I try not to take myself to seriously, so I laughed at the following video, called “The Completely Honest Veterinarian”. It is short and totally worth your time, if you have chosen to read this blog article.
It also resonates with feelings I have had from experiences in veterinary medicine.
I love being a veterinarian. My profession is well respected and mostly adored by the public. I am grateful to be able to offer a unique and intimate service to animal owners. I am grateful for the work done by the AVMA to advance the veterinary profession. We are, in general, a very trusted profession. However, at least two or three times a month, I hear something like, “I can never get out of the vet’s office for less than $200.” I believe there is dissatisfaction brewing in the public with the general veterinary experience.
In addition to hearing such comments from pet owners, I have seen and experienced the tension that economics injects into the exam room. Veterinarians are under more and more pressure to produce income. In addition, associate salaries are often based on commission. The more that pet owner’s spend in the hospital, the more money they take home each month. It is a good method for a veterinarian to encourage optimal healthcare, but it can also produce tension, when a client is watching their budget. In 2002, Mark Opperman was the featured speaker in a two-week business course that I took in vet school. I loved the course and bought into it. Mr. Opperman teaches veterinary practice management techniques and philosophy. His goal is to increase income for veterinary hospitals. We vets often need help with that goal, because we can be tender-hearted, people-pleasers, who do not want to “put anyone out” with expensive veterinary bills. It is a recipe for a struggling veterinary hospital. However, client-hospital economics can and often do tilt unhealthily in the other direction too. In my opinion, clients are sometimes encouraged to purchase diagnostics, procedures, and wellness care that is not commensurate with their own values in pet ownership. The veterinarian is here to serve the client’s needs for their pet. It is our job to investigate that need and educate them about their choices. It is not our job to judge them for what they choose to do or not to do. It is not our job to persuade them to do what we think their animal needs. We simply inform and provide.
There must be a balance point that successfully supports our own financial health and gives the public what they want in veterinary care – no more and no less.
I believe that the focus in my profession on increasing income is having a negative impact on the public’s trust of us. I have no doubt that we are losing some of the public’s trust. The video may feel abrasive to many vets or even pet owners. However, it does two things for me:
1) It helps me to not take myself or profession to seriously and,
2) It validates the tension that I feel towards the often high value placed on increasing the “average client transaction” in the exam room.
If one cannot laugh at the video, it is worth taking some time to ask why. Is that person protecting a part of their behavior that they feel some shame or fear around? Is the video somehow threatening something important to that person, such as personal ethics or finances? Anything of true value will never be threatened by this spoof video.