The actual night shift

To be clear, this is a night shift. A full on, 14+ hour overnight shift. Not a “late” shift. Not a twilight shift. This is a 3 o’clock in the morning-people-screaming-at-you type shift. A 4 o’clock in the morning c-section-on-a-Frenchie type of shift. A 6 o’clock can’t-feel-your-lips, feel-like-you’re-drunk type, is-this-even-real-life type of shit. **shift

Why there isn’t a TV series on the veterinary night shift I cannot tell you but what I do know is that it would make for absolutely great TV – if you have a thick stomach. Literal tears, sweat and a lot of blood.

Why? You may question. What can be so entertaining about this job? You might wonder. Let me explain.

We start our shift at 7pm…6pm in some clinics. And finish at 9am. Before the shift we have to psych ourselves up. This means that all day, you are worried, stressed, nervous about what is going to happen that night at work. Will you have enough staff? Probably not. Will you get a break to eat? Probably not. Will you have a nervous breakdown? Probably.

Will you get the dreaded complaint that ends your career? The career that has taken literally your entire life to build? Maybe you’ll get the complaint that just pushes you off that cliff you’ve been dangling your feet over as you sit on the edge…contemplating. Will you make a mistake because you’re only human and absolutely exhausted , overworked and feeling incredibly under appreciated? Well, hopefully not. And this is where adrenaline comes in handy. But even adrenaline runs dry sometimes after you’ve been doing emergency consults for 5 hours, dealing with clients, making plans in 0.5 seconds for every patient because you’re expected to calculate CRIs and perform ultrasound and x-rays and devise a pristine plan for each and every patient …fast… because the dog bleeding into his abdomen needs surgery 5 hours ago. Fast, fast, fast. But not too fast because a client might complain that you didn’t spend enough time looking at their non-emergency patient. But the client with the actual emergency patient will complain that you weren’t quick enough and ultimately killed their dog because everything is always your fault. You, the vet.

The vet who is female. Who is not white. Who is not English. The vet who you ask “are you old enough to be a vet”… and question “are you even equipped to perform this…”

People forget their best selves at home when they come to the vet clinic. They save that facade for doctors and dentists. We get the raging, ungrateful bits that people forget they have. I’m yet to understand why… because don’t they realise that we have spent 8 years studying so that we can take care of their pets? Actually we are still studying ALL of the time. And we have no choice but to study. Even if you were to find a vet that didn’t want to study (which does not exist) … we have to do 35 hours per year of continuing education to remain registered to practice in the UK. Most of us do a lot more than this. How much do you do, for your job?

So this, the vet who is so money hungry and only cares about profit despite making probably much much less than you regardless of what you do to make money… will always be the bad one. We will always be mistreated and under appreciated and complained about. But will we? Vets are actually going extinct … this means that in years to come with the ever growing population of pets… that one day you might not have a vet to go to. You might have mistreated so many vets that no one wants to see you. And there won’t be many of us left. So think about this. The last time you took your precious pet to the vet, were you kind? Did you call your vet the C word? Refuse to pay? Did you forget your best self at home? Ruin someone’s career? If so then you might want to think long and hard about it. Because one day you might genuinely really need that vet, the one you cursed at because you were stressed. Maybe then, when that vet sees you again despite taking your mistreatment or abuse last time… will you realise our value and our love for your pet. For all the pets. Maybe then you’ll have respect for us.

Until then I ask that you be kind. That you assume good intent. That you show basic respect for the people who are awake for 14 hours taking care of your animals, exhausted, hungry, holding in a wee, trying not to have a nervous breakdown because they have 10 in-patients’ plus 2 seizuring, 6 waiting to be seen, 2 surgeries and a whole lot of angry clients yelling or refusing to pay. Please bring your best selves to the vet clinic. Please do not curse us. Please don’t push us off the cliffs many of us dangle over. Please. If you can’t do that please stay home.

Rant over. Phew that felt good.

I wrote the above about a year ago when I was at the end of my tether. I had been shouted at too many times, disrespected too many times and I was absolutely sickly exhausted. I had headaches constantly. Nausea constantly. Extreme stress.

So I left my night job. The company that I loved so much. The people who were like family. I left. And I tried something new. Something in the day time, something that normal people do… everyone else does it so must be fine. Nope. Wasn’t fine. I missed my beloved in-patients. My over-nighters. I missed seeing the extremely ill transition to the bright survivor because of our hard work. I missed the team. Because everyone knows that night shift teams are a different kind of folk.

And so I went back tail between my legs asking for my old job back. Pretty pretty please with a cherry on top. And they said yes. After changing around our rotas to make life more manageable for everyone. I’m back where I belong. 💩

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