Female veterinarian: "Clients could hear the insecurity in my voice"

Female veterinarian: "Clients could hear the insecurity in my voice"

Jun 01, 2008

Liz Hardesty, DVM
I'm the doctor who's the subject of this article. When I heard that one of my clients thought she could talk me out of anything, I knew I must have seen that pet owner during my first two years of practice. And I was pretty sure I recommended that she get her dog's teeth cleaned. Early on, I was insecure about my knowledge of dentistry, and I've come to realize that my clients could hear the insecurity in my voice.

I've been practicing for five years now, all of them at Frontier Veterinary Hospital in Hillsboro, Ore. Over the last three years, I've taken more than 30 dentistry-related CE credits. It used to be that if I had to perform an extraction, I'd feel like curling up in the fetal position. Now I can do a carnassial extraction in 10 minutes.

When I found out my first dental course would focus heavily on communication, I thought, "Ugh, we're going to be talking about all this unnecessary stuff." But now I know that a complete overhaul of my approach to dentistry was as much about client communication as medicine. I take time to articulate to clients the reasons behind the costs of dental procedures. I listen to and validate their concerns, but I also educate them about the importance of dental health. The time I spend on dentistry is divided between doing extractions and explaining my recommendations to clients. Incidentally, my compliance numbers are up to between 30 percent and 35 percent.

Did the continuing education courses and years of experience play a part in my improved numbers? Absolutely. But I also think I've learned to communicate more effectively and more directly—without trying to sound like a man. I never tell clients that they must do something. That's not my style, and it never will be. But I do provide them only with the options I feel good about. As women, it's in our natures to be softer around the edges. And I'll always be striving to capitalize on that while still making strong, confident recommendations.