Wal-Mart = Veterinary Hospitals

20 Jun

When I mentioned that Wal-Mart considers 36 hours full-time, my boss looked a little concerned and asked if I had considered working there.  I guess since I didn’t post this yet–she couldn’t tell I had looked into it for my blog.  No one (in America) WANTS to work at Wal-Mart.

It gets a really bad rap–some if it deserved, but let me be honest–vet hospitals aren’t that different *Truth.

I got most of this info from one of those Wal-Mart-hating documentaries.  Which I don’t think are very good, because they are so biased.  And everyone knows that documentaries are supposed to present FACTS and let the viewer form their own opinion.  The best documentary I ever saw?  “Zoo,” which detailed the Enumclaw (sp?) bestiality case.  It was so good because they didn’t attach morals to the facts of a stigmatized topic.  The Wal-Mart documentaries don’t do that.  They present pretty one-sided, jugemental, negative information about the corporation and label it as truth.

But here are some comparisons (in bold, taken from “Wal-Mart:  The High Cost of Low Prices”):

No, or extremely poor health insurence

Out of 12 years of employment at various (6 different ones?) vet hospitals in three different states, I was only offered health insurance at 2 of them.  And one of them was contingent upon working a certain number of hours (full-time status).

Eligible for Welfare

In Seattle, one of the most economically stable places IN the U.S. I was eligible for food stamps while working full-time at a vet hospital.  And I had 10 years of experience and my Animal Science Bachelor’s DEGREE (not that it matters).

Required to come early, stay late, or miss lunch–getting gypped out of breaks

This is a no-brainer at a vet hospital.  It is absolutely expected that you will come early to prepare for the day, miss lunch if it’s necessary to finish important tasks, and stay late if needed.  Breaks–unheard of.  Vet employers figure the wave-like cadence of the day and ability to walk around on your own accord actually gives you more down-time than taking 2 mandatory breaks would. . .  Make your own judgement call here.

I actually think this situation is worse at (especially privately owned) vet hospitals than at Wal-Mart, because no one is checking in on this like they might as a larger corporation.  When it happens the management says something like, “That’s the nature of veterinary medicine.”  Does that make it fair?  Or legal?  And they make no bones about it that it WILL happen, even asking at the interview if you mind.  And as an employee, what are you supposed to DO?  Well, I guess you could say you mind and NOT get the job. . .  The owners (most likely the vet) figures they themselves do it so the employees should too.  Except employees are not getting the direct and indirect benefits that the vets do.  OSHA, or whoever regulates working conditions, would have a field day if they cracked down on veterinary hospitals.

Paid low wages.

Obviously this is true at vet hospitals.  Everyone is getting paid relatively and comparatively low wages.  Look at any human field:  To work with people, you have to have certain licenses, accreditation, hours of experience. . .  There are minimum standards.  AND a human nurse or assistant can only do a sub-set of tasks.  You have a phlebotomist, x-ray technician, respiratory therapist, on and on for each small job in a hospital.  And those people are paid accordingly.  A vet assistant–needs NO license, degree, or amount of experience.  Because veterinary medicine is largely unregulated and animals are seen as expendable property, vet hospital employees are underpaid.  Veterinary employees do a little of everything, so they make substantially less than their counterparts working on people.  Also, vet employees are underpaid, because veterinarians themselves are underpaid, and it’s the trickle-down effect.

Add in steep competition to work with animals, and it’s an employer’s market.  They are able to higher pre-vet kids (anxious to garner their mandatory experience hours) that demand no benefits, are dependent on their parents so they don’t NEED insurance/high pay, and are still too naive to limit their hours or demand overtime.

Management/owners make exponentially more than employees.

Vets get paid very little compared to every other doctor, that’s true.  Also, they have a high debt-load (the highest of any professional?) to pay back.  But there is still a vast difference between their salary and that of their technicians, assistants, and receptionists.  And for the vets that own their own business (which is profitable in the longer term) this differential becomes huge.

Many hours a week–overtime pay is not paid at all, or very frowned upon.

Vet hospitals all have very long hours.  In my 12 years of experience, I have worked only as short as 8.5 hours (at full-time).  But I have worked an average of 9 hour days, and even as long as 13+ hour days (emergency) and 50+ hour weeks (holiday boarding).  I have only worked at ONE vet hospital that paid overtime wages if you worked over a full-time load in a pay-period.  And the management really makes a great effort to keep people under that number of hours, giving longer lunches, sending someone home early, giving extra days off when a person gets close to over-time by covering someone else’s time. . .  And of course ALL vet hospitals make you work during some part of the weekend (the busiest time).  And four of them REQUIRED me to work holidays–only two of them with extra compensation.

Not mentioned by Wal-Mart employees that is true of vet hospitals:

-unpaid working interviews

-must purchase own (mandatory) uniform–4 of my 6 hospitals, at least.

-little or no training, especially in an official capacity

-as an off-shoot of that, maybe getting thrown into a (possibly life or death to the patient) situation you are not comfortable with or not knowledgeable enough to do.

-handling chemicals +/- appropriate protection

-working short-staffed (more often than not)

-sick leave very frowned upon, or not granted at all.  Because a small business is dependent on each and every employee every day they are scheduled.

So I can’t say I felt all that sympathetic toward the (American) Wal-Mart employees featured on the documentary.  Biggest difference is that Wal-Mart is one, huge corporate entity so the public is more AWARE of these problems.  All the items above plus crazy people and poop–Wal-Mart and veterinary hospitals-just may be the SAME job 🙂


5 Responses to “Wal-Mart = Veterinary Hospitals”

  1. Holly August 25, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

    It sounds to me like you are burnt out and bored with you current career. It is great that you are planning for the future, expanding your education, etc. I agree there are problems in the field, as there are in every career field. I do not feel that modernmrsdanvers was cutting you down or portraying you as a villain in any way. I feel you are being a bit sensitive about this.

    “JUST because problems are unknown, commonplace, or “the way things have have been done” doesn’t make them right.”

    No truer words spoken. I agree completely. But I disagree with the labor violations you mentioned. If you were threatened with losing your job by refusing to work hours without pay that is a different story. You could easily have reported any incidents you felt were wrongful and appropriate authorities would look into it Practice owners would be warned, fined or even lose their business license. I know that due to the recession when some unexpected coverage was needed at my veterinary practice the owner made it very clear that she could not afford the over time. On only one occasion did she have to cover the practice in the absence of support staff. And that was due to employees dropping like flies due to the flu. She saw patients, did lab work, answered phones, cleaned kennels and walked dogs. It was either that or shut down for the day and loose an incredible amount of income and not be able to pay her staff. On all other occasions the staff rose to the occasion in an effort to have harmony.

    I have known two veterinarians who were born with silver spoons in their mouths and never worked a day in their life until they started practicing. Other than that every veterinarian I have ever known has done kennels, reception, teching and everything in between prior to getting that license.

    I feel bad, as if you have only worked for horrible employers who took advantage of their staff, and these employers do exist. But to claim that it is the case in every veterinary hospital is ludicrous.

  2. modernmrsdanvers July 7, 2012 at 8:03 PM #

    As a practice owner and veterinarian, I honestly think you don’t need to be working at a veterinary practice if that’s the way you truly feel. Small clinics are losing revenue to larger, corporate owned practices as well as pharmacy income that supplemented the other parts of the practice. My employees have insurance and paid time off that they can use for whatever they want. Do you know what two of them did while I was having intestinal biopsies done? Made a cat toy. Out of a box. The biggest irony is I make less than any of them. So if you truly believe our profession is Walmart, I respectfully suggest you get some education on how you run a business, especially in a struggling field in the midst of a recession.

    • kit10phish July 8, 2012 at 1:08 PM #

      Because of the afore-mentioned problems with veterinary medicine–I wish I could find work elsewhere! I am working on that via pursuing higher education. My personal situation does not change the fact there are large problems in the field. As a professional in the field, you should at least be able to knowledge those deficits, instead of cutting me down and portraying me as a villain to veterinary medicine at large because I speak MY truthful experience.

      You should read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair and “Triangle Fire” by David Von Drehle. They illustrate that JUST because problems are unknown, commonplace, or “the way things have have been done” doesn’t make them right. Lack of money and a recession is no excuse to perppetuate the labor violations I speak of in my post.

      Also, I would question you–how many vet hospitals have you worked at? And at how many of those were you NOT a DVM? It is a whole different world beteween the vets and employees at jobs, and your comment makes me suspect that you don’t have all that much vareity in work history. Otherwise you would realize your situation is not the norm.

      Anyhow, thanks for reading, and I’m glad, though your comments were heated and personally attacked me, that they generated some discussion.


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