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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Controversy Week: Nurse Clients

Ready for me to get myself into really hot water? I'm about to tell you the type of client that veterinarians dread most. Nurses. Human nurses.

Once again, keep in mind that I'm generalizing. I have had some nurses that are great clients. I have nurses in my family. And one of my receptionists is currently in school to become a nurse. Unfortunately, the good ones are the minority.

Nurses are just about the worst kind of client vets see, and you can ask any vet about that. I have had more problems and arguments with nurses than with any other type of client. They seem to think that because they know a lot about human medicine that they know as much or more about animal medicine. They question a vet's judgment and diagnosis, argue on the necessity of basic tests, make their own decisions about which medications to use, and generally make life difficult. There is a certain arrogance in they way the talk to you and expect to know as much or more than the vet. I know I'm not the only one with this opinion, as I have yet to find a vet or veterinary staff in 11 years that doesn't agree.

Remember my receptionist who is a nursing student? I asked her about it yesterday, and she shares the opinion. She said that this is even a problem in human hospitals, and they put notes on the medical directors that the client's relative is a nurse. In the hospitals nurses will argue with the doctors and even change their orders. I was recently speaking to another vet who's brother is a nurse, and she agreed. She said that he was a horrible veterinary client, making his own diagnoses and choosing his own treatment, even if his sister the vet disagreed.

I wish I could tell you why this happens. Nurses are highly skilled, intelligent, and necessary people. Doctors would be in trouble without them, and they serve a crucial need in the human health field. They are very important to our health and well-being, and have chosen a very difficult profession that requires a lot of patience of compassion and is often thankless. Perhaps knowing that we need them and knowing that they are great with medicine creates a degree of arrogance. Maybe such strong will and opinion is necessary as a defense mechanism for dealing with their own difficult clients and patients.

To any nurses reading this, please realize that neither I nor my colleagues hate you as people. We just wish you would realize that vets are not second-class doctors. We have gone into this profession by choice, and not because we couldn't get into a human medical school. We also wish you would realize that animals are not people, and do not have the same anatomies or physiologies. You can't take the same knowledge about human medicine and make direct correlations to animals. Please realize that your knowledge in your profession doesn't extend to your pets. Vets really are trying to do the best thing for your dogs and cats, and really do know more about their health than you do.

And honestly, please chill out and take the chip off your shoulder!