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Saturday, September 8, 2012


Though today was busy, it wasn't the worst day I've had.  Yes, I'm tired but have been far worse in the past.  Even so, it brings to mind just how hard we work sometimes.  I think that most clients don't realize that working at a busy veterinary practice causes fatigue in different ways.

Most obvious is simple physical fatigue.  I work from 9am until 7pm and on days like today I don't stop for the entire 10 hours.  I eat lunch while I'm typing medical notes or am calling clients.  It's not uncommon for me to barely sit down all day, leading to some sore feet and legs by the time I leave work.  Constantly going and going at that pace will really wear a person out.

Next is mental fatigue.  Much of the day I'm having to juggle cases, switching from well pets to sick ones in an instant, and having to keep track of which set of lab results goes with which patient.  Then there is the challenge of difficult cases.  When symptoms don't make sense or when lab results don't give answers you really have to work the ol' brain muscle to try and figure out what's going on.  Such rapid flip-flops between cases and such continual stress can burn out brain cells.

Then there is compassion fatigue.  This is a legitimate phenomenon among many health-care professionals as we have to show caring and feeling to man different people in often difficult situations.  Just today I had to euthanize three pets and all were crying.  I have to counsel them and help them through their decision all while maintaining a professional, clinical demeanor.  I also have to work with people faced with tough financial situations and how that affects their pet care.  Then there is my staff, each of whom may be going through problems and trials on their own.

Most vets love their jobs and find them very satisfying.  But that doesn't mean we don't get worn out.  This is a very, very difficult career for many reasons.  Sometimes it's nice to help clients understand the realities of doing what we do.