Pets at the heart of veterinary practice
I’ve owned several veterinary hospitals, and I know what it’s like to hear the competing voices in your head as you head into an exam room. A pet under your care may have taken a turn for the worse—or worse, you may have just dealt with an upset client. Maybe the exam rooms are backed up. Perhaps there are nagging and urgent employee issues, or it’s that time of month when supplier bills and payroll are due, and you’re squeezing a dollar bill so tight that George is having to wear a truss.
But I always tried to remember what the dominant thought in my head should be as I open that door and get ready to introduce myself to a pet and its owner: what’s in the pet’s best interest.
I now work as an associate veterinarian at two clinics in Northern Idaho, and while I no longer deal with make-or-break employee or financial issues, at times I still struggle to leave behind what just happened in the last exam room and prepare myself for what will happen during my schedule ahead. Will all my patients have a Fear Free experience under my care, one that lessens stress before, during and after the visit? Will I arrive at an accurate diagnosis? Will pet owners like me? Will they accept my professional recommendations and be able to pay for the treatment plan I’ve outlined?
Years ago, in a conversation with Dr. Scott Campbell, founder of Banfield Pet Hospitals, he said to me, “You can be accused of being late for an appointment, missing a diagnosis or charging too much. But never, ever be accused of not looking after the pet’s best interests.” This is a mantra I’ve carried with me for almost three decades.
We can be pet owner advocates before or after the exam room. But in the exam room we are spokespersons for pets’ best interests. We must recommend what the pet needs. We must recommend the highest level of care—only the owner can decrease that level of care. Not us.
If you have the pets’ best interests in mind as you enter the high temple of veterinary medicine otherwise known as the exam room, it gets transmitted through your voice, body language and touch. It’s palpable and powerful.
Dr. Marty Becker, Veterinary Economics Practice Leadership Editor and CVC speaker, is author of The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy and 21 other books. He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho.