Monday, October 24, 2011

10 Things Your Veterinary Staff Person (Probably) Won't Tell You

I have a subscription to Reader’s Digest magazine.  Yes, the paper version.  Call me old-fashioned.  I am an avid reader, and Reader’s Digest makes for good bathroom reading.  One feature they have been doing recently is “50 Things Your ______ Won’t Tell You”.  For example, “50 Things Your Nurse Won’t Tell You” or “50 Things Your Airline Pilot Won’t Tell You”.  I find these fascinating, because they lift the curtain on certain professions.  Often, a professional, because they must act professionally,  is rarely able to directly explain why they do things the way they do, what rules they have to follow, or how they feel about certain things.  Nonetheless, those factors impact all of us as consumers in one way or the other.  It's not that they won't tell you, it's mostly that they really can't, for one reason or another, though they'd like to.

I work in a veterinary hospital.  There are some who think that my job is nothing more than glorified play with doggies and kitties.  There is more, much more to it than most people outside the profession could ever know.  Almost every single thing we do (and don’t do) with you and your pet is due to a law, a professional protocol, or from some past experience that has influenced our practices.

Instead of clogging this blog with 50 things your veterinary staff person won’t tell you, I am going to limit it to ten for now.  This posting, for the record, is NOT sanctioned by my employer!  It all comes from little old me and the observations and experiences I have had.  And while these are based on my veterinary clinic, I feel safe in saying that they apply to almost all of them, wherever you are.

1.       Your cat may indeed be the sweetest feline known to mankind.  However, with the stress of a vehicle ride and the strange sights, sounds, and smells of the vet’s office, they may not be themselves.  Please put them in a cat carrier for everyone’s safety, especially theirs.  You can even borrow one from us.

2.       And your dog may indeed be the sweetest canine known to mankind.  However, with strange sights, sounds and smells of the vet’s office, they also may not be themselves.  (Plus, the other animals they could go up to greet in the waiting room might not be as friendly as they are.)  Please keep your dog on a leash for everyone’s safety, especially theirs. We have leashes on hand if you don't have one or forgot yours.

3.       If the veterinarian recommends blood tests or x-rays, it is not a way for us to get more money from you.  If anything, it is more work for us.  However, the veterinarian would only order them if she didn’t have enough information to make the best possible medical decision for your pet.  And after all, isn’t that what you want for them?

4.       If you sense that there is something seriously wrong with your pet, don’t wait until 4:55 on a Friday afternoon to call us, especially if it has been going on for a while.  It will save you money, save us time, and save your pet needless suffering if you nip a problem in the bud when it first emerges.  And please, don't call the vet at 1:30 in the morning because your dog is itchy. That's not an emergency. (It has happened more than once!)

5.       Ours is a real medical facility, just like your own doctor’s office.  Unless it is an emergency, we probably won’t be able to schedule you for an appointment the same day you call, just like your own doctor’s office.  That day’s appointments were made by people who called several days before.

6.       We know that prescription diets are often very expensive.  We are embarrassed by it ourselves. The prices are set by the manufacturer, and we make virtually no profit on them. However, they are “prescriptions” and are therefore medically necessary for treating whatever condition your pet has.  The upside of them is that they contain higher-quality ingredients and less filler (No eyeballs and toes in there!), so your pet should be eating less of it to meet their nutritional needs.  

7.       Unpredictable animals, medical emergencies, unpredictable animals, equipment troubles, unpredictable animals, lack of staff some days, and unpredictable animals are going to cause delays.  (And did I mention unpredictable animals?) We like to avoid these things, we really do, but that’s just not always possible.  We don’t like making you wait any more than you like waiting, rest assured.

8.       By law, only a licensed veterinarian can diagnose your pet, give a prognosis on the possible outcome of their condition, do surgery, or issue a prescription.  The other staff members are there to assist the vet in doing these things.  They cannot legally do them on their own, no matter how easy it might seem.  Our vet's license is on the line, even if we hand out a simple tube of ear cream without following certain protocols.

9.       Veterinary care can be expensive, so you might want to have a rainy-day fund in case of an emergency.  There are supplies, salaries, utilities, equipment, upkeep of the facility and numerous other things whose costs are out of our hands.  Our small business must pay for all that stuff before even a penny of profit is made.    We’d love to be able to provide our services for free, but it just isn’t realistic.  And don't get me started on people who stiff us on their bills!  After all, you wouldn't walk out of the supermarket saying "I've only got $10 on me to give you, but I'll bring the rest of the money for all this at the beginning of the month."  (At least I hope you wouldn't.)

10.   Every member of the veterinary staff is in this line of work because they really and truly love animals.  They love your animal, but they also must adhere to laws as well as medical and safety protocols in order to maintain everyone’s best interests, especially your pet’s.  Things are not always as obvious and simple as they may seem.

      ***One more thing...paperwork.  You hate it.  We hate it more.  Dogs like to chew it.  Cats like to shred it.  It is, however, absolutely necessary in any medical office, I'm afraid.  We know it seems cumbersome and repetitive at times, but it is one of those things that covers you, us, and your pet from something potentially bad happening.  Humor us.  Please, just fill it out.  And don't whine.

      Okay, so technically that's eleven.  Who's counting?  Hopefully by letting you in on a few of these things, it will make your pet's next visit to the vet go a bit more smoothly, wherever you take them.

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