"Those detached from the veterinary world still uphold the perception that vets are rich and set high prices to rip off the unsuspecting public."
Original image ©iStockphoto.com/hidesy

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

There is no NHS for pets...
“There is no NHS for pets, and I think many people would do well to remember this.”

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.

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6 Comments on "I blame the NHS"

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Kelly
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Kelly
2 years 7 months ago
Having worked as a receptionist at a mixed vet practice whilst trying to get in to vet school over 3 years, I have been at the receiving end of this many times. I am deeply offended when people say to me ‘you’ll be rolling in it then’, not only because it is not true, but it is also costing me over £100,000 to put myself through vet school as I am also a Zoology graduate. Even if the salary at the end was generous, I would still have an enormous debt to pay off, which will probably take the rest… Read more »
Lynda Goetz
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2 years 7 months ago
This is all very true and as the parent of a fairly newly qualified vet, I am only too well aware of how even well-educated members of the public can have a completely erroneous impression of how the veterinary profession works. I too have often commented on the fact that because in this country we have the NHS, which provides healthcare free at the point of delivery, many people’s understanding of the costs involved is negligible. This impacts enormously on the way they perceive veterinary medicine. Is there perhaps some way the veterinary profession as a body could do some… Read more »
Dave Simon
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Dave Simon
2 years 7 months ago

I would be very interested to see a pie chart of all the costs 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…”
to get a good perspective on all this.

Vet Times
Admin
2 years 7 months ago

Interestingly, there is such a pie chart available at moneysavingexpert.com which – although a little out of date (who remembers VAT at 17.5%?) and not quite as specific as you might wish – does give a basic idea of how money received by an unnamed veterinary practice was spent (based on 2006 accounts). This can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1svWFGs

Alan Humphreys
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Alan Humphreys
2 years 7 months ago
You are just wasting your time trying to explain it to people, don’t bother. I tried for 20 years then at an evening do for my wife’s staff, she is a human GP, a member of her staff said I must be raking it in. When I explained my wife has always earned approx 2 x what I have since we qualified she called me lying person of doubtful parentage and replied in a similar manner. They are not going to believe you because it beyond their experience as they do not pay for health care. I no longer attend… Read more »
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