We have opportunities in this field to choose whether to take the road to positivity or the road to negativity. One of these daily choices is how we perceive our clients- and it’s important to remember that it is a choice.
It’s very easy to become jaded and bitter; we deal with tragic events daily. Many predicaments are directly attributed to client actions. Some of the ones we all see are these: clients give their medications to their pets, or their intact male wanders and get hits by a car, or their intact female develops pyometra, or their puppy gets parvo because they didn’t stay on schedule for vaccines.
Empathy, Not Judgment
One of the saddest cases I have seen was when a woman brought in a boxer who was hit by a car. The patient had a fractured pelvis, a broken femur and head trauma. She was 2 years old. After going over estimates on stabilization and potential surgery, this woman stood before me in absolute tears.
There was no way she could afford this crucial treatment. She was going through a tough divorce, and was soon to be a single mother. The poor boxer had managed to slip out of the door of the apartment she had just scraped up enough money to move into. This dog was her daughter’s puppy and somewhat of a tie to the life she knew before everything changed. This sweet dog of theirs had immaculate veterinary care previously, and the owner had invested in puppy classes to make sure the dog knew behavioral basics. It wasn’t a matter of priorities or ambivalence; she truly couldn’t afford this surgery in her current situation.
After talking with this owner, she brought up euthanasia. She didn’t want to see her best friend suffer. I remember many of the staff being very upset. “Who euthanizes a two year old dog?” “She could come up with the money if she tried.”
It’s hard on our souls to have to put to sleep young patients. But that pales in comparison to the guilt this mother felt over euthanizing her beloved friend. Having to drive home alone, and ultimately tell her young daughter what had happened. She made that tough decision. Her guilt was consuming and so heart-wrenching to watch. She didn’t do this out of selfishness, she did this out of compassion and respect for her best friend.
We must try our best to remember this: If people are seeking veterinary care for their pet then they are trying to do the right thing. Our job is to educate clients and provide medical attention to their pets. It’s difficult at times, but we have to do our best to avoid judging. Before we scoff at a client for being in a situation, we must push past those feelings to help them to the best of our ability. By educating and relaying information in a non-judgmental manner, you are giving them the power to make knowledgeable and informed decisions on their pets care.
Another situation where it is so important to show compassion is when we present estimates to clients. In emergency situations we want their pet to be be treated and receive the absolute best care we can give them. That treatment and care unfortunately comes with price tag. In urgent or emergency situations those figures can easily climb from hundreds to if not thousands of dollars.
It would be difficult for many of us to part with that kind of money. I know for myself as a technician, on technician’s wages, it would take some shifting of funds and applying for credit services. Before we judge these clients, think about if the shoe was on the other foot. If you can afford a big bill without that impacting your finances, that is great! But that doesn’t mean that those of us who can’t love their pets any less.
Keep a kind, helpful and positive approach when working with clients, especially if they are struggling. Kindness and professionalism mean so much. We do our part as much as we can ahead of time to encourage clients to plan for emergencies, get pet insurance, and be prepared, but we can’t control what walks in the door. When it’s too late for any of that to make a difference, it’s also too late to tell them what they should have been doing. Clients pick up on those things. We have the ability to make a horrible time better, or infinitely worse, by our choice of actions and attitude.
As caring professionals we can educate them on puppy preventative care. As positive animal advocates we can begin discussions on spaying and neutering. As empathetic and educated individuals we can make discuss appropriate vaccine schedules and why they are important to provide immunity. Make owners aware of the benefits vs. risks of having an indoor/outdoor pet. Knowledge is power. By educating one client, you have given them the opportunity to be the best pet owner they can be!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
About the Author
Jade is a licensed technician of 9 years who lives in Port Orchard, Washington. She enjoys emergency and critical cases, dentistry and creating a bond with her clients and team. During her off time she is busy keeping up with her two crazy Basenjis!