In my last blog, I talked about my lack of salesmanship skills with veterinary products. Today, I’m going to talk about something else I’m not very good at selling – myself.

Imposter syndrome may be particularly strong for veterinary graduates thrown in at the deep end, says Nick.
Imposter syndrome may be particularly strong for veterinary graduates thrown in at the deep end, says Nick. Image: WavebreakmediaMicro / Fotolia.

After we graduate, when we worry about how good we’re going to be at the job, it’s usually questions like: “Will I be able to hit veins?” or: “Do I know my notes well enough?:

Occasionally, we even ask ourselves: “How will I cope with a euthanasia?” or: “Will I be able to handle a difficult client?”

These are all very important skills, of course, and we all have our strengths and weakness, but there’s one question we don’t ask ourselves too much, which is odd because it’s rapidly becoming our most important skill.

“Will I be any good at charging?”

I have long been a defender of veterinary fees – it’s frustrating that the first thing people are compelled to do when they first learn you are a vet is to tell you exactly how much money you earn, despite the evidence of your payslip.

However – and this is a subject for another blog – the increasing corporatisation of veterinary medicine does seem to be pushing veterinary fees up to a level… well, let’s just say it makes me feel uncomfortable, especially as veterinary salaries don’t seem to be shooting upwards at a similar pace. But I digress.

Imposter syndrome

You may well be familiar with imposter syndrome, that feeling you’re a clueless fraud and that it’s only a matter of time before you’re discovered and dismissed.

Many people feel it – I think I may suffer from it especially badly (or, possibly, I really am that stupid), but I only have my own brain to judge this on and it’s not always the objective instrument that I would like it to be.

Imposter syndrome is a common affliction in many jobs, but I suspect it may be particularly strong for veterinary graduates thrown in at the deep end who suddenly have to dispense advice to worried owners – advice they are paying for.

That syndrome is the little voice whispering to you as you book your consulting fee.

“Is it really fair they have to pay for what you just told them? You barely even know what you’re talking about!”

It’s the voice that says: “Should you really charge for that last x-ray? It didn’t really tell you anything. A half-decent vet wouldn’t have even had to take the bloody x-rays in the first place!”

The one that suggests: “Just knock off this second injection fee, you’re only hedging my bets with that one anyway.”

Part of privileged club

Destroy any thoughts you may have about not being good enough to impart advice. Image: Jane / Fotolia.
Destroy any thoughts you may have about not being good enough to impart advice. Image: Jane / Fotolia.

The thing is, we might not feel like our advice is worth the price, but it is. I think we forget what specialised information our job allows us to have – knowledge of how these fascinating machines, forged by billions of years of evolution, work and how they can stop working.

A lot of people outside the medical circles have only a very vague idea of where kidneys are located, or what a spleen does, or how the heart beats. We really are very highly trained, however little it feels like it when we’re first unleashed on the world.

There are still times, even now, when, during surgery, I will take a step back from myself and think: “I have my hand inside a living creature and it is still alive!” (Ideally, anyway, depending on how the surgery is going).

I feel like I have joined a privileged club, with secret and exciting knowledge, but we are even more privileged to be able to impart this knowledge to our clients and help them make decisions about their pets.

It took me a while to realise it in practice, but my advice is worth listening to. It’s worth paying for. It might not feel like it when I’ve just waffled my way through one of the random questions that always seem to pop up at the end of vaccinations during a busy surgery (“So why does she eat grass?” “Do my cats really like each other?” “What is his age in dog years?”).

But even when I’m guessing, my guesses are educated guesses – and even if they’re wrong, at least I can show my working.

I understand, for some of us, it feels wrong to charge for advice when we feel unsure ourselves, but no one is asking for our cast-iron guarantees. They want to know our opinion, because our opinion matters and it’s worth something. Don’t undersell yourselves – you’re worth it.

Good advice, I think. If only I could get myself to listen to it…

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2 Comments on "Because you’re worth it"

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2 months 13 days ago
I think you’re right Nick – this is a very common feeling among vets, especially when recently graduated. But it can stay with you through your career, and vets tend to be quite modest people who don’t like to blow their own trumpets. But when you take a step back from clinical practising, as I have done, you can see the vets’ worth more clearly. We assume that owners semi- know what we’re telling them – to us, it is common-sense , and we feel that we’re charging for something that they should know anyway – or we think that… Read more »
2 months 13 days ago
Hi I am medic and recognise what you write well but what I actually wanted to tell you is I think my vet(s) are super. Yes the cost is frustrating, but you know what? I need my pets to have a vet. I may know where the kidneys and spleen are and a huge amount about statins and depression but that doesn’t qualify me to treat my pets. There isn’t a pet NHS. Part of deciding to have a pet is appreciating the costs. So whilst you may not always get it right that’s because you’re not perfect and that… Read more »

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