This was a hard blog to write. I love my profession and I feel very strongly that the vast majority of veterinarians practice their craft with their hearts and minds in it one hundred percent. There will be times, however, when even the best of veterinarians drop the ball or come up short. This week the main message I want you to take away from this is that you have the right to hold us accountable when we do this. Let us know when you’re not happy and I promise you any decent veterinarian will try to make it right.
All of my clients love their pets. The way they show their love may differ but it is indisputable that all of my clients love their pets. It is because of this love that things can become emotional at times. This week I’m writing to say, “That is ok.” If you don’t understand a diagnosis or a treatment plan, ask a question and don’t hear from one of us, it is understandable to be upset. If the outcome of a case upsets you or you experience a loss and become upset, blame us or say some things you didn’t mean; that happens. We really won’t hold it against you. This is not a license to act the fool every time you get a bit upset but we are all human and we understand that sometimes emotions get the better of us. If you have ever studied neurology you might call this an amygdala hijack.
There will be times, even if I’m your veterinarian, where your veterinarian does something that is just plain wrong. Maybe it’s something simple like forgetting to call you back or maybe it’s something more serious. When these things occur there are multiple ways that you can voice your concerns and, if need be, take action. While you are legally a consumer of a service we provide, we would prefer it if you felt like a member of your pet’s medical team.
No one likes to hear that they’ve done a bad job or that a client is unhappy with the medical care they’ve provided for their pet. In many cases we take it very personally when there is a negative outcome or a patient’s owners aren’t pleased but in every case that comes to mind, the owner that complained directly to us pushed us to make changes to improve the quality of our veterinary care. So while you might not want to seem like a rude person or you might not want to hurt our feelings, please understand that if you are not pleased with any aspect of your experience with us, we want to know right away. More often than not a simple conversation will leave you feeling better and will open our eyes to something we might never have thought of before. I understand not wanting to make a fuss, I’m like that almost all the time, but if you don’t tell us you’re not happy then we won’t ever know and if we never know we won’t ever try to do it better. From another perspective I can tell you that most of us would much rather have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want to be rude or hurt anyone’s feelings than with someone who doesn’t care about those things.
It might happen- I really hope it doesn’t- but it might. You might find yourself in a situation where you don’t think the veterinarian treating your pet has your family’s best interests at heart. It’s times like these where I would recommend that you need to have a conversation with this veterinarian and let them know just how you feel. If they can’t explain themselves or they aren’t willing to have that conversation with you huge red flags should be raised in the back of your mind. No matter what kind of service you receive at a veterinary clinic, restaurant or human hospital you can be sure of one thing, it is probably similar to the level of service everyone else receives as well. That is great when you receive really good care, follow up and follow through. In those cases you may wonder just how they do it and you might call all of your friends and let them know. We certainly hope you do! It’s less great when the service is lacking and the professional providing the service is less than professional and you can be sure if someone is less than straight with you then that is most likely their standard operating procedure and you are not alone. In these cases after having that conversation with the veterinarian (or accountant or real estate broker or tattoo artist) and not reaching any resolution you might want to consider filing a formal complaint. A formal complaint is a legal complaint with your state’s professional licensing board. This sort of thing is serious business and should not be entered into lightly, that being said there are a multitude of check points along the way to opening an investigation that prevent petty and dishonest license claims from clogging up our boards. A license claim is just that, it is an investigation into a professional’s license and their ability to adequately perform within their vocation. You can find more information on the complaint process by visiting the website of your home state’s office of professional regulation.
Every veterinarian I know- and I know a lot of veterinarians- is deeply committed to their work. For the four years of eduction and then most of our careers we have had it ingrained in us that this is a way of life- not just a job. That being said, I don’t know a single perfect veterinarian. We all make mistakes, we could all stand to get a little better at what we do and a big part of getting better is recognizing what we’re doing wrong. If you’re not happy with your experience please let us know; it might be hard to take but it will ultimately allow us to offer you, and everyone else we care for, better veterinary medicine in the long run.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Thanks for reading.