Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Complacency of Not Taking Charge AND Protecting Your Staff. How angry clients cost your practice.

This is my pup Jekyll. 

Not unlike many of my clients, my pup is truly the apple of my eye and the flutter in my heart. I love him to pieces. He is wearing his pink wrap vest because he just had two masses removed. He is my kid and also on occasion, my patient. The little bump I removed started quietly and casually enough looking just like a little fatty tumor, on his sternum. I waited, it persisted, and after three weeks when it still didn't take the hint and depart, I poked it with a needle to send some cells to the lab for cytological identification. It certainly "felt" to my fingertips like it would be a fatty tumor (what we call a lipoma). But, as soon as I stuck it, my fingers felt betrayed! I poked that mass and felt "grit!" UGH! This wasn't going to be a lipoma I told myself. This little bubble bastard meant business. Lucky for Jekyll I take no prisoners when it comes to health care! 

Jekyll getting prepped for his mass removal surgery.

When his back met the surgery table there were two little bubbles. With a reluctant and anxious hands I cut them out. He did fine trough his surgery (thanks to the powers above) versus I needed a big glass of wine. His histopath biopsies came back as a mast cell tumor, the other a lipoma. And so begins the stress filled life of being a mom to a kid who you have to do surgery on, monitor post-op, and worry about every little bump that arises on his body. Yes, I worry, he is MY KID!

Being a parent is a responsibility I hold with paramount importance. My emotional attachment to my pup compels me to get up an hour before I have to, allowing him to go for an early morning run. His floppy ear, wagging dancing butt happy dance, long velvet ears (even when slightly smelly) and happy toothy grin are all enough to convince me to sneak tidbits under the table, life him into bed at night, and buy cars that allow multiple four legged passengers. We bought our home specifically so that there was ample room to do intense dirt sniffing, wildlife viewing and long runs without any chance of neighbors, cars, or obstruction. Our dog devotion is complete and unapologetic. I am an over worried, over doting and somewhat tightly wound mom.

My husband and Jekyll's brother, Charleston, after a long day.

Does this deep affection blur my ability to act like a rational human being with other human beings?. Well, I hope not, but then I see it happen  every day in practice. Clients are either so emotionally invested they get overwhelmed and can't process their emotions. While others are just plain old angry that they have to pay for goods and services. Every experienced vet will attest to people arguing that they shouldn't be help financially responsible because the "cat was a stray," or, "we are vets and therefore public servants."

No matter how hard you try to elude them there are rude, belligerent and offensively awful people along the road of life. Out on the street, in public we each have a choice in how we elect to deal with them. Say, for example, that guy being rude to the waitress at the table next to you, you can choose to sit idly and ignore it. Or, you can apologize to the waitress for him. Or, you can get up and tell him that his behavior is unacceptable. Sure, you can use your voice and help others, or, you can permit the cancer to spread. Complacency is acceptance.

An injured, malnourished and sick rescue dog seeks help at our clinic.
Veterinary medicine is a service based industry. (Seems many of us forget to fill-in that bubble on the application to veterinary school). For those of us who entered veterinary medicine "because we prefer pets to people" it can be a harsh reality check when you face the daunting task of building a successful career when you lack social skills. For many vets it is the single reason they chose to leave practice. It is the people who kill you, never the pets.

At my practice there are a few ground rules. One of them is that we do not treat each other or anybody else badly, and in return the same is expected. If someone is upset we apologize, try to resolve, and if this doesn't work you call for back up. Either myself, the vet on duty, or the hospital administrator will come to the rescue. If that doesn't work the police will come and escort them out. In some cases we agree to disagree and I will provide a nicely worded letter about how "we have failed to meet their expectations and that their pet will be better served elsewhere." Vets as a general population have to get better at this. Our clients leave us all the time.

Where is bad behavior in the clinic at its worst? To the front desk and the technicians. Rarely do the reprehensible clients direct it at the vets. (That's somewhat disturbing). Now I know my clinic is not alone in this dilemma. I also know that many (waay tooo many) practice owners, managers, by standers, sit by and let the shit get slung at anyone as long as it isn't at them. That my friends is the real problem here. Why do people let other people treat them so terribly? How can a job that pays $10 to $16 dollars an hour be worth that? And if your boss doesn't have your back who will? The customer can always be right, but they cannot ever be belligerent, abusive, or even tolerated. Even if your heart is being broken, or your wallet being hit.

As part of one of my many 2016 New Years resolutions I am walking away from the battles I cannot win and I am going to keep trying to make the world a little better for the people who can't stand up to a bully.

And as a new year faces us I wondered how many people had jotted down "world peace", "be happier", etc.? Surely a few of us? I decided that if I was audacious enough to wish the same it was time to both live it and expect it. Not so easy when I have myself and a clinic full of others, along with the communities extended family within my sphere of influence.

I posted this plea on Facebook a few weeks ago after having yet another heart to heart with a client who was yelling profanities at a receptionist (because they had wanted their prescription "filled NOW! and were not going to wait for a vet to fill it).

Personal plea from Dr. Magnifico;
How many of us made a New Years resolution to be happier? (Hopefully a few of us). 
Over the last few days I have had to personally call out a few clients for being rude and inexcusably angry to the staff here at JVC. 
The staff here are all people who take care of your pets with love, compassion, and often at pay scales that are not adequate for the grief they have to tolerate. 
Please remember to be nice to those who provide your pets care and please know that none of us should tolerate abusive behavior to any living being. We are all in this together. 
And PS we never forget..

I received a multitude of accolades from people who identified with the bad behavior being tolerated. I also noted that we lost three "friends" to our Facebook page after this post.

Sadly, some of our hardest clients are some of our most devoted pet parents. I get it, I am a little whacky about my pet health care too. I just don't permit profanity vomit on the staff.

If anyone ever asks my how Jarrettsville became so successful I very openly and honestly admit that it is because of the amazing people that work there. We have assembled a team of compassionate, intelligent, generous people who are as devoted to pets as I am. We also pay them well, and protect them every step of the way. This job is hard but being intimidated, dismissed, or treated poorly defeats our purpose of helping others. That is my job; to maintain our purpose and protect my staff, patients, and clients. 

Jarrettsville Vet also has the most inspiring clients. They help us with cases that no one else would go near. Cases like Dunkin, Olivia, Ruby (photo with me above), and our newest member of the Good Samaritan Fund, Miss Pink (her story to follow soon). Being emotionally connected to our pets makes us human. Treating each other humanely is the how we serve our pets in the spirit of the unconditional love they so willingly convey back to us.

Pet care is a team effort. Maintaining a healthy and happy team is how we promote a productive and effective team. Please remember that all of us have a responsibility in this.

If you would like to come meet the best clinic on the planet please bring your happy self by anytime. If you would like to follow me I am on Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or you can ask me any free pet question at


  1. "Raised by Wolves" is a category I use for some folks. It's the only explanation. I say it out loud more and more frequently.
    (No need to answer about how socially advanced wolves are. No offense to wolves intended:)

  2. What a great post. Kindness doesn't hurt and it's always been free to give. Thanks for taking the time to write this, hope the right people receive the message.