CLEVELAND – Dr. Elizabeth Wierczorek loves being a veterinarian.
She works almost every day. She sees patients physically and virtually and checks in via email. Even with the long hours, she loves what she does.
“Since I was little, I have always loved animals. The typical “oh that always fed my soul,” Wierczorek said. “It’s also the customer’s reaction: ‘Oh my God, thank you, thank you, thank you’. “
Unfortunately, not every customer is always so grateful. This is one of the reasons why veterinary medicine is consistently ranked as one of the worst careers for your mental health.
Veterinarians can also have significant student loan debt, and can sometimes be forced to euthanize a patient with a treatable injury or illness because their caretaker cannot afford the cure.
On top of that, there is the technological aspect where people bluntly think they know more than the doctor.
“Over time, technology has worked against us,” Wierczorek said. “Like Facebook posts and other aspects of social media. It was the hardest part to fight because I can’t fight internet trolls.
This can lead to burnout or compassion fatigue, which Wieczorek says are two different things.
“Burnout, I call it a hangover at work,” Wierczorek said. “It’s like when you’ve worked four days in a row, tough shifts, tough cases. I’m just physically exhausted. I still care. I’m just like, ‘OK, here I am, I just need more coffee but here I am. I can usually get by. Compassion fatigue is where you’ve given so much of yourself that you can’t put it back together. You don’t know how to put it back together.
The situations they see and experience on a daily basis have harmful consequences.
“You know, I could have two, three euthanasies today. It’s difficult, ”said Wierczorek. “Then you have a new puppy, then you have an ear infection. Just the bounce back and forth.
On top of the mentally difficult workload, the volume of patients, especially over the past year or so, she said at times it was a bit overwhelming.
“I see, physically, two patients every 30 minutes,” Wierczorek said. “However, I could see up to six depending on how I’m programmed.”
She said by far, the lack of confidence in the profession is certainly the hardest fight.
“We’re not here to take your money,” Wierczorek said. “We’re not here to jerk you off. Please just trust us. We go to school for that. We do it because we love it and do it especially for you.
Her best advice is to remind yourself that you don’t know what other people are going through and she asks to please keep things nice.
“Just be nice,” Wierczorek said.