Ask any vet why they spent the decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to become a vet and most of them will say, "I wanted a job helping animals."
Ask us a decade or two later what we love and I am not sure how many of us would still say the same thing. How sad is that? All of the hopes, aspirations, and dreams were sucked out of us. Nothing seems sadder to me than the willing surrender of your purpose. The pressures of life, making a living, paying your bills, and people....., it's the people who will kill you.
I was at lunch today with two very good veterinary friends talking about how much veterinary medicine has changed. How it is evolving under the pressures of online pharmacies, big box stores now carrying flea and tick preventatives, and to make the picture seem even bleaker, we saw a flyer from our local feed store who is now offering low cost vaccines.
To all of us it was just another instance of the writing being on the wall that is becoming larger, more indelible, and more looming. We are feeling the pressure from all sides and we are struggling to keep our chins up. How do we challenge Wal-Mart for affordable pet products when they are able to sell the same goods at a price we can't even buy them for? How do we keep a pharmacy in the clinic when Rite Aid offers antibiotics for $4.00, or even for free? And now the core of our existence, those yearly shots, are now available on a drive through basis like you and I get our flu shot in the check out line at CVS?
The answer? Well, the state of veterinary medicine is following in the foot steps of human medicine.
Ask me if I believe this? Yes, I do. Veterinary medicine has always followed in human medicines footsteps. How does this affect all of us? Well, pets have better care, more options for care, and have moved from the great outdoors to the bed. Insurance is available for two and four legged creatures alike now. It has made health care affordable for many who otherwise wouldn't have access to expensive life saving and life changing procedures. With the advent of insurance, and our elevation of pets to human status the doors of opportunity has opened. We vets are as much to blame as anyone else. Our love for pets and our clients love for their pets has led to a multi-billion dollar industry. Where there are consumers there are providers. The marketplace is changing and the opportunities are widening. The days of James Herriot, the beloved vet who made house calls, treated every creature great and small and whose stories shaped our yearning for medicine are largely behind us.
But the core of who we are and why we are here cannot be replaced by Wal-Mart, CVS, Rite Aid, or a mobile vaccine clinic.
Am I going to change with the times? I have to, am I happy to have my pup in my bed, Yes? And am I still James Herriot in spirit? Well, if you know me you know that time never changes this little girls heart.