I’m sure many of you can relate, as a veterinarian there is this moment of shift where when meeting someone for the first time the relationship changes. I could be sitting next to a stranger on a plane, or meeting one of my husband’s coworkers for the first time and those four words seem to change the dynamic of our relationship forever. “I am a veterinarian”.
Prior to that moment I was me, a human with characteristics I’d use to define me as being a runner, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an environmental advocate, someone who loves to travel, and of course an animal lover and healer. However, after the awareness is made about my profession, I feel that I am now only “the vet”.
When they hear I’m a veterinarian their face lights up and the myriad of animal stories follow. I understand, they have found a common connection. I am honored they value my profession and appreciate the instant trust cred it gives me. But what hurts is they don’t see me for who I am every day and the conversation then and every time I see them pivots around their pets.
“Hey my dog has a bump what should I do”, or “I feed my cat this food – is that a good food?” etc. I become a prisoner to phone calls, texts, and even photos of their pet all often asking for my advice or opinion. Don’t get me wrong I am proud to be in this field and I love animals. To be quite honest, I often prefer the company of animals over people. But in that moment, I become nothing more than a vet and this is a serious trigger and sinker for me. It puts me back into the bubble I have worked so hard to escape.
Prior to vet school I had outside hobbies and activities however the pressures of my academics became so demanding I slowly stopped engaging in them. My family can attest, the year of my equine internship I all but disappeared; I entered what we can call “the Vet Med Bubble”, where Vet Med filled almost 100% of my time. I can now see this wasn’t healthy and I have worked tirelessly to bring those outside interests, or what I call my balloon fillers, back into my life.
People close to me know how hard I’ve fought to escape the vet med bubble but for the new people I meet they don’t understand or value respecting those hard fought boundaries. It is true, I’m a vet and maybe I might be able to help with a random pet question but first and foremost I’m a regular person. No different than them.
So yes, I am more than a vet. And I make this request to future strangers. I welcome a break from only talking about animals. Tell me about you. What do you like to do? Do we have common interests outside your pets =o)? This doesn’t mean I don’t like being a vet or that I don’t care about your pet, but please see that I am not solely defined as a veterinarian. We all need to be valued for who we are as people and in the end I’m not any different from you just because I have those three letters after the end of my name.