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The Care and Feeding of Your Veterinarian

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326 – November/December 2019

By Sandy Weaver
How well do you know your veterinarian and their staff? When you arrive, do you use their names and ask how they’ve been, or are you on a mission to check “visit the vet” off your to-do list? Do you treat staff like servants and the vet like an expensive necessity?
If you knew that your attitude and the way you treat the staff could save a life, would that make a difference to you?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), male veterinarians are 2.1 times as likely as the general population to die by suicide, while female veterinarians are 3.5 times as likely.
Let that sink in.
The people who care for your dogs could be living with suicidal desperation hidden underneath their professional demeanor. How you behave towards them has an affect on their level of stress, which has a direct impact on the decisions they make.
Maybe you’ve known a veterinarian or vet tech who has died by suicide. I have. It was a surprise, even though I knew he wasn’t a very happy person. There are a lot of not-very-happy people who lead long, full lives and it shocked me that someone so caring, so concerned with the health of his own physical body and so smart would intentionally end his life.
Here’s what you need to know…
Veterinarians spend a long time in school, which means they spend a lot of money on education. They come out of vet school with the knowledge of how to care for animals, not much knowledge on the business aspects of being in practice, and often with huge student loans to pay off.
Veterinarians enter the field because they love animals and want to help them. The reality is that they end up dealing with people all day – clients and staff – and that’s not part of their training either.
Refer back to 1 and 2 – they want to help animals and end up dealing with clients who are often non-compliant. Heck, most people don’t take their own medications as directed by their doctors – they’re even worse when it comes to dosing their pets. The owner is often the reason the pet doesn’t get better.
In the average veterinary practice, fifteen euthanasia procedures per month are performed. These are typically animals that have been seen in the practice for years, meaning the veterinarian has a relationship with the owner and animal. And sometimes clients request euthanasia on healthy animals, putting the vet in a very tough spot.
Almost 100% of the time, it’s the veterinarian who counsels the owner on euthanasia. Basically, vets do a “sales job” on how it’s a gift that owners can give their animals, how it ends their pet’s suffering and pain, and how it’s the right thing to do. These conversations happen many times each week. Is it such a surprise that those feeling extreme stress and desperation might see suicide as an end to their own suffering and pain?
You need this information because you, as a person who cares about dogs, need to understand the role you might unwittingly play in the stress your veterinarian and their team feels. Here are three things you can do to keep from contributing to their stress:

Respect the hospital schedule. Unless you’ve specifically been told it’s OK, don’t call or text your vet outside of their regular hours. It’s not uncommon for a veterinarian to work 50-60 hours per week, with some of those hours being deep inside what should be their down time. If you value work/life balance for yourself, respect others’ need for it, too.
Respect the veterinarian and the hospital staff. They are highly skilled, intelligent people who do what they do because they want to help animals. Learn their names and hobbies. Take gifts for the staff now and then, and not just at the holidays. Address them as the valuable human beings they are, not as glorified kennel help. (And while we’re at it, if you’re disrespectful to anyone on a regular basis, knock it off!)
When your vet gives you instructions, follow them. To.The.Letter. They want your furry friend to get better, just like you do, and they’re the ones with the training to get the job done. Trust them, follow instructions, and enjoy the big smile when you go in for the follow-up appointment and your vet gets to see the success they created, with your help. If there isn’t a follow-up appointment scheduled, remember to call and let them know that your dog is back to normal, thanks to their care. Send a picture – send a thank-you card – make your dog’s care team feel remembered, appreciated and respected.
Now that you know all of this, there’s one more thing you can do to help save lives – share this information every chance you get.
The life you save may be your vet’s.

Sandy Weaver is an author, consultant and professional speaker who works with veterinarians to implement/improve well-being programs in their hospitals. She also judges some Working breeds. When she’s not traveling to consult, speak or to judge, she’s spoiling her two retired Siberian Huskies.

 Click here to read the complete article
326 – November/December 2019

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Posted by on Dec 3 2019. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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