I’ve worked as a small animal veterinarian at a busy Melbourne clinic for the past two and a half years. Even though I’m relatively fresh to the industry, I have been able to experience many aspects of life as a veterinarian and the potential opportunities available within the profession.
In school, I had always enjoyed biology and science and so thought that becoming a veterinarian would be the perfect mix of both. As a vet, we learn how to treat all species, ranging from household pets to livestock and horses, all the way to birds, reptiles and even fish.
The job requires us to undertake a variety of tasks, such as performing surgery, taking x-rays, interpreting blood results, prescribing medication and everything else that happens within a consult.
Sometimes I think if I worked in the human medical field, my life would be more straightforward as I’d only have to complete any one of the above tasks and only for one species, but where’s the fun in that!
Although it is true that we get to interact with puppies and kittens on a regular basis, the job isn’t all glamorous. Staying clean can be a challenge and it’s not uncommon to leave work and have a questionable smell or stain on your clothes from an unknown source.
People often say to me that they’d like being a vet, as they don’t enjoy working with people and would much prefer to work with animals. But I will often say to them that although our patients are animals, interacting with their owner forms a very large portion of our role, particularly working as a small animal veterinarian.
It would be nice if in vet school they taught us how to speak directly to the animals as it would make finding out why they were unwell or behaving in a particular way much easier. But unfortunately, they can’t talk and so we rely on the information their owners provide, laboratory tests and findings from their physical exam to determine what is going on.
As a result, communication skills and being comfortable interacting with people are both essential for the job. For me personally, I find getting to know and building relationships with clients and their pets to be one of the highlights of the job.
It’s a great feeling when you know an owner trusts you to care for and assess the health of their pet. Many people consider their pet like a child and they will often do anything for them and so earning this trust is not a minor thing.
There aren’t many other careers where you can say in a day’s work you’ve delivered babies, mended broken bones, saved a life, shared the excitement of a family with their first ever pet and helped another family say goodbye to theirs for the last time.
It’s this variety and unpredictability which I enjoy most. My veterinary career has only just begun and who knows where I’ll end up one day, but it’s been a fun ride so far and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
Dr Stephen Reinisch