Thursday, February 5, 2015

Working and Living in the Land of Liability.

Jekyll reminds me to stay clear of his couch.
I write a lot about the state of my profession. Where we are, where we are going, and how much of a cluster it can be along the way. As bleak it may seem at times to look ahead, and, as up-and-down it can be in the midst of it, there is a reason we got here, and a path we are forging in our quest for a future.

Let me give you a back story to help you understand this. Recognizing and understanding how we got where we are, and how much we need to put up a few warning signs so that we don't all kill ourselves as our only, or best, way out is vital to the longevity of this profession.

I was just like so many pre-vet students.. I was LIVING to attend vet school.. it wasn't a want for me, it was an unyielding, unwavering, blind ambition. There was no talking me out of that destiny.
Unfortunately, as many of learn later, there is the catch 22 to blind obsessive lust.. those break-ups are shattering.

Trying to keep yourself in love with your career is a silly juvenile wish. Even a decade later I still love being a vet. I love it for all of the reasons I knew I had to do this. I love medicine, the pets I meet and the stories that unfold over days, weeks, and even years. If you can keep yourself getting up everyday, putting on that white coat, and clocking into the list of daily appointments you become a skilled, versed doctor. But there is a cost to each decision you make.. I have also learned that I have to be careful what I surrender on my path toward retirement.

I read about a lot of my peers venting. (Here is the latest blog regurgitating an average work day for us, "The Harsh Reality Of Vet Med, by OCRTriVet). Long hard days with barely enough time to take a lunch break, and rarely enough time to go to the bathroom. We routinely arrive at 8 am and leave after 8 pm. This is the norm. In between those 12 fleeting hours are the highs and lows of serving the public who can and will treat their pet like a disposal piece of furniture, or, be so emotionally embroiled they barbecue you on the emotional roller coaster that a family pet represents.

Wake up time.
I received a comment on my blog about Charlie and his rather large lipoma surgery. The crux  of his story was not his lipoma, but that his family was seeking to euthanize him without trying to remove the offending mass that was impacting his ability to function on the most basic levels. They felt they had no other options. With a few tense discussions they allowed me to try to remove his mass, which thankfully, was very successful.

Here is the comment I received on Charlie's blog;

Unfortunately we live in the days where people sue everyone, or take you to court over the slightest things. 
While I commend you for doing this surgery, did the owners have to sign any other significant paperwork? The reason I'm asking is that a case was put to the ava board about a cat that had surgery and due to financial restraints a different approach was done, and although the outcome was the same, this was frowned upon by the board. 
The said people were told about possible outcomes and they agreed to the surgery. 
I just find after reading about that case, and about this surgery, we know that yes surgery is an option and a great risk, but also scary for the vet in case something does go wrong, then your left with a dog who can't use the leg, or where amputation wax needed in the end!

Best side selfie

Here was my response;

Thanks for reading and for your input. With respect to liability, the board, and proper paperwork to cover my butt.. I have decided long ago to follow my heart, my calling, and to always help a pet in need. Even if it is leaves me being vulnerable to nasty litigious people, and the board. I have already been reprimanded by the board for refusing to euthanize a 5 month old puppy with multiple pelvic fractures who was signed over to me, then sent to have her fractures repaired by a boarded surgeon, then found a home for.. after which the owner requested I return her. Which of course I did not.. It was, in my opinion, a case of professional blackmail. The board was upset I didn't regard the puppy as property, to which I admitted, and euthanize, or return her. So, I'm ok, with helping pets even if it means I deal with this.
If you aren't making waves perhaps you don't stand for anything worthy? Or, perhaps you are content with status quo? 
Charlie was at my clinic to see me to be euthanized. How many vets would have chosen that because it was easier and protected their liability? We are dealing with a profession plagued by suicide, compassion fatigue, and despair. I blame the board, our litigious society, and our inability to listen to our gut and stay true to the reason we became a vet in the first place.
I hope that more people stand up for their patients, their conscious, and stick their neck out to help. 
Again, I appreciate your thoughts.


Typical family portrait

So, I wonder, where do you think we should stand? And, if we are working so hard to stay afloat, why are we sacrificing ourselves along the way?

Related blogs;

Compassion Fatigue

Taking A Stand and Facing Consequences

The Holes In The Safety Net

Burnt Out From Being Burned

The Pets Are Never the Problem

Advice to New Vets, My Top 10.

If you have any thoughts on this blog I would like to hear them. If you are a pet parent with a pet question or thought you can join me on the free pet community I can be reached for questions here or via the vet clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or via Twitter @FreePetAdvice. 


  1. You simply live by your words. "I hope that more people stand up for their patients, their conscious, and stick their neck out to help." I expect to not see another vet as dedicated as you are in my lifetime. Rare indeed.

  2. This hit me,"serving the pubic who can and will treat their pet like a disposal piece of furniture". Not all of us think of our furkids this way. Many of us like me will do anything we can for our critters. My yr old Labrador was diagnosed with Addison's when he was a year old and I worked hard to find the best treatment for him and he has lived a healthy happy life. 5 months ago he was diagnosed with stage II kidney failure and even with everything we are doing he has progressed to end stage. He is still doing ok , eating well and playing so I am not giving up. Many of us appreciate what our Vets do for us every day! So thank you for what you do.

  3. Our society has become a throwaway society. If it doesn’t work, throw it away; if it we don’t like it anymore, throw it away, etc. Sadly, pets/animals fall into the same category. If pet is too old, get another one, gets to be too much of inconvenience or cost too much, etc......

    Whether it be small animals or large ones, the reasoning is the same. I have been involved with this same process for several years in the horse industry as manager of the Equus Group in LinkedIn. For horses it is more of a greed thing with over breeding for profit (a giant puppy mill thing so to speak). But for the many owners it is the same as well as the “board” for many organization such as AQHA who’s board is “pro slaughter”. That in itself is another to topic. The point is “ if they aren’t fast enough, cost to much to feed, are injured, etc. just throw them away by whatever means you can.

    Krista and other dedicated people, have a greater conscience - I like to also refer to it as “common sense” which is like a beautiful flower not found in many peoples gardens. The “board” and those “Educated people” in control (think they are) don’t even have a garden. Education alone is not a prerequisite to sound judgements: after all the world is full of Educated Derelicts.

    Let us all who care, keep up the voice for those who can not speak for themselves.

  4. I can see how such things would be the most frustrating part of your job. Some people are just a*holes. Sorry you guys have to go through that kind of stuff. I'm on your side.