Compassion...to feel or not to feel
Published May 8, 2012 @ 9:43 a.m.
Perhaps the most asked question I get being a veterinarian is “How can you NOT become attached to your animal clients?” Let me tell you, being a veterinarian is not only a physically and mentally demanding profession, but an emotional one as well. Being the bearer of bad news in some cases is the worst feeling in the world. Yes, I want to help save the life of EVERY injured animal that comes thru my door, but sometime’s there nothing I can do.
Many people will say to become a vet you need good grades, be a devoted student, etc. Though I graduated valedictorian at my high school, I really struggled in vet school. (Yup, I’m not ashamed to admit this.) But I KNEW this was what I was called to do and it was worth a little bit of struggle to get where I am today. While all these are true to some extent, I believe compassion is the most important quality to a successful veterinarian.
Compassion is defined as ‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.’ Sounds pretty accurate for any kind of doctor right? However, compassion can also mean making the right decision for what is suffering…even if it’s not what WE want. As a veterinarian, I have to determine what would be best for the animal. That’s it point blank. Pretty cut & dry when you think about it. I must push every personal connection with the owner, or any personal history with the animal aside. I can’t make the actual decision, but I can put on my ‘professional face’ and use my scientific knowledge to inform clients to the best of my ability…whether it’s good news or not. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel emotion towards them.
In the past year and a half of being here in Garza County, Kristi, Lee Ann, and I have made many wonderful relationships through our ‘clinic connection.' How can we not become attached to someone or something we see on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? Kristi & Lee Ann both love, laugh, and cry with many of our clients. (I’m sure they appreciate me telling the world this! And it’s also the reason for our insane stockpile of Kleenex at the clinic!) I, myself, have been known to joke around with clients once they get to know me better. Just ask Mike Johnson or Jeff Williams…but that’ll be another article in itself!
So for all you young ‘uns wanting to grow up to become a veterinarian, I say go for it. Good grades are important, but it’s what’s in your heart that will help you succeed. You have to take the good with the bad and still love what you do. I know I still love my career after 9 years of practice. My family has been so blessed to become attached to every one of our clients. We feel everyone who walks through those doors is family. It’s the reason our motto is “Providing a family atmosphere for family pets.” Am I a compassionate man? Yes, I’d like to think so. I’d even venture to say my wife would agree with me on this question. My kids on the other hand? Depends on the day you ask them!