People in the veterinary world are some of the most compassionate, caring and loving people I have ever met. However, I have increasingly come across the perspective that veterinary staff don’t care about the animals anymore and only about making money.
Throughout my career, the phrase I’ve seen crush colleagues the most when said by angry clients is “If you cared about my animal, you’d do it for free.’’ In truth, we’d love to be able to offer free treatments. However, in order for veterinary practices to pay their staff and balance the books, they must charge for their services.
As vets, we know that these services connected to loving and caring for pets can be expensive, which is why the best practitioners should be happy to discuss the range of treatments and costs with you before beginning treatment.
Unfortunately, as there is no NHS for pets, veterinary practices have to cover the costs of having a secure, insured, warm and well-equipped practice, in addition to paying for staff, medicines and consumables such as needles and syringes. Good practices will also invest heavily in staff training and new technology, so that they can continue to offer the best for your pet.
It is a common misconception that the majority of vets are rich, drive snazzy cars and make a commission on sales. In reality, vets and nurses are relatively underpaid with poor salary progression over their careers given the associated skill levels, unsociable work hours and high emotional stress of the job.
In fact, whilst doctors, dentists and vets all attend university training for 5 years, vets often do not earn the same as their medical counterparts. In human medicine, junior doctors are initially paid £27-32k, those in specialist training earn between £30-47k, GPs generally earn £58-88k and consultants can earn in the range of £79-107k.
Newly qualified dentists working in the NHS are paid £32k in their first year, those who mix NHS work with private dentistry £50-110k, and dentists who only perform private dental work can earn upwards of £140k.
The average starting salary for new qualified veterinary surgeons around £30k. This gradually rises with the average salary of an experienced full time vet at £42k.
I don’t want this article to appear as though I’m complaining about the salaries in the profession, however it is often assumed that vets earn the same or more than our medical counterparts. So, if we were in it for the money, veterinary medicine may not have been the best choice.
But there’s a reason why I chose to become a vet.
If I had chosen money over passion, I wouldn’t get to enjoy my dedication to animal care and thrive on the variety that each day offers. I love my job and genuinely enjoy going to work each day. I firmly believe that you can’t put a price on job satisfaction.
However, the stress associated with the emotional and mental fatigue of veterinary work, from treating animals to running a practice, is forcing vets of all ages to leave the profession. In order to avoid a future in which stress-levels, bad management and poor work-life balance for vets worsen, it is important to increase awareness of these issues. Crucially, it is important to promote the valuation of vets, and their love for animals.