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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Limiting Factor--A Vet

I've often said, and honestly felt, that I'm not really more important than anyone else on my staff.  Being a veterinarian doesn't give me any greater inherent "worth" than my techs or receptionists, and I don't feel that I'm in any way superior to them.  I couldn't do my job without them, so they are just as important to the function of my clinic as I am.

Or so I've thought, and recently discovered to the contrary.  I actually AM more important!

For the last few days I've been sick with some sort of cold that's developed into laryngitis. I've been coughing, had a sore throat, had difficulty talking, and have even off and on run a low-grade fever.  And through it all I've continued working.  Why?  I haven't had a choice.

I've had staff who come in and work while sick, and I sincerely appreciate their work ethic.  I've also had them call in sick for various reasons, and I certainly understand that.  When someone is sick and can't make it into the clinic, we always try to call someone else in to cover their shift.  However, that's not always possible to do at the last minute, and sometimes I've had to work short-handed.  We always make it through and the doctors sometimes do tasks they wouldn't otherwise have to.  It's not always easy, but it can be done.  I've answered phones, run lab tests, and even checked people in and out because we had fewer than normal people and everyone had to chip in.

When a paraprofessional calls in sick, life goes on and the clinic can still function, even if it limps a bit.  However, if the vet calls in sick, everything shuts down.  Sick patients can't be seen, pets don't get their vaccines, and surgeries get cancelled.  No matter how important the other staff are, none of them will have a job to do without the vet.

That's why I've been going to work the last few days and will go to work tomorrow.  One of my associates is out of town for the holiday and the other one is off for a few days (as well as got called to one of our other locations yesterday).  We've had a full appointment schedule and a full surgery docket, so if I didn't go in we'd have to call all of those clients, reschedule everyone, and not allow any sick pets to be seen.  Obviously that's not ideal for the clients or patients and hurts our revenues as well.  So, I go in.

Okay, before you start getting on my case, I do worry about being contagious, and have been using disinfectant wipes after I make a phone call as well as have been avoiding shaking hands with clients.  I also know that the best thing I can do to get better quickly is to stay home and rest.  But I can't close down the clinic for 2-3 days because I have a cold.

So not to belittle anyone else's job (which are VERY important to me!), but the single greatest limiting factor in the function of a veterinary clinic is the veterinarian.

And yes, if I'm not greatly improved by Friday (my next day off) I will go to see my own doctor.


  1. Dislike. Why even write a post like this? Your audience gets it: You are integral to your practice, you are so dedicated you sacrifice your health (and the health of your employees and clients) to be at work, and you are the central person at your job, so much so that everyone else would be out of work if it weren't for you. You obviously have a lot of attributes (just ask you) but from this post, it looks like you could use some humility.

  2. He said he's the limiting factor - not the most important, there IS a difference.

  3. The difference has no bearing on my comment--I did not criticize him for saying he's the most important. I have a problem with the whole tone of this post and suggest it would be more admirable if he displayed a little modesty.

  4. Feel better soon, Chris. I had a similar bug, then caught another on the upswing. Good thing I'm solo ambulatory. I did have to go out to treat a colic and tried to cough into my sleeve rather than at the clients. Recommend Ricola cough drops, which don't taste horrible and kinda work.

    kit10phish: If you've spent much time reading this blog, you'd know Chris is one of the most humble, team player veterinarian-bloggers out there. I've never met him in person, but if he practiced in my community, I'd be proud to call him a colleague, and I'd send him plenty of small animal business because he is unfailingly decent. Sand down the chip on your shoulder and re-read what he is actually saying, as the other commenter suggested.

  5. Don't hate on me for noting an arrogant post when I see one. I have enjoyed several posts, but this one is off-putting. I only know what I read--and maybe this post isn't the best representation. If he's a humble and team-player, maybe he should convey himself as such on a public forum if he doesn't want others to also misinterpret.

  6. It may not be politically correct, but Chris is right: the veterinarian is the only essential person in a veterinary practice. Everyone else, no matter how well-trained, knowledgeable, appreciated or helpful, is expendable to some degree.

    Perhaps you can explain how a practice can run without the veterinarian?

  7. Kobe Bryant may be the key to the Lakers' success--but nobody wants to hear him say it all the time! It's not entirely true, it's disrespectful to the rest of his team, and it paints him as obnoxious for having such a big head.

    The topic's main point that vets have to sometimes work sick could have been written in a manner that wasn't so egotistical, that's all. And I don't think I should be called-out for critically analyzing what I read and writing a comment, which is tied to my own internet pseudonymn and blog. I am allowed to disagree.

    Alternatives instead of working sick: Relief vet, having a tech appt day, or just this week the doctor I work for helped out at another (unrelated) practice in town b/c they had a sick vet.

  8. Alternatives instead of working sick:

    >>Relief vet

    Hard to find a good one, especially on short (<1 week) notice.

    >>having a tech appt day

    Can't perform surgeries, see sick animals, or cover emergencies. Unfortunately, the latter two are essential veterinary services.

    I can tell you've never had full responsibility for scheduling appointments; mine, like most veterinarians', are booked days or weeks in advance with a few open slots for urgent/emergent. Sorry to say, I can't predict when I'm going to be ill or injured. Once, I went straight from being treated at the emergency room to see another of my own emergencies.

    Rescheduling is a bear, and the easiest appointments to re-schedule are the ones for patients who don't need to be seen urgently.

    >>just this week the doctor I work for helped out at another (unrelated) practice in town b/c they had a sick vet.

    Chris works for a practice that is able to do this on occasion. I'm guessing he's not the only casualty of whatever virus is making the rounds. I've covered for a practice where the veterinarian died suddenly, after scrambling to ensure that my own practice was covered, of course.

    I may be a typically arrogant veterinarian, but I think you have some growing up to do.

  9. Almost forgot: your analogy was poor. The Lakers can still play basketball with another player taking Kobe Bryant's place, but they wouldn't be able to function as an NBA basketball team if Kobe Bryant were replaced by the team's personal trainer, PR agent, or water boy.

  10. It's very interesting how some subjects that I think are safe turn out to be controversial and vice-versa.

    First of all thanks to everyone who understood the post and the intent. I really don't have to defend my point with readers like this. Thanks especially for Outrider's point-by-point rebuttal, which is spot-on.

    Kit, a large part of the point of my blog is to NOT be politically correct and instead show the truth behind being a vet. That means sometimes not sugar-coating reality. You should also go back and re-read the post, as in this one alone I repeatedly say how important the rest of my team is and how hard it is to function well without them.

    However, it's simply the truth that a veterinary practice cannot function without a vet. Though I used myself as an example, I was trying to convey the idea that this is universal. I'm sorry if this came across as arrogant, because that was never my intention. Let me try to phrase it more simply.

    A veterinary practice cannot succeed without a great supporting staff, but it cannot even function without a vet. When the vet can't make it in, staff have to get sent home, hurting their paychecks, and clients/pets can't be seen, hurting both the business and those patients. So many vets (and I'm certainly not the only one) go to work sick when they'd really rather be home. It's not a matter of dedication, but practicality. And that is the simple truth.


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