizing a beloved pet. Many people, not in the profession, think that euthanasia is such a good thing. Many times, when I had to put an animal to sleep, I would have a client say, I wish they would do this for people, so they would not have to suffer. Intuitively, this seems correct. But the process of deciding, when to euthanized an animal, can be extremely stressful, for the owner. Then you have the other side of the coin. As a practitioner of medicine, the enemy is death. When a life is saved in human medicine, whether it be, from an accident or a disease, the physician may see that person go on to live a wonderful and fruitful life. The person may be alive, whenever the doctor retires. He will see the fruits of his labor, for years and years. The veterinarian, when he saves a life, knows it is a temporary postponement. In 5 to 10 years, that animal will die or be euthanized. The victories can be savored, but you know that death will win out at the end. Euthanasia can also be used as a convenience. When a child is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, one of the options not given to the child’s mother is, if you don’t want to go through the issues of managing a diabetic, we can just put Johnny to sleep. Yet, I have had many cases of diabetes in dogs and cats that were under the age of 10, where the owner elected euthanasia. Then you have the dichotomy of thousands of dollars being spent to treat dogs and cats illnesses, while every year over a million dogs and cats are being euthanized at shelters, across the United States. The strangeness of that, can really make one think, why am I doing all this? Dealing with, and watching this much death, can take it’s toll. It can lead one to believe how peaceful and serene death is, and a way to solve one’s problems.

Other issues today, are the high cost of the education in relationship to the return. The information highway, that makes people feel, that they know more about how to diagnose and treat their pet, than the veterinarian does. Even though things have improved on this front, there still is this lack of respect for the profession. You will hear that famous line, why didn’t you become a real doctor. There has always been this certain paranoia in the profession. Back in the 70’s and 80’s when the profession had it’s most popularity, we were inundated with, we were graduating too many veterinarians, and there would not be enough business for this huge influx of veterinarians. Veterinarians have always been paranoid about losing business. They were worried when emergency clinics started, that they would lose patients to them, because clients would go back to them for their regular visits. It may be this attitude of trying to keep clients at all costs, that leads to much of the abusive behaviors, that veterinarians and their staff have to endure. When I had my practice the first thing I said to an unhappy client ( and I had plenty of them), was that there were 4 other clinics within 5 miles, and I would be happy to send their records there, so they could try them. If we are going to put a stop to this crisis in veterinary medicine, we need to educate young people about what it takes to be a veterinarian, not this James Harriot bullshit. We need to find a way to make a veterinary education less expensive, cutting the years down to become a veterinarian, from around 8 to around 6. We need to find ways to help veterinarians deal with the concept of death and seeing it on a daily basis. Yes, veterinary MEDICINE can be a very challenging, rewarding, and satisfying career, if you realize just how tough it is, and know what you are getting into. I still recommend it, whole heartedly.

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