After Almost Thirty Years In Practice, I Still See Things I Have Never Seen Before

by Carol Hillhouse, DVM

After almost thirty years in practice, I still see things I have never seen before.To me, the constant variety is veterinary medicine’s greatest asset as a career. My job is never boring! My husband and I own two rural mixed animal practices, and the lifestyle has provided us with a full and satisfying career. There have been financial, professional, and personal sacrifices; however, not many people can say that they still love their job after thirty years.

There are so many things to enjoy about rural veterinary medicine–it is a lifestyle and not just a career. We know practically everyone in town personally, and we are respected members of our community. Raising our children at our clinic was seen not as a detriment, but as evidence of positive parenting. I have had the opportunity to serve on the school board and as a Girl Scout leader without disrupting my business. The cost of living is significantly lower, as well. The lack of convenient referral centers has created opportunities to tackle and be challenged by more difficult medical and surgical opportunities.

A day in my life begins early, as I check on my hospitalized patients and make decisions about their treatments and diagnostics. Meanwhile, routine surgical patients begin arriving, and the plans for managing the morning are laid. It isn’t unusual for these plans to be interrupted, and we try to work in sick patients as necessary. We may switch species and body systems with each case. The afternoon is reserved for scheduled appointments, owner contact and consultation, case research, various procedures and treatments, non-elective surgeries, emergencies, and many practice management tasks like inventory control and staff training, payroll and bills. After hours calls are shared with veterinarians in surrounding towns, because there are no emergency clinics. It is the ultimate in multi-tasking!

There are certainly hurdles to practicing in a rural environment, but there are also numerous ways to overcome most of them. Veterinary medicine offers so much potential and diversity that all can find their niche, and there will still be room for others to find theirs, too. It is a noble profession, and I’m passionate about its value to society.

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