A new year, a new set of resolutions.
Now that the holiday season is winding down, I’ve had some time to think about what this next year will bring — and what I can bring to it.
Here are my top 10 new year’s resolutions, in no particular order.
1. First things first.
My primary goal is to do the best for the pet. Before prognosis, the human’s preconceived notions or financial concerns, the pet’s age or other constraining issues muddy the waters, I am responsible to do everything possible to return the sick or suffering pet to wellness and to ease pain at all times.
2. Continue to create a fear-free environment for my patients.
For some pets, a trip to the vet is terrifying. The old school of thought was to get that pet through the exam and out the door as quickly as possible. The “muzzle and get it over with” approach means the pet will return the next time more scared, more fearful — and this behavior will escalate with every subsequent vet visit.
A fear-free initiative means giving special consideration to our frightful friends through behavior modification at home, a more welcoming hospital environment and drug therapy if indicated. Slowly, we can ease their fear and anxiety.
3. Have patience with my patients.
Let’s say the last appointment of the day is a confusing medical case requiring an extensive workup on a grumpy cat. Cattitude means I must take a breath, conjure up all my hard-earned gifts as a cat whisperer — and go slow and gentle.
Maybe we can get that blood sample and take those X-rays without getting the cat too upset. Everyone should go home at the end of the day with Mr. Grumpy feeling better, human faces and hands cat scratch-free and no deep puncture wounds.
4. Have patience with my staff.
Everybody has good and bad days. And guess what? Sometimes, an employee just might wish she didn’t have to go to work that day (I think every hardworking person can relate to that feeling).
A little understanding, and a trusting and supportive work environment, can make difficult days better. A veterinary hospital is a stressful work environment. Joyful puppies coincide with dying cancer patients. We go through 50 changes of emotion in a few hours. Support and a team effort should rule the day!
5. Think of technology as a friend, not a foe.
I wish I could just place my hands on animals all day long and never touch machines. Those days are gone. I must also touch computers and high-tech equipment so I can go back and put my hands on those animals and know what to do.
Our veterinary technology gets us diagnostic information in a heartbeat, but even state-of-the-art machines and computers have glitches sometimes. More patience will get me through IT challenges.
6. Go with the flow.
I may pride myself with my own time-management skills, but clients and pets may not always be on schedule. So many things can go wrong in a day, but going with the flow will ease tensions all around.
- People can be late: “I thought my appointment was at 10:50, not 10:15.”
- Animals can be sicker than the person thought: “By the way, she’s been drinking tons of water, is not eating and is very lethargic.”
- A pet might be scheduled for a wellness exam that turns into a workup: “Oh, and can you check that big lump on the side that keeps getting bigger and bigger?”
- Folks bring more than 1 pet without notice: “I brought Sophie along too because she’s been having a lot of blood in her stool.”
- Emergencies always happen: “There are 2 quill dogs coming in with thousands of quills.”
7. Compassion should be infinite.
Sometimes a person might be demanding, rude or downright nasty. Usually, there’s a good reason for this behavior — it often stems from a person’s anxiety about their pet, either medical or financial.
Anger is often misdirected. I should not take this personally. Addressing anger with compassion can help a lot.
This vet center understands the crucial relationship between veterinary professionals, pets and their humans:
8. Ask for help.
Many people, particularly professionals and would-be “experts” like myself, have trouble asking for help. But this can actually translate into working well with others. Every sick animal presents the opportunity for me to ask for help.
- Ask for the support of pet caretakers: Decisions to be made about diagnostics and treatment options involve everyone.
- Ask my staff for help: It takes a team.
- Ask for help from other veterinary experts: Veterinarians are very giving and nurturing people. I can reach out to veterinary specialists like oncologists, ophthalmologists and dermatologists — and get great advice.
9. Communicate effectively.
This can be a tall order, particularly if I ask a client if they understand what I said — and they answer affirmatively.
But if I imparted a lot of medical information to a person who is upset about a beloved and sick pet, they may not have “heard” what I said. It is reassuring to tell them they can go home, think about things and call with any questions. I often hear myself saying “no question is too silly or too small.”
10. Don’t judge.
Whether I’ve known a client for 15 years or 15 minutes, I do not know what is going on with that person and their relationship to that pet at that particular moment. But I do have a responsibility to the animal and need to make all people aware that the pet’s welfare is my primary purpose as a veterinarian.
Parents will often begin a consult with “No heroic measures here, doc.” It took me a long time to decipher this heartless-sounding comment. I used to think it meant “I don’t want to spend a lot of money.” In realty, it may mean “I’m scared to death something is really wrong, and I don’t want you to give me bad news.”
Spelled out, these are not just resolutions for veterinarians. They’re resolutions for a good and happy existence.
Happy New Year to all 4- and 2-legged complicated beings out there. May we all continue to work on this amazing thing called life.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Jan. 3, 2018.