I Hate Being A Veterinarian… What Should I Do?
‘I hate being a veterinarian’.
Thankfully, this is a statement not commonly heard in veterinary medicine. On the whole, vet med is a highly rewarding career, one that many aspire to go into.
However, with four out of ten veterinarians actively thinking about leaving the industry, it seems like there is growing resentment brewing. Approximately 39% of vets are dissatisfied with their work, causing a multitude of issues, such as depression, sleep deprivation, and anxiety in many¹ ².
But why are there so many dissatisfied vets, and what should you do if you find yourself in this position?
Why Are Vets Dissatisfied?
Vets are leaving the profession for several reasons.
First, vets are stressed. Veterinary care is a notoriously intense industry to work in, wearing down even the most resilient of workers. This can drive many professionals out of veterinary care entirely.
Second, many professionals feel that they are not valued in their practices. This is partly because, whilst the work is hard, many employers forget to substantially reward their workers, leading to resentment.
Third, vets are seriously struggling to balance their work/life. The nature of the job means that many professionals work overtime, making it harder to carve time out for leisure. This can have serious ramifications in terms of job satisfaction³.
21% of vets are unable to cope with work-related stress, 63% feel that they are working too hard, and 48% have experienced feelings of burnout. Furthermore, 61% of vets reported feeling less ambitious in their careers, and 25% reported a lack of engagement⁴.
Key factors which are associated with greater work satisfaction (such as high pay and good work/life balance) are all areas in which practices are lacking⁵.
The combination of these factors is likely driving many individuals to feel dissatisfied with their work.
I Hate Being a Veterinarian … What Should I Do?
Thankfully, a few things can be done to increase workplace satisfaction.
First, those in practice should assess what matters to them (in terms of values). Workplace values can be anything from placing importance on having fun at work to striving for quality in practice.
It can be quite difficult to choose a good job without paying attention to your personal values, as ignoring them can lead to conflict down the line.
This happened to Dr. Dermot McInerney, a veterinarian from Ireland, leading him to consider leaving clinical practice entirely. It is therefore important to ask yourself whether your workplace is aligned with your values.
Is respect important to you? If so, does your employer listen to your problems and take them seriously? – or are they dismissed? If sustainable work matters, then what actions are being taken in your practice to uphold these values?
Should you find that you have a clash that cannot be resolved through discussion, the next course of action should be to…
Dissatisfied employees should assess what steps they can take to overcome existing problems. If their workload is causing distress, what viable steps can be taken to tackle this? Could a mentor help? Or could some communication resources be of use?
If the problem persists, it may be necessary to reach out to management.
Oftentimes, if a team member is unhappy at work, they will want to know.
Though it can feel uncomfortable (or even embarrassing) to do so, it is in a practice’s best interest to retain their staff and accommodate their needs. Though not always possible, just having a dialogue can be of use when it comes to understanding and moving forward together.
However, if the practice cannot compromise, then you may have to explore other options.
Know When To Call It A Day
Sometimes, it’s best to just call it quits.
Although the prospect of changing jobs may be intimidating, veterinary employment rates are exceptionally high at the moment- and only looking to grow⁶.
Here are some signs that it is time to look for new employment.
You’ve lost passion for your work
The thought of going to work fills you with dread
Your work relationships are poor or toxic
You constantly find yourself in a negative headspace
The culture doesn’t suit you
Personal performance is suffering
Work/life balance doesn’t exist
Your skills aren’t being utilized
You have more responsibility- but the same pay
Your ideas are not being heard
The work bores you
You are experiencing verbal abuse/sexual harassment at work⁷
Look For Satisfaction Outside Of Your Work
Sometimes leaving a job isn’t viable.
Some professionals may have financial obligations (such as veterinary debt) or personal limitations inhibiting their ability to find a new role.
Fortunately, there are other ways professionals can gain satisfaction in their lives. Pursuing a job that you are ‘passionate about’ is a relatively modern phenomenon. In most countries besides the US, workers find fulfillment outside of work. For example, whilst almost half of German workers are members of at least one club, few Americans partake in extracurricular activities⁸.
Individuals who have hobbies are not only more likely to be psychologically and physically healthier but also better workers⁹. A study of 400 employees found that workers who engaged in leisure activities outside of work were more likely to be creative and energized in the office¹⁰.
It is therefore evident that finding pleasure outside of the workplace can not only improve health but also work satisfaction overall.
Whilst workplace dissatisfaction is prolific in veterinary medicine, it shouldn’t be an incentive to leave entirely. Very few professionals truly hate being a veterinarian, rather, they are disillusioned with the working conditions which they are subjected to.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things that you can do to increase workplace happiness, including developing your professional skills.
Oftentimes, non-clinical skills can be overlooked in veterinary medicine, even though they are required for a happy and fulfilling career. If you are looking to improve your practice skills, you should check out our webinar ‘4 Steps to a Happy and Successful Career as a Veterinarian’.
This webinar crams 20 years of Dr. Dave’s veterinary expertise into an hour talk, discussing common pitfalls vets make and how to overcome them.
To check it out, click here.
1- ‘Retention, motivation and satisfaction – British Veterinary Association.’ 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.bva.co.uk/media/2990/motivation-satisfaction-and-retention-bva-workforce-report-nov-2018-1.pdf. Accessed 17 May. 2021.
2- ‘Hate Your Job? Here’s What It’s Costing You – Forbes.’ 3 Mar. 2016, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2016/03/03/hate-your-job-heres-what-its-costing-you/. Accessed 16 May. 2021.
3- ‘The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession – Royal College of ….’ https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/. Accessed 16 May. 2021.
4- ‘(PDF) Factors related to work and life satisfaction of veterinary ….’ 9 Apr. 2021, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320058576_Factors_related_to_work_and_life_satisfaction_of_veterinary_practitioners_in_Germany. Accessed 16 May. 2021.
5- ‘(PDF) Factors related to work and life satisfaction of veterinary ….’ 9 Apr. 2021, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320058576_Factors_related_to_work_and_life_satisfaction_of_veterinary_practitioners_in_Germany. Accessed 16 May. 2021.
6- ‘Veterinary Jobs Are Expected to Grow 19% by 2026 | Today’s ….’ https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/veterinary-jobs-are-expected-to-grow-19-by-2026/. Accessed 17 May. 2021.
7- ’14 Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Job – Forbes.’ 4 Sept. 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/09/04/14-signs-its-time-to-leave-your-job/. Accessed 16 May. 2021.
8- ‘The Unexpected Benefits of Pursuing a Passion Outside of Work.’ 19 Nov. 2019, https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-unexpected-benefits-of-pursuing-a-passion-outside-of-work. Accessed 17 May. 2021.
9- ‘Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and ….’ 10 Jul. 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2863117/. Accessed 17 May. 2021.
10- ‘3 science-backed reasons having a hobby will help your career.’ 2 Aug. 2017, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/02/3-science-backed-reasons-having-a-hobby-will-help-your-career.html. Accessed 24 May. 2021.