By Dr. Beth Scheenstra, DVM
As a veterinarian, you typically do your a fair share of helping with local school projects. Either it’s letters from children or visits to classrooms or fair participation. Lots of children want to become veterinarians, so it seems only fair to explain why and how I became a veterinarian.
I am what people in the industry call a “lifer”. I knew what I wanted to be from the time I could think, maybe from the womb. Basically I knew all my life I was going to be a veterinarian. Some people might say it is a calling (a strong urge to follow a career often accompanied by a divine devotion). I only know that from a very small child I wanted to be with animals as much as possible. I had the typical childhood thoughts of being random things but, they never lasted more than a month. Animals are drawn to me, and I am drawn to them. I am most at peace when I am looking into an animals eyes.
Wanting to be a veterinarian and becoming a veterinarian are two very different things. Starting at 15 years of age, I became a kennel girl (after school helper in a veterinary clinic) I continued doing that and being a veterinary assistant until I went to college (Washington State University) where I then worked on my bachelors degree in Wildlife Biology.
I worked in a variety of jobs for the university and at the College of Veterinary Medicine during my undergraduate degree to gain the important experience and references (oh, yeah and those good grades too). Finally in 2000, I went Washington State University Veterinary College to eventually graduated with my doctorate of veterinary medicine. Ready to conquer the world!
Or so I thought.
I was lucky and got a great job out of veterinary school, at a mixed animal practice in the Skagit Valley. Here under the great mentor-ship of four other more experienced veterinaries my real education began. Working both in the clinic and on the farm doing both day practice and 24 hour emergency for 3 1/2 years taught me a wide variety of medicine, surgery and life experiences.
They say that your first job as a veterinarian will help define you as a veterinarian and I do feel that this is true. Many graduates are now going to clinics that do not have emergencies, or they are specializing from the start.
I feel that it was this well rounded ‘James Herriot’ type learning experience that made me love being a veterinarian. As well as made me a better veterinarian. I also learned to appreciate a good nights sleep.
I moved on from there to work in an small animal exclusive practice, where I could better balance my work and life. I really liked being able to focus more on cats and dogs and not feeling nearly as overwhelmed by having to do it all, all the time. It was a wonderful place to work and learn, being the only doctor in the clinic some of the time and really bonding with my patients and clients. I was also able to start my family during this time, and was blessed with two daughters.
I sadly left that practice in 2013; but I have continued to be busy practicing full-time while raising my family. I absolutely love being a veterinarian, though the business side of things can be a bit draining. My goal at this stage in my career is to continue to do what I love – take care of pets and the people who care for them.