An open letter from a disillusioned veterinary school graduate

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An open letter from a disillusioned veterinary school graduate

While the financial problems plaguing veterinary education may hog the spotlight, this young veterinarian says it’s time to talk about the other issues—those that occur behind closed doors and within closed minds—that are making students sour.
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May 26, 2017
By dvm360.com staff

Isaeva Anna/Shutterstock.comRecently I had an interesting conversation with a technician at work. She's bright, motivated, diligent and interested. She wanted to be a veterinarian when she was younger, but those dreams went by the wayside due to life circumstances and finances. Her father asked her if, since she's now working in a veterinary hospital, her old desires had been rekindled. Did she still want to be a vet?

"I think you would make a good veterinarian," I told her. "But I don't think you should go to vet school." The other recent grad and the fourth-year extern standing nearby immediately echoed my sentiments.

Why did we offer this advice? And why are veterinary students so unhappy? Why do they suffer from anxiety and depression at alarming rates? It's a multifaceted problem, but everything boils down to incredible anger about our experience in vet school.

Anger because we worked hard with little reward. Anger because we had to sacrifice our hobbies, social lives and emotional well-being to study, do grunt work and write volumes of paperwork no one would ever read.

Anger because we were at times mistreated, yelled at and punished for things we didn't do.

Anger because we were bombarded by statistics and articles that say vets are overpopulated, vets make salaries that are not consummate with the time and tuition they put out, vets are to blame for killing animals or practicing pseudoscience and are crucified on social media—with career- and life-ruining effects.

Anger because we watched animals suffer and die needlessly, were witness to errors we didn't have the power to fix and slogged on daily through injustice and mismanagement.

Anger because of the cumulative effects of massive, unrelenting stress.

It's true that veterinary medicine attracts type A people—the overachievers and the perfectionists. But I'm not referring to stress from internally driven motivators. There's a prevailing attitude in veterinary medicine that people need to "put in their time"—work like a dog for years, suffer, slave away, and slowly crawl to the top of the pile through copious blood, sweat and tears. I disagree.

This field needs collaboration, camaraderie and healthy competition. Instead, it has backstabbing, gossip and cutthroat antagonism. And at the university, I saw efforts to sabotage careers out of personal vendettas. I saw great attempts to discredit and embarrass clinicians in front of their students and peers. I saw patient care go by the wayside, a casualty of intra- and interdepartmental quarrels. And I saw—and even received—unjustified, over-the-top criticisms and punishments in order for someone to maintain a façade of undeserved authority.

At school I also had to follow orders I didn't agree with. On one occasion, I took part in a euthanasia for an ailment with a treatable solution, though the client hadn’t been apprised of this fact because the head clinician refused to acknowledge its possibility. Those of us in the opposing camp were vindicated—too late—at necropsy. Obedience and fear of consequences kept our mouths shut. But such cases continue to haunt me.

I can't wave a magic wand and make the outlook better for graduating vets. But I can offer some guidelines to serve as counterpoints to some of the negative behaviors I observed as a clinical student.

Be realistic. If the head clinician is overwhelmed, the house officers probably are, too, and the students are probably running around like maniacs trying to keep the whole thing afloat. Each person should try to recognize when someone is in over their head and help out accordingly. There were many times when I witnessed technicians sitting around gossiping or snacking while students juggled menial patient care and other pressing responsibilities—or when senior clinicians vanished to an office hideout while underlings were left to clean up messes, both literal and figurative.

Furthermore, 15-hour days, five days a week, plus emergency shifts, nighttime patient medication and walking, and weekend care just isn't sustainable for a student who's also trying to study for a block exam, prepare for boards, take care of responsibilities at home, read up on upcoming cases, finish paperwork and more.

Be respectful. The Golden Rule still applies, even behind closed doors when superiors aren't watching. I've witnessed some utterly heinous behavior from respected "professionals," directed both at students and at fellow doctors. This is demeaning, stress-inducing and morale-killing. It seriously contributes to workplace dissatisfaction, which leads to further pent-up anger, tensions, inefficiency and ultimately bad service for animals and clients.

Be receptive. Sometimes good ideas come from unexpected places. Sometimes clients can diagnose their pets before the doctor can, because they know the animal better. Sometimes students are armed with more up-to-date knowledge on their cases than the clinician, since the classes are fresher in their brains or because they took the time to comb through PubMed looking for a solution. Don't discount these ideas just because they didn't come from an "expert."

Be relevant. I've seen bad or outdated science touted as unquestionable fact. We must grow and change with the times. Universities should be at the forefront of medical progress, not stuck in the Stone Age out of stubbornness and reliance on "tradition." We have to challenge our dearly held beliefs daily if we hope to grow, remain current and be good doctors. Our patients and clients deserve nothing less.

There are certainly some excellent individuals serving as clinicians and teachers at universities. I hope these people who still value teaching high-quality medicine and the pursuit of scientific knowledge will remain in academia so future students can benefit from their knowledge and altruism.

This is how dialogue in the veterinary community ought to work. Please don't forget this.

 

Sincerely,

A Young Veterinarian

 

 

 

Leadership sessions at CVC

disillusioned

Sounds like another entitled millennial who has never worked before to me. It's a good thing she didn't go to school when I did and as we never had summers off and averaged 32 hrs. per quarter. Then after graduation had to get out and work 60 -70 hrs. a week doing large and small medicine for $3.00 and hr. She's the reason I am terrified to hire a female millennial.

You have got to be kidding

You have got to be kidding me. As a millennial female, I take offense. Women dominate this field now. About 75% of veterinary students are now females. We wouldn't be here if we didn't want to work hard. Take your sexism and leave it in the last century where it belongs.
Just because you worked yourself to the bone doesn't mean the rest of us should have to. Why should we have to suffer just because you did?

As a millennial female, I'm proud of my work ethic. When I'm at work, I work by butt off. I am moving all day with back to back appointments and surgeries, and it is rare that I actually get a lunch break. I am lucky in that I work about 40 hours per week, and on my days off I get to ENJOY LIFE. I still have time to sleep, spend time with my husband, and take care of all the other responsibilities I have. Should only males willing to sacrifice all quality of life and personal relationships become veterinarians? That is ridiculous. We are under no obligation to be miserable.

Lovely sentiments

Read my full response in the other comments below, unless you'd rather continue to contentedly stew in your own ignorance and prejudice. (It's a happy place if we never challenge the status quo or alter our close-minded little worldview, where only we are right!)

For what it's worth, I worked 80+ hour weeks my first year out, and adjusting for inflation, I can just about guarantee you I was making less per hour (certainly I was making less than minimum wage!). So, if it's a contest to see who can be more miserable, I guess I win! (What a fun contest!)

Rock on disillusioned vet school grad! Woo!

Way to go! Just wanted to say i think youre awesome for speaking up. I know that you prefer to remain anonymous for now, but your passion is so clear to me that, i think youll be signing your name under that letter in no time. Keep on rockin on.
P.s Yes your original article doesnt sound as angry as the edited version, but in circumstances of speaking the truth..if you aint pissing someone off, youre doing it wrong.

response from author

I am the author of the open letter.
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I have debated for awhile whether to respond to some of the comments.
Many completely erroneous assumptions have been made about me and my generation; many dismissive, accusatory, and hateful words have been written (serving, I believe, only to support the points I was trying to make). Some of the poor reception may stem from miscommunication of my message, as the original letter was edited substantially from the dvm360 staff, and the omissions changed the tone considerably. While I doubt I will change those minds that are firmly made up, I have included the unaltered document, as originally submitted for publication, below.
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For those who were able to read past the "millennial whininess" to recognize the intentions of my message, and for those who offered kind words of support to me and my peers (the young, eager, but disillusioned veterinarians--whose ranks, I assure you, are large), I thank you.
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__________________
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TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
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I graduated from veterinary school in May of 2016. I have now been working as a veterinarian for nearly a year. That is not very long, but I have gained some perspective in my short time of practice. This has given me a chance to ruminate on my years in veterinary school, tempered with the experiences gained in the very first months of work as a recent grad. Moreover, I have friends (students, faculty, and staff) still at my veterinary school, and I continue to share communication with them. It is on their behalf–and for the benefit of future students–that I write the following disjointed, rambling, but sincere note.
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Not too long ago, I had an interesting conversation with a technician at my work. She is bright, motivated, diligent, and interested. She wanted to be a veterinarian when she was younger, but those dreams went by the wayside due to life circumstances and finances. Her father recently asked her if, since she is now working in a veterinary hospital, her old desires have been rekindled. Does she still want to be a vet? I spoke honestly to her: "I think you would make a good veterinarian," I said. "But I don't think you should go to vet school." . The other recent grad, and the fourth-year extern standing nearby, immediately echoed my sentiments.
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I was a good student. Frequently I flew under the radar, lacking flash or a bubbly personality to attract attention. When I was noticed, it was generally favorably, and I was praised for my work ethic, my knowledge base, and my willingness to help out. I state this only to lend some credence to my words. I am not bitter because I struggled through, or was not cut out for, veterinary school. I am bitter because of what veterinary school did to me mentally, even as I seemed (superficially) to thrive. .
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The questions have been asked, "Why are veterinary students so unhappy? Why do they suffer from anxiety and depression at alarming rates?" I cannot speak for everyone; I can only give my perspective, and the conversations and feelings I have shared with my group of friends. It's a multifaceted problem, but if I could summarize the overall emotion of my experiences, everything boils down to incredible anger. . Anger because we worked hard with little reward. Anger because we had to sacrifice our hobbies, social lives, and emotional wellbeing in order to study, do grunt work, and write volumes of paperwork no one would ever read. Anger because we were at times mistreated, yelled at, and punished for things we did not do (or else honest and harmless mistakes). Anger because we were bombarded by statistics and articles that say vets are overpopulated, vets make salaries that are not consummate with the time and tuition they put out, vets are blamed for killing animals or practicing pseudoscience and are crucified on social media (with career- and life-ruining effects). Anger because we watched animals suffer and die needlessly, were witness to errors we did not have the power to fix, and slogged on a daily basis through injustice and mismanagement. Anger because of the cumulative effects of massive, unrelenting stress.
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[It is true that there is, for many students, a pressure to be the best: To make straight A's, to join (and lead) every club, to memorize every single fact about every single disease in every single species. But these are internally driven motivators. Veterinary medicine attracts so-called Type A people (the overachievers and the perfectionists). Grades mattered very much to me, so I studied harder than I would have needed to if I just wanted to get by, and I stressed myself out because of it. But I have no one to blame but myself for that, and I (like many of my peers) have been doing the same thing since elementary school, so nothing is going to change that drive. This is not the sort of stressor to which I am therefore referring.]
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People are unhappy because they are not given a voice. . They are unhappy because they are not treated with respect. It's not just students–I have witnessed abysmal treatment of interns and residents. It trickles down. The veterinary profession is an inherently stressful one (managing complicated/frustrating/heartbreaking medical cases, client finances/demands/blame, long hours, relatively low pay for the level of education, etc.), and the university environment can compound the problem (dealing with the school's bureaucracy, struggling with the "publish or perish" mindset, having to constantly supervise new batches of students and house officers, and so on). Not everyone is suited for this life. Those that aren't cannot rightfully use job stress as an excuse for lashing out at others...but they do.
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There is a prevailing attitude in veterinary medicine that people need to "put in their time" (i.e., work like a dog for years, suffer, slave away, and slowly crawl to the top of the pile through copious blood, sweat, and tears). . I disagree. I am not saying that there is no value to hard work. There obviously is. We cannot hope to accomplish much of anything (except by dumb luck) without working hard, studying, dedicating, and devoting ourselves to the field (veterinary medicine is a fairly unique career in that aspect, because so many practitioners do indeed consider it a "vocation" as opposed to a "job). But the thought process which insists people must mire through years of misery (80+ hour work weeks, pathetic wages [and negative pay for students!], menial jobs that no one wants to do) and only rise above it by clambering on top of others–this must end. People should not have to cut down their peers in order to make themselves seem taller.
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This field needs collaboration, camaraderie, and healthy competition. Instead, it has backstabbing, gossip, and cutthroat antagonism. . I have seen efforts to sabotage careers due to personal vendettas. I have seen great attempts to discredit and embarrass clinicians in front of their students and peers. I have seen patient care go by the wayside, a casualty of intra- and interdepartmental quarrels. I have seen (and on occasion been the recipient of) unjustified, over-the-top criticisms and punishments in order for someone to maintain a façade of undeserved authority. And I have seen such activity be blatantly rewarded, because in this aggressive world, self-promotion and the elimination of potential rivals (or rather teammates, coworkers, and collaborators, as they ought to be) often pave the pathway to success. Is there any wonder why we are angry?
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Is this a problem specific to my university? Absolutely not. I know that this goes on at every veterinary school to some degree, and undoubtedly every medical school, and likely every university or institution where people have power and the need to make decisions and maintain positions. It's human nature. But that doesn't make it acceptable, and we should not grow complacent, especially if we wish to be successful. I truly believe that the success of an institution relies, at its core, on the morale of all who work there, from the top to the bottom. .
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My friends and I often vented together during rare free time regarding specific cases we had seen on the different services. Invariably, each of us would have an example about how a patient's care was mishandled, sometimes with disastrous or tragic results. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and the cockiness of a young student (drunk on a little bit of dangerous knowledge) must be weighed against the experience and expertise of more seasoned practitioners. But we could still all tell tales of when we had made suggestions and were ignored, though ultimately our advice could very well have improved a difficult situation. Other times, we were so afraid of individual clinicians and the invariable backlash to perceived criticism that we simply kept our mouths shut and watched the debacle unfold. .
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Perhaps it seems melodramatic. Still, there I was, following orders I did not agree with (on at least one occasion, taking part in euthanasia for an ailment which had a treatable solution, although the client had not been apprised of this fact because the head clinician refused to acknowledge its possibility, only for those of us in the opposing camp to be vindicated–too late–at necropsy). Obedience and fear of consequences kept our mouths shut. But those cases continue to haunt me, and have filled me with resolve that I should never let my ego prevent me from listening to others, considering alternative solutions, offering all options to a client, and observing the veterinarian's oath to [protect] animal health and welfare, while [accepting] as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence. I must not lose sight of why I entered this career in the first place. .
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I enjoy many things about the university setting, and have contemplated pursuing a university career (I like academia and research, I enjoy working with and teaching motivated students, and I especially appreciate having access to expensive/high-tech equipment and many brilliant minds with whom to share ideas and formulate treatments plans). Beyond that, being the aforementioned Type A, I have often considered applying for a residency program, because of the (erroneous but persistent) belief that being "just" a DVM is not enough. My time on clinics virtually dissuaded me from these pursuits. The feudalistic mindset, where senior clinicians/specialists wield absolute authority and surround themselves with yes-men and sycophants (or else squabble pettily amongst each other), appalls me. .
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["When I get out." This is the oft-repeated clarifier when a student wistfully refers to life after vet school. It's not, "after I graduate," or, "once I am a veterinarian," but instead a phrase that is more often associated with military service or, even more frequently, prison sentences. I think this is terribly telling. There were many days when I pulled into the parking lot, dragged myself out of my car, and shuffled to the base of the steps leading to the hospital. I could hardly bear to lift my feet and make my way to what I knew awaited me (namely, ungodly stress, for at least 12 hours straight, assuming it was a good day). So often I wanted to turn back around, retreat to my car, and drive away forever.]
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Up to this point, I have been critical, without offering much in the way of solutions. I am afraid that I cannot fix the ubiquitous budgetary issues plaguing institutions of higher learning, nor can I wave a magic wand and make the worldwide outlook better for graduating vets. I will, however, jot down a few general things which I think are worth keeping in mind, which of course can be applied to far more than just veterinary school. Therefore, here are four off-the-cuff guidelines I have put together to serve as counterpoints to some of the negative behaviors I observed as a clinical student:
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Be realistic. . Don't have unfair expectations, and don't expect the impossible. If the head clinician is overwhelmed, the house officers probably are, too, and the students are probably running around like maniacs trying to keep the whole thing afloat. Each person should try to recognize when someone is in over their head and help out accordingly (there were many times when I witnessed technicians sitting around gossiping or snacking while students struggled with menial patient care while juggling other pressing responsibilities, or when senior clinicians vanished to an office hideout while underlings were left to clean up messes, both literal and figurative; this should not happen). Furthermore, 15-hour days, 5 days a week, plus emergency shifts, nighttime patient medication/walking, and weekend care...that just isn't sustainable for a student who is also trying to study for a block exam, prepare for boards, take care of responsibilities at home, read up on upcoming cases, finish paperwork, and more.
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Be respectful. . This should go without saying, but it apparently doesn't. The Golden Rule still applies, even behind closed doors when superiors aren't watching. I have witnessed some utterly heinous behavior from respected "professionals," directed both at students and at fellow doctors. This is demeaning, stress-inducing, morale-killing, and seriously contributes to workplace dissatisfaction, which leads to further pent-up anger, tensions, inefficiency, and ultimately bad service for animals and clients.
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Be receptive. . Not everyone is right all the time. Sometimes good ideas come from unexpected places. It appears that sometimes people become too complacent in their knowledge and shut down forevermore, refusing to learn new things, especially if presented by an unfamiliar source. Sometimes clients can diagnose their pets before the doctor can, due to knowing the individual animal better or through private research. Sometimes students are armed with more up-to-date knowledge on their cases than the clinician, since the classes are fresher in their brains or because they took the time to comb through PubMed looking for a solution. Don't discount these ideas just because they didn't come from an "expert."
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Be relevant. . On a similar note as above, I have unfortunately seen bad or outdated science touted as unquestionable fact. We must grow and change with the times. Universities should be at the forefront of medical progress, not stuck in the stone ages due to stubbornness and reliance on "tradition." We have to confront our dearly-held beliefs on a daily basis if we hope to grow, remain current, and be good doctors. Our patients and clients deserve nothing less.
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* * *
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I hardly know what else to say. My only motivation in writing this meandering note is to help to explain and answer the "mystery" of why veterinary students (and by extension, veterinarians) grow so disillusioned and bitter, so that–just maybe–the offending circumstances and individuals can be addressed, making the experience less stressful, more rewarding, and ultimately better for everyone.
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I must point out, also, that there are certainly some excellent individuals serving as clinicians and teachers at the university (in highly varied positions of prestige and authority). Their tutelage and mentorship have supported me throughout these formative years, and will continue to inspire me as I fight back against the negativity discussed elsewhere in this letter, and which still plagues this field. The people who stand up against the onslaught and refuse to conform to its demands of behavior–the people who still value teaching, service, quality medicine, and the pursuit of scientific knowledge–these are the ones from whom I have learned the most, and whom I wish to emulate. I hope that these types of people remain in academia so that future students can benefit from their knowledge and altruism.
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As for me, I have recently signed on to work in a practice where I feel appreciated, valued, and respected. I am sure that it will not be perfect, and there will be struggles, mistakes, and adjustments to fit in with the interpersonal relations at the hospital. But because there is an attitude of respect, professionalism, and courtesy projected from the top down (with great efforts made to maintain open lines of communication between all doctors and employees, so that grievances are addressed in a timely fashion), it should not devolve into the slippery slope of competition, pettiness, and chaos I have observed in school. This is how dialogue in the veterinary community ought to work.
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Please don't forget this. .
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Sincerely signed,
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A Young Veterinarian

Thank you for your brave post!

As a client/pet-owner, I've been through more vets than I have fingers for my Rhodesian's skin. Always I got the snap visual "diagnosis" of so-called allergies. He was presenting skin fungal and (now I know) bacterial infection - both secondary. I knew sarcoptic mites were involved because my cat picked them up, and I knew the dog was the source. One younger vet sent then-naive-me home with steroids for these "allergies." I quit immediately as his condition deteriorated. On to a different vet within a month with another "visual diagnosis" of fungus and staph eruptions. I was taking both pets to every appointment at this point, an when I mentioned "mites" I was told cats with mites won't have hair from their ears to their neck.

What cat owner waits THAT long before getting obsesssive scratching looked at?

Well now I know. Ones burned out by having every single concern dismissed as if we are children. "It's ok honey, there are no monsters under the bed. I'm the one who knows everything, you are a mere owner." His cough? "He's getting old." His skin almost completely black under the fur? "Those dogs have black skin." Um no - I've had him since 8 weeks and Rhodesians definitely do NOT have black skin. His ears are producing a lot of dark gunk, I let it go a week so you can see even though it's driving him crazy.... "Nope his ears are fine." I went home and scooped out a cotton ball plus 4 q-tips, both sides, each ear of dark gunk.

Pets don't show signs of suffering, instinct tells them that is immediate death. Vets need to trust that owners bond with their animals, pet and pay attention to them, and know when something changes. So when you said this, I nearly cried:

"Sometimes good ideas come from unexpected places. It appears that sometimes people become too complacent in their knowledge and shut down forevermore, refusing to learn new things, especially if presented by an unfamiliar source. Sometimes clients can diagnose their pets before the doctor can, due to knowing the individual animal better or through private research."

PubMed, all the sub-sites of NIH, Merck vet manual, vet-360, and others are where I learn about things, and I'm the first to admit I am not a vet! I don't know more than all your training and experience. I only ask for FRESH EYES and a sense of curiosity. Just as with human doctors in my experience, mention the "i-word" and I'm immediately assumed to be a hypochondriac or something. (or perhaps if they were honest, a threat to their worldly knowledge maintained by pharmaceutical and food companies - guess who takes the hit now? :) Always told to "stay off the internet." I'm an engineer, a problem solver, and when even the specialists can't/won't help, owners go to the "dreaded internet" or let their cats scratch themselves to a bloody pulp before bringing them in.

Ironically, I notice many vet product manufacturer sites "how to grow your business and get repeat visits" sections. Here's an easier way: If you don't know, admit it. And then be open to collaborate if the owner wishes, keep digging, get curious not just with mountains of tests but perhaps a little research. Keep an open conversation with the owner and don't shoot down every word that comes out of their mouth. I bet they'll come back, and bring their other animal next time.

Those "allergies"?? I discovered we lived in mold for 10 years and had an allergy test as part of seeing an immune specialist for what I now know is encephalitis. So after giving in and going along with yet another new vet's allergy diagnosis and food trial for 5 months, I saw cycles that were completely unrelated to allergies and duh - asked for an allergy test if she's going to insist. After custom-compounding his heartworm meds because the standard was "chicken flavor" and "he has allergies" - the test results came back with a ZERO on chicken! No return call, no return email, then I received the lab results in the mail, both vet and patient's copies. No cover letter, nothing.

Once again, moving on.....

So thank you for your bravery at posting something potentially hot. "Millennials" have to prove themselves because of the expectations of some, they were trained to work differently in higher education than the prior generation(s), AND there has always been three generations in the workforce at any one time! These labels and barriers and assumptions go every which way anymore. I'm glad you found a job where you are respected. Now don't get lazy and become "one of them" in 20 years! LOL!

- Courtney

Be Kinder to Students, New Grads and Associate Veterinarians

@ mardisgras1 - that is exactly the kind of attitude that drives these young vets and students to the brink! No where in this open letter does the student say she/he did not expect or want to work hard. The author is pointing out the dysfunctional and abusive nature of education that is commonplace in veterinary colleges. Why do people hate this "millennial" generation so much and why are they generalised negatively more than any other generation before? So what if they think that working yourself into exhaustion and clinical depression is not healthy or desirable, nor consider it virtuous - neither do I and I'm a Gen Xer. "Millennials" are not invariably self-serving, self-entitled brats, and if they are who is it that created them? The parents who belong to the very generations that choose to judge them so harshly and indiscriminately.

Although my alma mater does not sound nearly as bad, I do remember being very stressed by the work load and by never feeling "good enough". Of course as a student you cannot be expected to be performing at the level of an experienced veterinarian and none of us should ever settle for good enough in terms of our practice, but so often rather than mentoring and gentle correction of errors students are humiliated and denigrated for their supposed lack of knowledge and competence. When I was at vet school I had to take a year off due to major depression - not just an extended down mood, but horrendous, suicidal depression that was only relieved by excessive amounts of pharmaceuticals and psychotherapy. When I returned to vet school the following year I was only just returned to being functional. The disease had severely compromised my formerly stellar memory (something I still struggle with today 13 years after graduation). These days it's not a big deal if I can't remember the technical term for a symptom or condition because I am confident in my knowledge and am still able to clearly communicate to clients the medical condition of their pets and I know it will come to me or I know where to look it up if I need to. It doesn't matter that I can't remember every single differential diagnosis for a sign or symptom because I have enough experience and knowledge to recognise how and in what direction to proceed with a diagnosis and I am dogged in pursuing all avenues to achieve said diagnosis. Being able to rattle off a list of differentials is of little consequence in practice where the ability to think laterally and critically is far more important. However at vet school you have no experience, only your reliance on the volumes of information you have been force fed and your ability to regurgitate them on the command of the supervising clinician. I remember being asked to iterate lists of differentials - offering two or three and having the clinician insisting what else, what else (snapping fingers) with the resultant anxiety making the likelihood of actually coming up with more answers increasingly dim. Add into that the exhaustion that students often feel and it is no wonder that at times they may appear less than......

As for new grads - they are too often thrown in at the deep end. I myself was sent to a satellite clinic to consult on my own on day 1! I was forced to work 12 hour days without a break for a Principal Veterinarian who after 25 years of working those hours behaved unpredictably and often in an unhinged and abusive manner. After 13 months working there I quit and I didn't even know if I wanted to be a vet anymore. So often in that job I was berated for what I did wrong, but never acknowledged for what I did right. Thankfully after a break of a few months I found a job where I was supported, where the Principal expressed amazement at the high level at which I was practicing for someone with so little experience and at how fast I was to learn and absorb new skills. It was still hard work as the first 5 years always are, but at least I wasn't made to feel worthless. I felt worthless as a student and new grad and I was nearly 39 years old when I graduated with honours. I was in awe of the very young people I went through uni with who were just 21 or 22 when they entered the vet work force. How they coped without the life experience I had I do not know, but I do know that more than 50 per cent of them are no longer veterinarians (because the statistics tell us so).

So, @mardigras1 - how about rather than giving the author another kick in the guts by saying he/she doesn't belong in the veterinary profession you take a look at how you treat young students and vets and think about mentoring positively rather than making broad, generalising judgements. Maybe then more of these talented and highly intelligent people might stay in the field they entered because of their innate curiosity and love of animals. Destroying confidence and driving students and recent graduates to exhaustion is not character building or education, it's abuse.

thanks

Thank you for your words.
I am the author of the article, and I very much appreciate your defense and support.
I have posted a standalone comment elsewhere that includes the unedited version of my letter (before it was snipped for publication), but it sounds like you already "get" my message. Thank you for that, and I'm glad that you (like so many) were able to overcome the initial adversity and find your successful place in the veterinary profession. I am finding my way too, having recently landed in a very supportive position with (so far) an excellent boss--a far cry from my experience in veterinary school and as an intern, where the abuses outlined in the letter only multiplied. It doesn't have to be this way!

I was sorry to read that

I was sorry to read that the"dissillusioned young graduate" had actually graduated. Veterinary medicine, especially clinical practice, is not for this person. It involves actual hard work and commitment to a profession. It is not what one does, it is what one IS!!! Until millenials learn to put their family, loved ones and others ahead of themselves their life and their work will not be fulfilling.

you know what they say about assumptions

As the author of this letter, I don't have a whole lot to say to you, besides that you have judged my peers and I completely wrong, and your dismissive attitude is exactly what drives us to the brink. You have absolutely no clue how tirelessly I have worked at this profession since it was held out as the proverbial carrot before me as a young undergrad. I devoted my life to this career, foregoing all else but the desire to better myself as a student and finally as a veterinarian. I graduated at the top of my class, respected by my peers and highly valued by virtually all of my instructors on account of my commitment, my performance, my knowledge, my patient care, my leadership, my extensive extracurricular research, and yes, believe it or not, my attitude. I was, with sincere truth but with modesty on hold, the model veterinary student. And yet beneath the pristine surface, this is what was brewing. I guarantee you that a majority of my classmates share my sentiments, and they are a motley crew, but most of them good, honest, and hardworking young vets. I then went on to complete an internship, working 80-100 hour weeks, every week, for $2000/month minus withholdings, all so I could better serve my clients and patients (here, I suffered exactly the same horrendous treatment, but I took it as par for the course, as did my peers). Please, tell me again how we don't understand hard work or commitment?
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It doesn't have to be this way, but in order for it to change, so do attitudes like yours.
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(I did post a standalone comment with my original letter, before it was substantially cut by editorial staff, which clarifies a few of these points, should anyone care to read it.)