In addition to Tuesday being my heart hound’s 7th birthday (Happy Birthday, sweet Jager!!!), it’s also my work anniversary at my clinic! I’ve officially been working in a small town companion animal general practice for 4 years, and figured I would share the pearls I’ve learned so far in my time here. While there are more, this seemed like a good limit and so here are Four Things I’ve Learned in Four Years of General Practice.
- Being a vet is all about people. I do not particularly love small talk. I am an introvert, and my Myers-Briggs type is all about deep, logical, personal connections with a few select people. I love animals, and in some way, figured that working with animals in the medical field would be less people-intensive than working with humans in the medical field. (Not that I ever wanted to work with humans in any medical capacity, just that I assumed I would have less human interaction than an MD or DDS or something…) Oh, how wrong I was. Not only do I actually work with a team of people who, shockingly, are not robots and have lives and feelings and problems and things to be celebrated and are awesome in every way, but every animal that walks in has a leash or carrier that is attached to the hand of a…. drumrollllllll….. HUMAN BEING! Yup, and I have to interact with that human to find out clues about the patient’s medical condition, or make sure my treatment protocols are working, or advise on what to do next for their pet’s care, or any number of other things. Lots of people time, with a sprinkling of puppies and kittens and adult animals mixed in.
- You can’t care about the animal more than the owner does. This has been a hard lesson to learn. My bleeding heart can become anemic some days, carrying the burdens of all my sick patients and their owner’s financial limitations or situational constrains that prevent treatment. I’ve had to realize that if I offer the gold standard of care, and that gets declined, I can’t take it personally, and I can’t possibly know what is going on in the owner’s head or home as to why that care option won’t work for them. But I can assume that they love their pet enough to come to see me, so I do the best I can to meet them where they are and find a way to work within their limits. Just because I like to think I would spare no expense to ensure my pets’ treatment needs were fulfilled, doesn’t mean everyone else feels that way or even that I really could do that if that situation arose. And just because our pets are part of our family and we have them living in our house, doesn’t mean everyone has to feel that way about their pets.
- People don’t care how much you know, till they know how much you care. Along the lines of the other two, no one wants to hear how smart or how educated a person is when it comes to a loved one’s health, until they know you care about their loved one. And to be honest, the day I don’t care about my patients and empathize with their owners when one is sick is the day I need to find a new career.
- Laughter really is the best medicine. Clients, techs, kids, and even myself say the darndest things. If we can’t laugh together, I’m not sure we’ll be a good fit together. I had a client ask me “when are we due?” and I immediately looked up her dog’s vaccine records– she was referring to my obvious baby bump. We all laughed about that together. Another client told me once that his dog couldn’t get rabies because he had dewclaws, implying that a virus checks for “thumbs” before infecting a host. Me and my vet school besties got a huge laugh out of that. (I gently and kindly informed of the truth, and he promptly got his dog vaccinated, but it was so innocently naive and funny!) A client’s daughter with cochlear implants asked if her dog’s ear infections would make him need cochlear implants like her one day, so she could have “a disabled dog”. When I told her no, it wasn’t going to be that bad after I treated the infection, she said “darn, I guess we’ll just have to order him a wheelchair and make him have a fake disability like everyone else does”. Her parents and I busted out laughing! Our receptionist is a sassy imp of a character and can always make us laugh. One of the techs is unintentionally funny all the time. Believe it or not, I am also pretty funny. (Sometimes on purpose, even!) When you try to find the humor in your day, it brings out the best day possible.
There’s more, but these are some of the most important lessons that translate to other areas of life. What has your job taught you?
I’m questioning my education/ Is my education who I am now?/ I’m questioning my own equation/ Is my own equation relevant somehow? -Pearl Jam
Grace and Peace,