It’s not all roses and rainbows… and each profession has their own problems, which are different in different countries. This is particularly noticeable if you have worked in your own country and then moved to the UK. Many things will be different, and you will enjoy some while loathing others – most of the times, you were not prepared for what you were going to face. So on this article we will focus on some of the challenges faced by those involved in working in clinical practice in the UK. If you are not yet involved in this world, it will give you an insight to what is perceived as a problem for those already “entangled”.
Client expectations – feeling guilty about “mistakes”
Veterinary surgeons are often people that work really hard and have a strong passion. This also means we are usually quick at finding our flaws and dwelling on our mistakes. We often feel guilty for something that a client has said, even if they said it without thinking about the impact of what they said or if it’s a plain lie. Clients are expecting high standards of care, but you will realise that many will be nice to you just to complain about you to the receptionist. This can take a toll on many professionals who are genuinely trying their best and end up feeling like “they are not enough”. This is a dangerous mindset with significant implications to our own wellbeing. It’s therefore important that you learn effective tools to protect yourself from these feelings of inadequacy that will invariably present themselves. And while in many countries it’s easy for you to dismiss them as “silly clients that just want to get their own way”, it the UK this may seem harder to do when the clients are so polite and trying to make a rational description of their complaints. But dealing with these situations is important and leads straight on to the next problem.
Becoming less of a stigma, mental health problems are prevalent in the veterinary profession. Thanks to the work of the Mind Matters initiative and the support provided by charity Vetlife, more work is being done in the area, the bosses are more aware of the issue and we as vets are also more aware of it. Mental health problems can present with many faces! It’s not just depression, burnout and compassion fatigue. It may be that constant feeling you get when you wake up and realise you have to go back to work, or the fact that you can’t stop eating when you think about a difficult case, or feeling like you are not being understood and “seen” by anyone around you, or not being able to enjoy your weekends because you know they will be over soon and you have to go back to work. It can be so hard to overcome those difficult days and we don’t take notice of that little voice inside our head, we often just blindly believe in what that voice says without realising that we own the choice of not believing in that voice.
As a final remark on this subject, I would like to reiterate that you can and should talk about these problems and that you can do so anonymously using Vetlife.
I would also like to leave a short video on depression – understanding what you and others may be going through allows you to feel empathy towards yourself and those around you suffering with mental health problems.
Job expectations – maintaining a “work-life balance”
The veterinary profession is a demanding profession. The workload is significant, especially when compared to other countries where you deal with less clients, less demanding clients and different clinical situations. In the UK, a normal work week has about 40 hours. However, as a vet, you may be “chipping in” on a few extra hours by doing on-call and working out-of-hours. This is because providers of veterinary care have to provide 24-hour care for their patients, and while many practices outsource this, others will still be doing their own emergencies. Many practices are also open on the weekends, which can be quite busy. Put that together with the fact that you actually see a lot of clients each day, as most consultations are 10 or 15-minutes long, and that you are dealing with clients with certain expectations and cases that aren’t always straight-forward (effectively requiring you to have an advanced level of clinical knowledge), and you can see why some roles in the UK can be more demanding than the 50-hour weeks you currently do in your small town clinic where you are markedly underpaid but at least have time to sit down and laugh with your colleagues!
However, this is often an amazing “selling point” for overseas veterinarians – as we are often overworked and underpaid, so a 40-hour work week sounds (and is!) brilliant! However, don’t forget that we are talking about the struggles in the UK, and this is definitely something a lot of vets feel here. So instead of complaining “why are you like this? I used to work twice as much and be paid half of the money”, understand and acknowledge that these are valid concerns for the other person. Afterall, one’s feelings are their own and therefore they are always real!
There are other factors taking their place, but I would like to highlight a few that are perceived as struggles by vets based in the UK.