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Monday, December 17, 2012

Veterinary Christmas Wish List

Seth emailed me with the following question.  I was a bit surprised, because in over four years of blogging I haven't been asked this and honestly haven't thought much about it.  

Question please, What do vets want for Christmas? I have been dating vet who own's her own practice and I am trying to think of things that a vet would want for him/herself but may not necessarily buy. Is it a super sweet stethoscope or otoscope? If so which one? Is it something else cool and different? What would you want to get for x-mass? I am a computer guy so, while I minimally understand and appreciate the business end of being a vet, I am pretty clueless about this end of things. Looking forward to your response.

A gift for a vet doesn't have to be specific to veterinary medicine.  In fact, I prefer gifts that have nothing to do with my profession.  I typically ask for action figures, cool geeky t-shirts, books, DVDs, and so on.  The gifts I want generally revolve around my non-veterinary interests because by the time I get home I want to be Chris, not Dr. Bern.  But that's just me.

Personally I wouldn't recommend getting a practical piece of equipment.  First of all, you may break your budget.  A high-quality stethoscope will cost $100-200.  Otoscopes and and other instruments can go higher than that.  If you have that money and want to spend it on her, great.  But just be aware of the costs involved.  Since she owns her own practice she probably already has those things, and if she needs more it becomes a business expense for her and therefore a tax deduction.  It would also be tough for you as a non-vet to pick just the right thing that she wants, as there are many technical issues and preferences that you wouldn't be easily aware of.

Lastly, and forgive me if I'm being a "guy" here or sexist as it's not intended, you're talking about practical gifts.  In my experience a woman really doesn't want gifts like that for gifts and birthdays, despite what the commercials make you think.  Would you give her a new, fancy vacuum cleaner?  What about a set of kitchen utensils?  Probably not.  I know that my wife certainly wouldn't want those as gifts since it's not really "special" and just has to do with day-to-day household tasks.  A stethoscope would be the veterinary equivalent of a vacuum.  It's something you need and a good one does a much better job than a cheap one, but in the end it's a tool and not an object to cherish.  Now if the object was specific to her interests, that would be a different story.  For example, if the kitchen utensils had Mickey Mouse or Tinker Bell my wife would be very interested in them.

So what to get her?

Start with her likes and dislikes.  Depending on what she wears and uses in work you can find medical-related gifts that may show those interests.  For example, I have a scrub top that has "Starfleet Medical Academy" and the logo printed on it (from Star Trek for you non-geeks).  That kind of thing would be a great gift for someone like me!  You can find scrub tops and cloth surgical caps with all kinds of prints and patterns, such as sports teams, animals, cartoon characters, and so on.  There are stethoscopes and stethoscope covers that you can also find with different prints.  Those stethoscopes are an acrylic mold and have a bell on one side, so she may not like that style.

Does she have a favorite breed of dog?  You should be able to find a business card holder that has that breed on it.  Or you can find a desk set with a theme that she likes.  My wife has a Tinker Bell desk set that includes a business card holder, stapler, tape dispenser, paper clip holder, and so on.  I have a similar kind of set that is a Pirates of the Caribbean theme.  As a practice owner I'm sure she has a desk, so that is something that is practical for her to use daily yet can show some fun and personality.

If you want to get her something to use in her practice, get sneaky and question her staff.  They will know her day-to-day pattern and usage better than anyone else.  Her assistants will know if she loves or hates her stethoscope, or if she has dreamed of a fancy electronic one (very pricey but very cool!).  The staff will know if she has a favorite kind of coffee or snack.  They'll know what equipment she's always talking about or what is breaking down in the place.  If they've worked for her for long they'll also know a lot about her personality as a vet.  All of that can help you figure out the gift.

But in the end remember that she's a woman and a person before she's a vet.  She has interests outside of veterinary medicine and may have more passion in those areas than in her job.  Don't limit yourself to a gift related to her profession if she really might like something else.

So what about all of you veterinarians and vet students who read this blog?  Am I on the right track or are there vet-specific gifts you're dying to have?  If this was your boyfriend, would you want him to get you a veterinary gift or something else?  I'd love to hear your comments!

Seth, this is a GREAT topic, and I'm really glad you wrote it!