Thursday, March 5, 2015

We Don't See You. How Vet's Became Biased and Lost Our Clients in the Process.

While listening to the debate about how police officers have become biased to assuming black men are more likely to be criminals and the backlash of distrust this has caused in many communities here in the USA I was left to ponder how our profession has become so divided? If racial bias is alive, well, and in the eyes of those sworn to serve and protect ALL us, is it also alive and well in our profession?

When did we become the veterinarians who treated clients like pestering annoyances? What desirable end result does treating them as inconvenient mouths with unrealistic demands inhibiting us from pandering in their wallets have? If we came into this job for the love of pets why are we so burnt out, bitter and begrudgingly bemoaning the pets caregivers?

Think I'm wrong? Ask yourself this the next time?

If those cops on the street see so much crime, abuse and atrocities to our fellow man how can they not face a a hostile environment with bias? Isn't it a matter of survival? How do you protect your ability to go back to work tomorrow, protect yourself, and not become hardened?

Then there is our life... How do we try to maintain a purpose of helping pets when so many of the care decisions are decided by the degree of those numbers that proceed that diagnostic and treatment plan dollar sign? Or, when clients request that we relieve them of the burden of that pet that we know they paid what it takes us a week to earn due to moving, life style change, or recommendations to provide care they cannot allot time for? Our survival instincts remind us to smile, look the part, but dump and run should we be asked to play the part. We are all guilty of it. That client who walks in at the end of the day and needs a surgery we are just not compensated well enough to do, or too tired to face, so we say "No," and send them on their way. After all, what happens when they get down the road isn't our problem, is it?

I don't know that I have the answers when it comes to keeping the balance? How to care enough to be paid what those framed diplomas on the wall compensate for? I don't know how to tell one client who needs me "No," versus another who can pay upfront, "Yes."

How do you NOT get tired, frustrated, burnt. bitter, or bankrupt? I think many of us choose to step away from them in an effort to preserve ourselves?

In a friendly discussion with an outspoken self taught dog trainer/food advocate locally I was told this, "the education received at veterinary schools is usually provided by the large corporations that manufacture animal feed, and a raw diet of mostly meat and bones is not presented as a viable alternative." This belief is  sadly pervasive in the public's eye. We vets have been drinking the corporate Kool-Aid and are therefore biased and no longer trusted and therefore they step away from believing and trusting us..

And so the divide grows..

There is a big part of my practice owner DNA that thinks that my predecessors had a few key points right when training the next generation of veterinarians;
  1. You bust your tired, broke, naive, humble ass by showing up 6 days a week and expect that you were going to be inserting our arm up the rectum of a angry pregnant cow by 7 am. That was after you arrived at 6 am and spent an hour taking a crash course on angry pregnant cow roping.
  2. You weren't going to eat lunch Monday through Saturday.
  3. You were paid on salary which leaves you at the bosses mercy, except your boss has no mercy.
  4. 95% of the medicine, 99% of the surgery and 100% of the client communication skills you needed to succeed were going to be learned by real-life experiences based on failure and there was no one to offer assistance, advice, or a Kleenex.
  5. It was going to suck, you were going to be sure you made an idiot of yourself, and after 365 days of this you knew you could do anything that fell at your feet, even if it was thrown by some chuckling farmer testing your resolve, your perseverance, or his sense of humor.
  6. You would pass on this work ethic to the class of naive vets that followed you. It made you who you were and you recognized now that it was the only way to get there.
Aurora and Cinderella

Here's where we are;
  1. We get paid better. We can argue it's not what it should be, but let's be real, it's never going to be. You made an adult decision to do this job, you spent a fortune to get here, and you should have thought about the ROI before you put on that white coat day 1 of freshmen year.
  2. You may not like surgery, but you have got to do it. Quit the excuses, the referrals and make a difference to the patients you once were so dedicated to help. Sure, some clients can afford a specialist and they should be sent there every time possible, but there are more that go to the ER, or specialist, and get no help. Is it your fault they can't afford it? No, is that an excuse?  
  3. There is a bias. We don't care as much. We don't even care that we don't care as much. and we make a lot of excuses. 
How does our profession evolve?
Well, we can take a look around and pay attention. If your public and clients don't trust you, and you don't see them as fellow pet loving people, (some of them much more emotionally and even a few of them, significantly more financially invested in their pets than we are),  it will never get better. You also need to be hypersenstive to the great divide we are placing on pets lives. It used to be that a pet was a treatable entity even on a small budget. As our demands for higher wages grow, so too does the divide between what was once routine Dr Pol style care and the corporation behemoths wooing grads into 6 digit subconscious checklists. We are losing ground to internet experts, chatter from companies swaying opinions, providing paltry medical advice full of slander, bias, and bull-ogna.

Does the public trust every cop? Should cops trust every citizen? Is there a way to talk down the great divide between who we thought we would be? We have to see each other without the barriers, the bias, and the minutia of the minions that got us so bitter.

How does this influence veterinary medicine?
We have to see each other, remind each other that we depend on each other and that every bond between every being has value.

Where do I see the biggest divide?
We used to be personally invested in every one of our clients pets care. We took it upon ourselves to be that pets caregiver, advocate, and doctor. There was no line between OUR pet and THEIR pet. We don't see them as this any longer.

Remember what you came here for. Remind your self what you hoped to do once that stethoscope was draped on your shoulders. Be true to the heart and soul of the kid you once were. Redefine success into something you can be proud to say you do every single day. If you stop caring, you stop looking and you will start making decisions that divide you.

Related blogs;

Compassion Fatigue.

When Trying Is All That Matters.

How Many Sides Does Your Equation Have?

Taking A Stand and Facing Consequences.

What Can We Do to Help More Pets?

My Top 10 Advice to New Vets.

Making Vet Care More Accessible, How Comfortable Are You Thinking and Acting Outside the Box?

There Has to be Mercy Before Money.

Working and Living in the Land of Liability. is a place where pet people can meet to exchange pet care information. It is free and open to all whose goal is promoting responsible pet care.


  1. After having spent 25 years as a crisis counselor (I would compare that to being an ER vet) I understand where the fatigue and hopelessness comes from - but every client that came in depended on me to listen to them as individuals in order to understand their needs. I appreciate your struggle to continue to see your clients and their pets as individuals and to understand their needs.

    1. Hello!
      Many thanks for stopping by, I cannot imagine the stories and lives you met along the journey of being a crisis counselor. Amazing..
      Life is a struggle, no denying that,, perhaps it is merely a struggle to understand who we are? Even if we don't quite understand others.
      Take Good Care of Yourself,