Working For A Living

When I give presentations on compassion fatigue, the part about emotional and financial satisfaction gets tense.


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When I present on compassion fatigue, we get to a part that talks about emotional and financial satisfaction. I always ask the audience, "Who thought you were going to get rich going into veterinary medicine?”

With all the thousands of people I’ve asked, only one ever raised her hand … and turned out she was a vet student! So I joke that we had a quick intervention, and she’s moved on!

Working in veterinary medicine for a living

Then I explain how when we first entered veterinary medicine, we were probably so excited to finally be working with animals, a lifelong dream for many of us, that we made the wage work. We were so fulfilled with the emotional rewards that we were willing to overlook the lack of monetary rewards. But then as the work got tough, and we became susceptible to and succumbed to burnout and compassion fatigue, then you couldn’t pay me ENOUGH to do THAT job!

Then the money, or lack thereof, becomes the focus of our frustration. Perhaps we need to get back to the emotional rewards that fulfilled us in the beginning. But let’s be honest, emotional satisfaction doesn’t put food on the table or pay the rent.

Recently on the VSPN Compassion Fatigue message boards that I moderate, a participant explained that when she was in her twenties and was just having fun, she made the wage work. But now, she’s in her thirties, she wants a home and a family, and her current wage just isn’t going to be able to provide the vacations she dreams of, the home she wants, etc. What was I supposed to say to that? Well, just that I understand…and I mean really, I understand. I’ve been there.

I was working long days (12-14 hours at a time) and could financially support my few pets, but wanted to fulfill my other lifelong dream of having a child. I immediately thought, I have to quit my job! Then I calmed down, and took it one step at a time … let’s worry about getting pregnant first! Anyways, I won’t bore you with all the details, but as time went on, I realized that while she was a baby, I could still push my hours and my money to do the job I loved.

But when she got a little older, I knew I’d want to be able to attend school events and take her places, and some changes would be necessary. So, I accepted the offer of a full-time management position with my employer, with the promise of a raise and more manageable hours. It worked for a time, but I’ll admit that I’ve always missed that job "on the floor” that I loved so much.

Then, my daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome years ago, and I knew my life needed to change once again; I needed flexibility that even managing a practice wouldn’t provide. So I moved into consulting, and it has been an interesting journey. I’ve been able to morph my career, perhaps you can too, but that’s not to say there is a happy ending and pretty rainbows at the end of it all.

Now, I’m still having difficulty making my job in veterinary medicine financially support the life we want, and the treatment my daughter needs. My answer? I’m expanding my career once again. You’re likely the first to know outside of my immediate family (yes, YOU, whoever might be reading this blog), but I’m in an online course learning medical transcription editing. I need flexible hours spent making money on the clock, and this is hopefully going to provide my next answer. We’ll see.

The point? Don’t go looking for the rainbows and happy endings, live in the moment and make the most realistic, satisfying, rewarding-in-all-ways-possible decisions that you must to do what your heart wants, but your bank account can live on. No, none of us are here to get rich, and perhaps we can each figure out the right answer for our own life.

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