Picture the day you finally get your dream career. You spent countless hours working, studying, and volunteering to fulfill this objective. You sacrificed many occasions with family and friends and gave up parts of yourself in pursuit of this goal. Now that the goal is attained, it feels like one of the best days of your life. However, you begin to quickly realize that actually living the dream is much more nuanced than what you had imagined.
I will never forget my first day of veterinary practice. I was still blissfully floating on the high of having graduated from vet school two months prior. I got up early, went on a run with my dog and blasted Cardi B’s I Like It Like That on my way to work to get me pumped up. I enthusiastically walked into those hospital doors to be greeted by a beautiful welcome gift basket and gleaming smiles from my new colleagues and co-workers. I had arrived. This was the manifestation of a dream I had been chasing since I was a little girl. Nothing could stop me now!
A couple hours later I had my first appointment. Let’s just say, I was humbled far more quickly than I could have ever expected. This particular patient was a 17-year-old cat with a history of IBD, CKD, and hyperthyroidism. She was presenting to me for continued GI clinical signs. I felt completely in over my head. I was frantic and asking myself how I could possibly piece together the clinical history and come up with a plan for this patient in a 30-minute appointment. I kept thinking to myself, “What if this client is onto me? What if she can sense how new I am and completely distrusts me?” This was only appointment number one of day number one and I cannot say the rest of year one was any easier. In fact, my first year of being a veterinarian was probably one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced in my life.
Veterinary school bestows upon us an immense amount of knowledge and so many essential tools for practice. However, I do not think anything can fully prepare someone for his or her first year of clinical practice. Until one is completely in charge of their own cases, it is impossible to grasp the complexity and nuances that come with them. Furthermore, I could not believe that I had ever heard rumors that general practice can be boring. In fact, I had the realization that general practice is a constant switch between being an internist, surgeon, radiologist, dentist, anesthesiologist, and so on. No two days are alike, and you just never know who or what is going to walk through those hospital doors. The days range from seeing something as happy and routine as a new puppy wellness exam, to as devastating and difficult as attempting to resuscitate a patient that is in congestive heart failure. It is fast-paced, high-volume, and highly demanding. You often do not have time to eat or even use the restroom for hours at a time and even when you do, someone will inevitably come find you for something.
With all that said, I whole-heartedly feel that being a veterinarian is one of the most rewarding professions out there. You have the capacity to help so many animals and touch so many lives. It is boundlessly exciting and mentally stimulating. Now, I am a year and a half into my career and I love the relationships I have built with my clients and their pets. I feel so much more comfortable in my role, and although the days are still often overwhelming, I feel as though both my knowledge and my coping mechanisms have strengthened immensely. I still blast Cardi B on my way home from work and take joy in knowing that even with its imperfections, each day I am living out my life long dream. And although it is not a glamorous job, I still sincerely believe it is the best career in the whole world.