The Washington Post recently published an article titled "Suicides among veterinarians become a growing problem."
It may be a growing problem, but it isn't a new one. The profession has long been ranked among the highest for suicide rate. Many people find this quite suprising, since so many of us at some point in our lives "wanted to be a veterinarian." Just like we wanted to be a police officer, rock star, actor, video-game creator, or astronaut.
For myself, it was astronaut. I planned to major in astrophysics or geology, apply at NASA, and become an astronaut onboard the Space Shuttle. But the twists and turns of my life's path led me to a different destination. When I came to a fork in the road, I took the one that allowed me to merge my love of science and my love of animals. I became a veterinarian.
Veterinary school is an intense and relentless pursuit of knowledge. It requires learning not only the anatomy, physiology, behavior, and husbandry of many species, but also how to heal them. What it does not do is teach accounting, marketing, tax regulations, personnel management, inventory control, profit and loss analysis, banking, or how to navigate social media.
So when, after 20 years of being an associate veterinarian, I became the owner of a clinic, I discovered how ignorant I really was. Fortunately for me, I bought a clinic with an exceptional staff who knew far more about running the business than I.
I've had to navigate the transition from being just a doctor, to being a doctor and a business owner. It is a Herculean task. Along the way, it's made me greatly appreciate small-business-owners. It's made me want to support local businesses as much as I can.
I believe my philosophical approach to life means I'm not a likely candidate for suicide. But I understand why it exists for veterinarians and other high-stress professions. The rate of change in today's world is like nothing in history. Technology advances so rapidly, it's sometimes impossible for professions and people to adapt.
Social media is a source of great stress. I am constantly aware that one mis-step by my staff or myself is likely to end up as a damning post on Facebook or a bad rating on Google. Once a post or rating is there, the target of it has no real recourse.
There are two sides to every story, but social media means one side is usually muted. And sometimes ethics laws mean medical professionals are barred from actually responding to posts.
So this brings me to my reason for writing this blog entry. It is to say, "thank you."
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the clients of our clinic. We've had so many encouraging posts, ratings, letters, cards, and comments that they greatly outweigh the few negatives we've heard.
I attribute our increasingly rare status of being "mostly praised" and "rarely criticized" to the kindness, compassion, graciousness, and good-nature of the clients of Hocking Hills Animal Clinic. Without the patience and understanding of all of you, I would have never made it. Indeed, I'm still a work in progress when it comes to being a business-owner and a doctor. I suppose I never will master the dual disciplines. Nonetheless, I intend to keep trying.
I won't give up. I won't "end-it-all." I will continue to look into the blue eyes of my Siberian Husky and know that life is precious. I promise to approach medicine with that same belief. My life, my dog's life, and every one of my patient's lives are precious. And so are the people who love them. The wonderful people of Hocking Hills.
I owe you my gratitude.
I suffer all the stresses and fears the Washington Post article conveys. I understand why my profession has a problem. But I still love being a veterinarian. Most days :) On the other days, I still plan to be an astronaut when I grow up.