The staff at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Washington State University stand out not only for the exceptional and lifesaving care they provide but also for how they go out of their way to treat all pets and their owners with the highest levels of respect and compassion.
While Stephen Short, a patient service coordinator in community practice, does not directly care for animals, his dedication and passion for veterinary medicine and the hospital’s patients and clients have been on display every day since he joined the team more than six years ago.
Stephen, originally from Walla Walla, Washington, lives in Pullman with his dog, Wednesday (who, he says, runs his life), and his girlfriend Mimi (who, he adds, is the “assistant runner” of his life).
He recently took the time to discuss his experiences at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital and other thoughts.
What is your typical day like at the hospital?
The typical day is chaos. There are only a handful of tasks I need to complete each day, but most of my time is spent answering questions from clients and co-workers, working patients in, and coordinating with other services of the hospital – and all of that is dependent on what particular animal needs help at that point. I am often approached by doctors, technicians, students, and staff about any number of things. I feel kind of like a Swiss army knife; I have all of this random knowledge (and experience) about things at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, so people just come to me as if I know everything – I sometimes do.
What made you want to work in veterinary medicine and at the teaching hospital?
Honestly? Money. Not that it pays exceptionally well, but I needed to pay the bills somehow. The hospital had an opening at the right time, and I left a super toxic job to come here. I had no experience in veterinary medicine prior to my job here, but I did come into the job with some medical knowledge, having worked in a human clinic’s billing office for a year or so and taking a bunch of classes at Walla Walla Community College with aspirations of becoming a radiology technician. Medical stuff is fascinating to me. It’s not an easy field to work in for most people, but it does entertain my brain a fair bit.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing about my job is helping doctors. Veterinarians and technicians are really undervalued, and people don’t give them the same respect as they would a human doctor. Not trying to take anything away from human medical workers, they have their own baggage as well, but veterinarians diagnose multiple species with issues from a patient that can’t speak a word. Imagine if you went to a doctor in another country and couldn’t speak the same language – you’d be playing charades with them while they try to help you. Also imagine if that doctor was scared you might bite them if they touched your elbow wrong. I get value in my job from making the doctor’s lives easier.
What are your career goals?
I’m going to return to college to finish up my bachelor’s degree. I’m majoring in English, which is probably not very smart. Hopefully, I will have a career in 5-10 years, and if I didn’t have to leave my house to do it, that would be pretty cool, too. I think being a writer would be a lot of fun. Anyone can be a writer, though. I want to be a writer who can pay their power bill.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I like to relax. Seems silly to point out the obvious, but I honestly like to have as few plans as possible and just chill at home with my dog and play some video games. I also make music, write, and basically do anything creative. I started collecting vinyl records a couple years back because I wanted to support some of my favorite musicians. As someone who makes music, I’m well aware of how much Spotify pays. Music is one of my only loves, so I want to encourage the musicians who have helped me to keep on truckin’, or at the very least thank them for their service. Coffee is also good; I like to drink coffee inside and outside of work.
What advice do you have for pet owners?
Plan ahead, get your pets vaccinated, and know that they have needs just like you do. Listen to your veterinarian when they give you medical recommendations rather than your neighbor or your breeder. Also, googling symptoms usually isn’t a good idea; probably best to just call your veterinarian if you have any concerns.