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Good, bad and ugly sides of being a vet.

Byline: Neil McIntosh

SOMETIMES one of the best things about this job is making the phone calls.

"Hello. It's Neil McIntosh from the vet's here. I am delighted to tell you that Eva is recovering well from her Caesarean section and has 10 lovely, healthy puppies."

Or "Hello. Timmy is just beginning to sit up after his anaesthetic. We have removed his spleen and it looks like the cancer has not spread." Or "Hello. I've got Sophie's test results and it's good news."

These calls make up a huge part of what we name job satisfaction. They are part of the reason you would want to be a vet. They make you smile, produce feel-good endorphins and have you walking with a bit of a bounce in your step.

Vets fall over themselves to make them. We know the owner at the other end of the phone is going to thank us profusely, even though there are times the successful outcome has nothing to do with you. We know we will be able to sense the owner begin to grin, even without being able to see them. And we know the owner will be grateful. To us vets, these phone calls are like a stand-up comic getting a laugh, a pilot safely landing his plane or a striker scoring a winning goal.

The problems is, sometimes one of the worst things about this job is making the phone calls. They are the calls that every vet with any compassion dreads making.

They are the calls that churn your stomach, make you feel sick. They are the bad news phone calls and they make us lose sleep at night. They come in various degrees of awfulness. Quite bad are the "unexpected outcome" type.

It may be that it was not possible to completely remove a growth, or that unforeseen problems with a wound are now anticipated. Very tough are the unexpected bad news type. These include the lab results that indicate a tumour is indeed cancerous, or the inability to save an elderly patient who was undergoing high-risk surgery.

And then there are the truly horrific, I-don't-want-to-dothis-job-any-more calls. These generally involve loss of life when least expected and, after nearly 30 years, still make me shudder. But we never forget they are always much worse for the owners receiving them.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 21, 2013
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