Back from an almost 2 weeks long hiatus as life got the better of my writing.
It has been a full month since I returned to vetting, albeit now part time. Am back in the groove of consulting and seeing clients/ patients again.
Today’s topic discussion is that of treating the patient vs. treating the client.
We see a variety of cases every day, 5-7 days a week. The majority of which are animals genuinely requiring treatment/ medication/ hospitalisation.
However, a sizeable proportion of clients we see each day are those who EXPECT treatment regardless of their pet’s presenting signs.
What do we as vets do then?
The right answer? Be steadfast and firm in our original treatment plan (or none for that matter) and convince the client that Fluffy does not require Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z.
The real answer? This may not necessarily be the case every time, as the clients may start to question your skills and training as a vet just because you do not dispense a bag full of medications/ nutraceuticals.
I received a call from a frantic owner the other night. This was with regard to her young dog that was seen by her regular vets the same morning. The reported concern was that her dog was suffering and in excruciating pain. She cited that her dog was still limping when he was awake and as such required hospitalisation and opiates (morphine, fentanyl, methadone, etc).
We discussed what was done at her regular veterinarians and it turned out that the patient was dispensed what I believed was adequate pain relief. This lady called several more times through the evening and finally stopped when I assured her that her dog was not in life threatening danger and she figured that the hospitalisation + after hours consult cost was “too much”.
Had she turned up that night, would I have given her dog more analgesia?
To confidently say NO would be an outright lie. To blatantly reject that client without dispensing any medication would probably have resulted in a heated conflict at 2am that night (one I was not ready for). I would perform my consult, examine the patient and then possibly consider the necessity of other mild- moderate pain relief (probably not opiates).
As much as the priority is that of the animal, the responsibility of the human’s psyche also falls on the vet’s shoulders. If the provision of mild additional pain relief does not compromise the patient’s health and well being, yet helps alleviate some of the client’s presenting concern, it may very much be the solution I will opt for.
(That being said, had the client requested for unrelated medications such as antibiotics or whatsoever, my answer would have been a firm no.)
Even though the job scope of a veterinarian is to provide medical care for animals, we are unable to completely ignore the human aspect of the profession.
There is a fine line between over-servicing and what may be deemed as under-treating a patient. Too many a times have vets been accused of trying to rip clients off (and I believe this is an issue faced by vets all over the globe). Yet other times vets are accused of not doing enough for their pets.
Vets are often faced with this conundrum and I believe that it’s a fine balancing act that most of us have to master. Fail and you may never see that client/ patient again.
Ultimately I believe what is most crucial in this circumstance is effective communication and trust. A mutual respect between the client and vet needs to exist; that of the vet understanding the client’s concern, and that of the client trusting the vet’s opinion/ diagnosis.