Before You Criticize Veteriarians, Please Read and See Things From Our Perspective

The following is an article that appeared on written by Dr. Cheryl Haugo, a veterinarian who heads the Desert Veterinary Clinic team in Yuma, Arizona.

Given the nature of the article and its inherent importance to the veterinary professionals throughout the United States, I am quoting it in it’s entirety as it appears on the Yuma Sun website:

Please see the veterinary profession from our perspective…

“Criticism of veterinarians hurtful”

April 19, 2011 6:29 PM

“Recently, a writer asked in the Yuma Sun “What happened to Dr. Ford?” His comments about the disappearance of old-style veterinarians have become an issue with many on both sides of the fence and it is time to respond.

So, what did happen to “Dr. Ford”?

Well, he nearly died of a heart attack from the long hours and low pay so he quit and now has been replaced by the highly educated, hard-working business person who recognizes the need for balance in life and works hard to take excellent care of both you and your pet.

Yes, he was inexpensive and came to your home to treat the ill and lame, but he also had only a truck, a pencil, a house phone (no answering service, machine, pager or cell phone) and maybe one or two drugs to use: combiotic (penicillin) and opium.

And frankly, you should be glad he has been replaced.

Why are so many people so full of hate for veterinarians? Are we not deserving of making a living? Must we treat sick and injured animals for nothing because we love them — and allow our own families to go without? Most of us would do this job for free if we were independently wealthy.

Do you think the technicians and veterinary nurses do not deserve to make a living and raise a family? These people are highly trained, dedicated and capable professionals, some of whom are barely scraping by in this difficult economic time. Are these people who provide emergency care for your pet alongside their veterinarian and help us care for your pet both in and out of the hospital not deserving of a nice place to work and decent wages/benefits? Veterinary medicine is a business like any other — it must be in the black to survive.

Unlike your medical doctor, who uses a fully equipped, government-subsidized local hospital — and Dr. Ford with his truck and a few medicines — the modern veterinarian must purchase or rent a full hospital to perform his/her duties. Your veterinarian is general practitioner, dentist, surgeon, hematologist, pathologist, dermatologist and on and on. We do have specialists we refer patients to but only when we require special testing or additional assistance with a case, and no specialists currently are available in Yuma.

Your veterinarian must have a surgical suite complete with all the instruments needed to perform routine surgery and sometimes beyond. We have specialized equipment for anesthesia and monitoring as well as a nurse or licensed technician trained to assist with this; we have X-ray machines, dental equipment, complete hematology labs, endoscopes, ultrasound machines and other expensive equipment to care for your pets while ol’ Doc Ford did not have these.

Our M.D. colleagues can refer you to a specialist locally and should you need surgery, he/she or the specialist can go to the hospital for all the state-of-the-art equipment he needs and does not have to purchase. And you wonder why veterinary medicine has become so expensive?

What kind of person do you think a veterinarian is? Well, most of us are highly educated, competent doctors. We have been to college for at least eight years and when we receive our degrees are deeply in debt but ready to serve — most new graduates from veterinary school have a debt of $200,000 to $300,000.

We are family members who spend more time at work than with those precious families — working at least 60- to 80-hour weeks and often until late at night, or worse we are roused from our beds in the wee hours to care for sick or injured pets and frantic people. Several veterinarians in Yuma have become so overworked that they have made the difficult choice to not see emergencies, thus adding to the burden the rest of us must bear.

What kind of price do you put on the doctor and nurse who come in the middle of the night, take care of you and your pet, bring it home and stay up all night making sure it is OK, and then work all day the following day to take care of the next batch of ill or hurt patients?

Why do you think it is OK to bring two pets to an appointment for one and then complain at being charged for two appointments and about a long wait time? Why do you think the art we put on our walls means the fees we charge are too high? Would you rather sit in a dull, sterile room in a plastic chair with no beauty, or in a waiting room filled with love and warmth?

Why do you choose to criticize us for the fees we charge when you have no idea of our expenses? Walk a day in our shoes and you will see what it is like. Dr. Ford would not have had the equipment or ability to perform the complex and involved procedures available today. The dog with the twisted stomach or the cat with cancer or cardiomyopathy would likely have died in Dr. Ford’s day, whereas today these are routinely successfully treated.

We Yuma veterinarians feel the criticism we are receiving for being honest, hard-working professionals is hurtful and uncalled for. We have all given so much to this community and yet some people continue to judge us as if we are heartless and greedy. Really?

Thankfully there are many out there who understand and support the veterinary community. Many have seen us cry with you when your pet has died or been put to sleep, and seen us struggle to help you find a way to treat a sick pet when you are not able to afford the very best treatment plan.

The clients here at our hospital appreciate our hard work and dedication and generally understand the value they receive and maybe if you would look closer, you would see what they see: The veterinarians in this community are working hard and long hours to make Yuma a better place for you and your pets.”

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