Updated: Jan 25
I quit my first job as a vet. In fact, I was there for a week and a half. I quit without notice, and without having a job lined up. That was hard. But I did not feel like I had failed.
After a few years we start to hear that many of our classmates have changed jobs, often not lasting the full one year contract that they signed up for.
My reasons for quitting were based on my own moral standards. When you go through a veterinary school that has a teaching hospital, you have a very high expectation of medicine.
You are expected to have full and complete medical records that include a SOAP: four sections based on subjective and objective findings, what are your differential diagnoses and assessment of the patient and your plan for diagnostics or treatment.
My first job didn’t have great medical records. Sadly, when I would see a patient on recheck, the only thing I had to go on were the invoices - what was charged, and maybe some diagnostics such as x-rays. Being new to working out in practice, I thought this was terrible, but did not realize this is well below the standard of care - in fact - the governing body requires a veterinarian to maintain the medical records with strict guidelines.
New graduates are nervous. We're trying to find our footing. We're just trying to apply all the knowledge we have acquired in those four years of veterinary school. As the week went by, I realized that the sole doctor for the practice only worked 3 of the 6 days that the clinic was open. She had a young son, whom needed care, and was still breastfeeding. The other 3 days her husband worked. But, her husband was not a doctor. The reality was, the husband was seeing all of the appointments on the days she stayed home with her son. He would consult with her over the phone, but she was not present.
Now, you can have a veterinary practice that doesn’t have a vet on-site, as long as pet owners are aware that they are not scheduled to see a doctor. There are four areas that a veterinarian cannot delegate to an unlicensed veterinarian: diagnosis, prescribing medications, major surgery and prognosis.
Ethics and morality can be individual. There are some rough guidelines, which usually say to act with respect and integrity. But during our ethics training in veterinary school, they would propose a scenario where half of folks with approach the scenario completely differently than the other. Neither of which could be argued to be right or wrong. I quit this job because I could not handle the situation of what I felt was unethical. Many times it is based on your gut feeling. So why am I telling you about this very sensitive topic?
I want you to not be afraid to quit a job that is not the right fit for you.
It is hard to quit. We don’t quit. We try. We suffer through. We want to prove to ourselves and others that we can do this. I can guarantee that half your classmates are sitting in jobs that were not what they expected.
Guess what? It’s ok to quit without a plan. It will all work out. I can guarantee that you took that job thinking that there wasn’t going to be another offering. But there will be.
So how do you choose a job that is right for you?
First, you can look at the Survey of New Graduates, and you can see that a few of the top reasons for not staying at the same practice were poor mentorship and having a lack of confidence - people also call this imposter syndrome. Also on that list were poor time management or lack of work-life balance.
How do you know just from the job ad and the interview? You need to remember that you are also interviewing them, so have some questions prepared for them when you go in.
What is the support staff to doctor ratio? Will you be left with an assistant and no technician, now leaving you to work as a doctor and tech in one body? It’s ok, sometimes, but believe me, your medical records will suffer or your personal life will suffer, because you only have so much time in a day. Not to mention, you have to start ensuring you know how to take blood samples and place IV catheters, which veterinarians in my school had minimal chance to do.
What is the mentorship like? Will you have someone there for when you do your first large dog spay? Will there be someone to send x-rays to when you’re staring at them trying to decide if your patient is in heart failure or some other cause of coughing?
What happens when you get your first client compliant? Does your boss back you up or do they throw you under the bus and tell the client they will reprimand you?
These are all different scenarios that you might not realize are important to you until you are put through them. What is also difficult is that no one talks about it. Maybe we talk amongst our close friends, but we should never feel like we should suffer in silence! Mental health in our profession has a lot to do with not feeling comfortable to reach out.
So how do you get ahead and find out these things before you are put in a position that forces you to quit? Try a working interview. Not for just an hour. You can even shadow for a day. Watch the flow of the clinic, how the people work together. I didn’t do a working interview. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have taken the job. I would have seen the condition of the medical records. I probably wouldn’t have known the tech was pretending to be a doctor, but I would have been able to go on my gut feeling as to whether it was the right fit for me.
If you do get into a situation that is not right. Be brave. Just quit. It is not worth the struggle and burnout you will experience if you try to push through it.
I know I am not the only veterinarian who quit. So many of my classmates did. Why do we silently suffer? Is it because we are ashamed of our failure? I can guarantee that even if you are the first to quit, if you talk about it with your peers you will inspire them to be strong, to be true to themselves, and to be brave to fight for what is right for them.
Read my letter to the new graduate here.