Sunday, 7 June 2009

why not become a veterinary surgeon?

I’m going to tell you why not. To do this I’m going to tell you a little story (well not very little). I might note now that this is completely fabricated, none of the characters exist and none of these exact things have happened. But it is based on truth!

The story starts with 14 year old Elizabeth Jones from Cornwall, let’s call her Liz. She loves animals. She’s in year 9 and thinking about her GCSE options, so one day they have a careers day to help them decide and there’s a vet there. So obviously she talks to this vet and decides then and there that she wants to be a vet as well. She picks her GCSEs (which include all the sciences and statistics), now Liz isn’t a clinical genius but she’s fairly smart. Over the next 2 year Liz works very hard, forfeiting her social life in favour of the A*s that she needs. She’s been to about 4 parties the whole time but come results days she’s got her A*s (except for textiles which she has a B but that doesn’t matter).

Next she goes on to do her AS levels in which she has to take biology, chemistry, physics, maths and further maths. Again she needs A*s so for another year for forgoes a social life. But again when results day roles around she’s got her A*s. so Liz goes on to do biology, chemistry, physics and maths at A2 level. Now she starts A2 in September but she needs to have her UCAS application and personal statement in by the needs of October if she wants to get into Veterinary college. Yet another year goes by where she has no social life. But come results day none of that matters because she’s got her A*s and she’s got into veterinary college. It’s all good!

So she’s off to the Royal Veterinary College in London. Obviously she can’t live at home so she moves out and gets a student loan. She’s going to spend 4 years in undergraduate college and 4 years studying veterinary medicine. So that’s 8 years of university in which she has to work her little socks of because a veterinary science degree is the hardest course you can do (yes harder than becoming a doctor). Again Liz has very little social life because of her work load but she does manage to get herself a nice boyfriend called Jack, he’s a business student. Now after 8 long gruelling years of hard work she finally graduates with a first in Veterinary Science. She’s about £100,000 in debt but she’s a vet at last. It’s all good!

So Liz and Jack get married, move to Yorkshire and buy a nice little cottage in a quaint little village. Jack goes off to work in some big corporation while Liz takes up a job at the local vet practise and becomes best friend with the qualified vet nurse, Anna. The practise is open from 8.30am to 7pm, 7 days a week. Liz works 9 hours a day, 6 days a week. But because she lives 2 minutes from the practise she’s also on call 24/7.

One night Liz gets a call at 3am saying that Mrs David’s pedigree poodle has gone into labour but there are complications and she’s needed. But by the time she gets there she can only save the mother but not the puppies, there was a blockage and all the puppies suffocated. She gets the puppies out, sews the mum back up, charges Mrs David £300 for the call out and goes back to bed. This is not the first or last time this happens.

It’s a year or so later and Jack wants kid, they’re both 27 and got good jobs so it seems like the right time. But no, how can Liz take maternity leave when sick animals rely on her? Besides she’s virtually infertile due to the stress of long hours and frequent call-outs. So the marriage starts to shake. In the mean time Anna, Liz’s best friend, has discovered that being a vet nurse pays almost nothing for a very stressful job, so she’s quitting to go teach animal care in Gloucester. It’s not all good anymore!

One days old widowed Higginbottom brings in Fluffums, her cat and only companion in the world, he’s been hit by a car and is bleeding internally. Liz takes a look at him and realises the only option is to ‘humanely destroy’ (you’re not aloud to say ‘put down’ anymore) Fluffums. She goes to tell the old widow Higginbottom, the poor old lady is distraught, she begs Liz to try and save her faithful companion, she cries and wails and moans. But Liz knows there is nothing that can be done so she gets the widow to sigh a consent form and ‘humanely destroys’ Fluffums. She then charges the old widow higginbottom £30 for the consultation and £30 for the euthanasia.

Now it’s been over a year since Jack first wanted kids and since then the marriage has careened down hill. Until one day Jack leaves Liz for his secretary, who’s a 23 year old Barbie look-a-like with 3 brain cells but she also has an available uterus and a less demanding job. So Liz is now single, friendless and hundreds of miles from her family, she’s feeling a bit lonely (as well as immensely stressed and tired from work). Nothing is good!

But life in the vet practice goes on. One day the Roncary family bring in Thumper the rabbit. He’s here for a routine operation to remove a tumour, but Debbie and Adam, the adorable little 10 year olds, are worried. Liz assures them “Thumper will be just fine!”. The operation goes well and the tumour is successfully removed; now all they have to do is wait for Thumper to come round from the anaesthetic. But he never does, the most common complication in surgeries is with anaesthetic. Liz now has to go tell the family that their rabbit has sadly died. They’re not happy, the kids ball their eyes out saying: “you promised he’d be ok!!” and the parents want to sew her but of course they signed a consent form so they can’t. She then has to charge them £200 for the surgery.

By this point Liz has very serious depression as a result of her divorce (very expensive divorce I might add) and the stressful and depressing job she has. You’d think with such a well paid job she could afford a great councillor. No! you’re forgetting she’s still massively in debt from university, the divorce and the mortgage on the nice little cottage. The big box of horse tranquilizers at work is looking more and more appealing. Life is terrible!

Until one day after having to destroy a farmer’s entire heard of cattle because of a blue tongue out break, she snaps! She goes home, leaves the door unlocked for someone to find the body and takes 50 horse tranquilizers. Fortunately Mr Brook from next-door came round because he was worried about his Labrador, so has come to ask her about it. He finds her passed out on the floor and calls 999. Liz gets her stomach pumped, is given time of work, find a good therapist and starts dating Mr Brook from next door. So for Elizabeth Jones it’s all good again.…. for now!!

Just to remind you this is totally fabricated. However Veterinary surgeons has the highest rate of suicide out of any other profession (within reason).

I have written this story because I am often asked “why not become a vet?” well that is exactly why. And remember those student loads next time you winge about a vet bill, there is a very good reason why it costs so much to see a vet even for 10 minutes.


  1. My, what about all the "good" that happens in a vet's career? There are plenty I bet. Like saving the lives of countless animals. I'm sure the life of a vet is highly stressful as you portrayed, but I can't imagine it's awful 100% or even 60% of the time.

    But, perhaps my love of James Herriot's series of books have made me look through rose colored glasses when it concerns veterinarians

  2. you're right it's not a horrible job. infact it's very rewarding but it is beyond stressful and can be immensely depressing. like i said, vets has the highest rate of suicide out of any profession. and i know most vets go through bouts of hating their job and bouts of suicidal feelings. but yes this is an extreme situation. i just felt like writing something dramatic and socking.