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Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Vet's Biggest Daily Problems

This interesting question comes from Alex.....

As a veterinarian, what are the biggest problems you face on a day-to-day basis?

There many, many problems we face daily.  Some of them relate to efficiency, some to staffing and training, some around client interactions, some around get the idea.  Day-to-day some of these might change.  For example, this past Sunday one of my techs had a major family crisis and couldn't come to work.  We normally have two receptionists and two techs for one doctor on a Sunday (yes, we're open every day).  It was too last-minute to call anyone in, so we had to make it work.  We don't face that situation daily.

Here's a list of some of the biggest things I can personally think of as relatively daily problems for vets, in no particular order.  I encourage my readers to add to the list!
  • Having time to take lunch.  Sometimes we're so busy that I go from 9am to 7pm (or later) without a break, eating while I type medical notes.
  • Explaining complicated medical cases to clients.
  • Clients not having enough money to do proper diagnostics and treatment.
  • Clients refusing to do simple preventative care such as heartworm prevention, even when we clearly tell them the risks of not doing so.
  • Scheduling enough staff to be efficient, but not so many that we are putting too much into payroll.  This is a delicate balance, as we loose profits if we have too many people scheduled for the workload of a day, but if we have too few we can't work quickly and do quality work.
  • Pets that want to bite and scratch!  People don't realize it, but vets and their staff risk bodily injury every single day.  Sometimes it's a minor scratch, but we also work with animals big and strong enough to cause severe, life-changing injuries.
  • Not being able to diagnose a particular case.  Some case are extremely complicated.  We may run every test available to us and still have no answers.  Sure, we might have narrowed the possibilities but that doesn't always lead us to a correct treatment plan.  I get more frustrated by these cases than by any others, but I am more of a surgeon at heart than an internist.
  • Having to deal with interpersonal conflicts between staff.  This is mostly in the hands of managers, but since I have that responsibility it comes to my mind.  Conflicts between staff can ruin the flow and morale in a hospital, as well as potentially even affect patient care.
  • Lost records!  My clinic has computerized medical records but many vets still rely on hand-written files.  Having worked in these situations before, I know that sometimes a patient's medical record simply goes missing.  Computerization is the best solution to this problem, but some vets haven't made the switch.
  • Clients who think that we charge way too much and somehow have the impression that I must drive a BMW and live in an estate (reality....2008 Nissan Altima and a 1500 square foot split-level house).
  • Training staff to be efficient, accurate, and high quality.
  • Being able to work in urgent cases that really need to be seen today when we have an already full schedule.
  • Clients who have to come in RIGHT NOW because their pet has been vomiting for two weeks.
  • Finding appropriate and comforting ways to help a client through the loss of a pet.
Those are the the things that come to my mind and I'm sure I've missed some obvious ones (I'm counting on readers to point them out).  Yes, a lot of it revolves around clients, something that anyone in the profession would be quick to support.  Honestly our jobs would be a lot easier if clients had less limited funds and would agree to everything we wanted to do to help their pets.  But I also can't blame all clients because many of them are in situations beyond their control.

Alex, hope that helps!