A couple of articles have been brought to my attention this week regarding the public perception of vets versus the reality.
When somebody finds out that you want to be a vet or are studying veterinary medicine, there are a few arduous questions that usually follow:
- “Is it seven years at university for that?”
- “It’s hard to get into isn’t it?”
And, of course:
- “Well, vets earn loads of money don’t they?”
Unfortunately, only one of those three assumptions is true. However, those detached from the veterinary world still uphold the perception that vets are rich and set high prices to rip off the unsuspecting public. What these people don’t understand is that a new veterinary graduate can expect to start on a salary of around £20k while working all living hours of the day, plus being on call.
While each individual job varies, the reality is that we can expect to earn very little considering the length of intense training required and the high levels of stress and responsibility that come with the job.
With experience and promotion to more superior roles – such as becoming a partner in a practice – the salary will increase, but often to less than half the average wage of a GP doctor. In general, vets accept this and are highly dedicated to the health of the animal they work with. If they were after a high salary, they’d be better off in a different career field entirely.
But the public can’t be entirely blamed for their own ignorance – I think a lot of the problem lies with the National Health Service…
We are blessed with a “free” health service in the UK, but this means those of us outwith the field of human medicine have very little understanding of how much treatments, operations or drugs cost.
Perhaps if people knew how much these things would cost if they had to fund them privately, they’d have a greater appreciation of both the NHS itself and the veterinary care they pay for for their animals. After all, there is no NHS for pets, and I think many people would do well to remember this.
My American friends tell me that clients in the US do seem to have a more grounded understanding of the cost of healthcare and are able to apply this to veterinary care without quite so much complaining.
It’s also worth noting that the money people spend on their animals’ treatments does not go directly into the pocket of the surgeon, but contributes to the cost of anything required for the procedure, including medication, electricity, needles and syringes, catheters, x-ray plates, bedding, food, anaesthetic, licensing… this list goes on – and somewhere at the bottom of that list sit the wages of the hardworking and dedicated vet, who often only receives a grumbling about the expense in “thanks”.
On a recent EMS placement at a small animal veterinary surgery, I witnessed a lot of this grumbling, and sometimes even full blown arguments about cost. Luckily it’s the few clients that are truly grateful and would do anything for their animals that make it all worth it.
I find it highly offensive and disrespectful when I hear remarks that vets are “only in it for the money” because, if that were true, then we are not as intelligent as our education might suggest.