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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"It'll Only Take A Sec!"

Let me describe a recent Saturday.  Normally we're open from 9am until 7pm, and the day was completely booked.  Every single appointment was filled, we had a full compliment of surgeries and dental cleanings, and including drop-off patients we had booked around 20-something pets for each of the two doctors working (myself and an associate).  One of our most experienced techs called in sick (something I've never seen her do so I knew it was serious) and we couldn't get ahold of anyone else to cover for her.  So we were extremely busy as well as very short-handed, missing a fourth of our normal support staff.  I was monitoring for several of the dental cleanings, running lab tests, reading fecal tests, all things normally done by a tech.  I was also seeing rooms without an assistant because everyone was busy with other patients.  
We were running a little behind and felt the rather hectic pace of the day, but were managing to get through.  It wass taking us a little longer than normal to get to some patients because of the short staff, but clients were being understanding.  We've had busy days like this in the past, and by pulling together and sharing the workload we make it through.
Then around 3:30 a client came in wanting to be seen.  He didn't have an appointment and wanted some bumps and scabs on his dog's back looked at. This was a regular client whom we have seen for years, so we did plan on seeing him.  But at that time we still had a dental cleaning we hadn't finished, were still down a tech, had absolutely no appointments available, still had drop-off pets that hadn't been seen....needless to say we were swamped.  My associate and I had not even had time to stop and eat something for lunch!!!  So I had the receptionist tell him that we couldn't see him in a room, but we'd be happy to have him drop off and we'd get to the dog later that afternoon.  That sounds reasonable, right?  We're still working him in and not putting the pet off until later in the week, right?

He threw a fit. 

"I just need the doctor to take a quick look." 
"Sorry, sir, the doctors are both busy, and we don't have any appointments available."
"Can't a nurse look at him and tell me what it is?  It'll only take a sec!"

He refused to drop his pet off and insisted on being seen by someone right away.  We explained that we simply didn't have the time or ability to drop everything at that moment, which wasn't sufficient for him.  He was genuinely angry and causing a fuss, and planned on making a formal complaint to the practice owner.

I just don't understand people like that.  The dog had what sounded like a minor skin problem and not an emergency (we had already accepted one emergency for the day and had seen it right away).  What doctor's office can you walk into without an appointment and expect the staff to put you ahead of everyone else who did schedule appropriately?  How does anyone consider such behavior reasonable?  And we weren't even making him wait a few days.  Even if I walk into an Urgent Care physican's office or an Emergency Room, I'm planning on having to wait for a long time, longer if more serious cases come in that trump my own illness.  Those types of doctors don't take appointments, so it's a first-come-first-served basis, other than serious cases that a triage bumps to the top of the list.  I don't know any human doctors that will put a walk-in ahead of the long list of appointments that people may have scheduled weeks in advance.  How is that fair to the people who took the time to schedule their visit?  Most people are very understanding for emergencies, but not for a few skin bumps.

"It'll only take a sec...." 

I hear that on a regular basis, and I don't think clients think through the process.  Nothing "only takes a sec".  While my techs are experienced and smart, they're not doctors.  They can't legally diagnose anything, and may not catch everything a doctor would.  A skin problem may not be isolated to one area and may be an indication of a larger issue, a situation I see every week.  Evaluating the patient properly means checking them in and taking the time to do a full, thorough exam by the doctor.  Depending on the condition we may want to run diagnostic tests, and then we'll have to work up a treatment plan.  All of that can take 20-30 minutes on the short end, and possibly longer.  It defintiely doesn't take "a sec".  A "quick look" is poor quality medicine and could easily overlook the real cause of the problem.

The client eventually left, still fuming, still refusing to drop off and still insisting on being seen.  But he did make an appointment for the following day to have a proper exam.  And then his wife called the day of the appointment and rescheduled for the following day.  Guess it must not have been so serious after all.  Definitely not worth having a fit.

To all pet owners reading this....if you walk into a vet's office without an appointment and want your pet seen, please be very understanding about their schedule and appointments, and realize that if you get put to the front of the line then someone else is getting pushed back.  If you had an appointment scheduled would YOU want to have to wait for a walk-in to be seen ahead of you?  We're not typically going to do that unless it's a true emergency.  Is your pet's case a "drop everything" kind of problem?  If not, don't expect us to do so.

And as I've said before, if you're going into the veterinary field because you don't like dealing with people, you are in for a very rude awakening.