It’s true. I am. Sort of.
Being a veterinarian is my profession. Like any other professional in any line of work, I expect to be paid for practicing my craft. I don’t think that makes me a bad person. Quite the opposite really. I took the time to think out what profession would make me the happiest and what profession I had the most to offer to and I went out and became a professional in that exact field. When you put it like that, it’s really kind of admirable.
Still, somehow I hear from people that vets charge too much and should do more for the love of the animals. I understand that sentiment and in a way I do actually share it. I have said it before and I meant it, I would do this job for free.
But I can’t. And frankly, I don’t want to. I like money, it allows me to do stuff that makes me happy. Like stopping with my kids to buy them “soda” on the way home from school. Sodas are the flavored juice like drinks in kid sized bottles you find at most convenience stores. We get them about once a month. Money pays for the gas in my car, it pays for my house and our groceries. Also electricity, health insurance, oil for the furnace and someday it will allow me to stop working and still afford all of those things.
Even if I had enough money to pay for all of those things for the rest of my life, it would still cost money to provide veterinary care. So it would still cost money to come and see me. I also expect the staff to want to earn money for their hard work. So there you go.
How much should it cost? I touched on this a little bit in a post about the expense of having pets. Because this is a business and needs to earn money, in reality it costs as much as the majority of people are willing to pay. That’s sort of an underlying fundamental of economics. If there are 100 people who will pay $30 for an exam but 80 of those people will also pay $45. You charge $45. You make almost 20% more money doing 20% less work. It’s kind of silly not to. If you had 1 person out of every hundred who would pay $4,000 for an exam and you felt comfortable charging that much, you should. I couldn’t do it. But I have self esteem issues.
I know what you’re thinking. I should want to help as many pets as I possibly can. I don’t know how else to put this. I am not a superhero. No veterinarian is. The thing about trying to be all things to all people is this: when anyone does that, everyone loses. I can’t see all the pets I would like to see in a single day and still maintain the standard of service that I hold myself to. It’s much the same way I struggle to be available all hours of the day and night and provide that same level of care. No one can do it. Anyone who says they can should have been a politician instead. By limiting the number of patients I see in a single day I am able to spend more time, be more thorough and create a more personal relationship with my patients and their owners. For people who shop for veterinary service based on price, Walgreen’s will be offering that service through a company called Shot Vet.
In actuality, if I was only in it for the money, I would do something along the lines of Shot Vet. Brief exam, packaged vaccine and preventative care options and low expectations. Even at the lowest cost package; I would make the same amount of money or more by seeing patients assembly line style. That’s assuming only a slightly higher number of patients each day than I currently see.
But this is my craft, I take a lot of pride in it. So does your veterinarian. We all work to provide the best medical care we possibly can within the confines of each situation and we do our best to charge appropriately for it. I could see four times as many patients and make more money by offering less expensive but also less thorough and lower standard services, but I take pride in knowing my clients and their pets, I take pride in offering complete veterinary care that is second to none. I don’t want to be good and make lots of money. I want to be great and make an honest living. I promise you, your veterinarian feels the same way.
So yes, we are in it for the money but I like to think we’re in it for the money in the same way Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company – they brew Samuel Adams and are the largest U.S. owned brewery – is in it for the money and not the way that the CEO of InBev – the Belgian-Brazilian corporation that owns Budweiser – is in it for the money.
Thanks for reading.