What do you do for a living?
I am a board certified veterinary surgeon.
How would you describe what you do?
My practice is different than most because my team and I travel to a number of animal hospitals and perform specialty surgery in their operating rooms
What does your work entail?
I perform specialty surgery on dogs and cats. The surgical procedures I perform are ones that general practitioners typically would not be doing. The most common surgery I perform is cranial cruciate repair (same as the ACL in humans).
What’s a typical workweek like?
I perform surgery 4 days a week- Monday through Thursday. Our team (me and two assistants) usually goes to two or three different animal hospitals each day. We carry all of our equipment and supplies with us. We are usually working with one of the hospital’s technicians and with the veterinarian on the case.
How did you get started?
I was working in another state and saw a surgeon who was doing mobile surgery and thought that would be a good fit for me. I am someone who loves what I do so I have a tendency to be a workaholic. This type of practice would enable me to have more control over my schedule, like not having to do emergency or having to work weekends.
What do you like about what you do?
I love my job! I love interacting with all of the different people we work with. I consider it an absolute privilege to get to perform surgery on pets who our clients hold so dear. I love getting to do rechecks on my patients and seeing how well they are doing and know that I helped them get back to living a good life. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What do you dislike?
Surgery though it is fun and rewarding, it is also stressful and demanding, so sometimes it can be draining mentally and physically (which is why I only operate 4 days instead of 5 days now!)
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I bill the hospital where I am operating out of and they pay me directly. This is one of the best things about my job because unlike most veterinarians I do not have to ever discuss the bill! Also we usually do not have to deal with insurance companies unlike our human counterparts.
How much money do Veterinary Surgeons make?
The money a veterinary surgeon makes is variable. Starting salaries usually are around 125K and go up from there. A practice owner is typically going to make 200K plus.
How much money did you make starting out?
I started my business 10 years ago, and my take home pay the first year was only 22K. Thankfully I make a lot more than that now!
What education, schooling or skills are needed to do this?
It does take a lot of school and training to become a board certified veterinary surgeon. In order to get into veterinary school, you must complete your prerequisites with really good grades (3.4 and up) as well as get as much experience as possible. During veterinary school, you must work on keeping your grades high as well as gaining as much experience as possible. After graduation, you must complete an internship, though some people end up completing two internships in order to get a surgical residency. Surgical residencies are extremely competitive and hard to get. Once you finish a 3-year surgical residency, you must sit for your boards (a three day exam) and once you pass that you are then a board-certified veterinary surgeon.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The surgery itself can be mentally and physically demanding. It is also challenging to be the best leader I can be for my team and this is something I am always working to improve.
What is most rewarding?
Seeing patients of mine getting back to living normal and happy lives.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
They need to be willing to commit to long hours and hard work to become great at what they do. It has been reported in many places that it takes 10,000 hours to truly become an expert at a discipline and surgery is not different! You must be committed to continually improving yourself.
How much time off do you get/take?
I am the owner so in theory I can take as much time off as I want. I usually take one week off in the summer and another around Christmas. I am much more likely to take a day or two off here and there rather than a big block of time because currently I am the only surgeon and I want to make sure we are serving our customers.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
I think the general public is surprised that there are specialists for their pets and that our years in training are so similar to physicians.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I am passionate about small business and leadership. I believe there is a real need to have practice owners become the best leaders they can be and I have a few projects I am working on to help fill that need.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
If you are willing to put in the time and the effort, I personally do not think there is a better job out there!