Thursday, July 7, 2016

Be Kind To Your Veterinarian

I came into this profession because of the animals and I have stayed because of the people. Not that the animals have become any less enjoyable, far from it, but because the people have become more enjoyable. Or perhaps more accurately my capacity to enjoy the people has improved. Regardless, it is the interaction with clients that "makes or breaks" most veterinary careers. So in aid of this, here is a list of the top seven ways clients can be kind to their veterinarian and improve that key interaction (listed from silliest to most serious):

1) Please do not talk to me while I am using the stethoscope. It is a listening device. I cannot listen to two things at once and make reasonable sense of either. 1 + 1 = 0. For the play along at home version, try following what your friend is quietly saying on the telephone while your toddler simultaneously tries to tell you a story about a problem in the bathroom.

2) Please do not take personal offense if I tell you that your pet is overweight. A client once threatened to punch one of my partners for saying this. It is merely a statement of objectively measurable fact. I am not judging you. I have a volleyball shaped cat. I get it.

3) Please avoid introducing multiple chronic medical concerns in an appointment you have booked for a simple check ear. My schedule is generally full and the receptionist has booked enough time for you for what she understood the visit to be about. Normally I am delighted to discuss the multiple chronic medical concerns, but we do need warning at the time of booking so that enough time is set aside. The domino effect of falling behind because of this can turn a pleasant day (sunshine! bunnies! roses!) into a hellish simulation of a combat zone (darkness! terror! chaos!).

4) Please do not show up at random hoping to catch me "when I have a minute" to ask me some questions. I never have a minute that is not scheduled (see above). And we are too polite to tell you that, so I will squeeze this conversation in and fall behind in my appointment schedule (see above again). Please make an appointment, leave a phone message or email if you have a question.

5) Please do not ask me why I can't figure out what's wrong with your pet moments after you've declined most of the tests I've recommended. For every set of symptoms and physical exam findings there are dozens of possible causes. My crystal ball is broken today. In fact, it is broken every day and I see little chance of it being fixed any time soon...

6) Please do not confuse anecdotes with statistics. Making decisions about your pet's health based on anecdotes would be like me taking up heavy drinking and smoking because my grandfather drank an entire bottle of wine by himself every day and smoked steadily and lived in great health to 93 years of age (a true story actually). So when I say, "vaccinations are proven to be very effective at preventing disease" (statistic), do not reply with "our farm dogs never had shots and they got pretty old" (anecdote). Statistics get a bad rap when they are used to mislead, but without them we'd still be chanting and sacrificing chickens whenever anything went wrong.

7) Please do not bring me your pet when you've already made up your mind to euthanize, telling me that you've "tried everything" when what you've actually done is "tried everything you and your neighbour whose daughter used to work at a kennel could think of and everything on the first page of Google hits". Maybe I could have helped if you'd contacted me much earlier before things went this far, or maybe not. We'll never know now will we? This makes me very sad.

And who wants to be sad?

Fortunately the above applies to a small minority of clients, so I'm not sad very much. And I've never been punched by a client. And I only drink part of a bottle of wine.

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