Newsweek

Veterinary Interns Speak Out Against Exploitation

Thirteen individuals described their current or former internship experience as akin to being "slave laborers."
A veterinarian fits an 8-month-old cat in a prosthetic two-wheel device, at a veterinary hospital. Some interns speaking to Newsweek reported unfair working conditions with long hours, little training and, in some cases, abuse.
01_20_veterinarian_01 Source: China Daily/REUTERS

When Sabrina finally got home from the hospital, it was pushing 10:30 pm. She was ending another 100-hour work week, and she was exhausted. But just as she was putting her bags down, the phone rang. It was work. She’d been called back in.

For Sabrina, a recently graduated veterinarian, that night ended as so many others had that year: with her on the hospital floor, sleeping three or four hours (the sole cot was reserved for more senior staff). She would awake to begin another 14-hour shift, enduring verbal abuse and disrespect. “Uppity clients curse at me weekly because they don’t like what I have to say about their animal or they don’t want to pay,” she says. “I’ve been threatened to be sued multiple times, and I’ve had a man almost hit me.” Co-workers are not much better. Technicians regularly undermine her, while senior doctors treat her as their secretary, forcing her to do their paperwork rather than providing mentorship. “It’s frustrating because we’re doctors, but we don’t get respected as such at all,” she says. “I hate it here.”

Sabrina is one of more than 2,000 newly graduated veterinarians who apply annually for an internship—a year-long stint at a university or private practice meant to hone a young vet’s skills. in 2014. For many, the programs pave the way to specialty residencies in fields like cardiology, dermatology and exotic animal medicine. Others opt in because they believe the experience will give them an edge over those who go straight into practice.

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