Have you ever thought to yourself, “Man, I don’t like people, I’m going to be a veterinarian who gets to play with animals all day,” or, “I’m going to be a vet because they don’t have to deal with people.” Well, I’m here to burst your bubble that clinical practice is not the job for you! Sure, I see animals all day, but what comes attached to each animal is at least one human. Most of the time, that human loves their animal a substantial amount and is worried about it. Those humans have questions about their animal’s care. Those humans have the wallets that pay for their animals care and sometimes those wallets only have a little money. Those humans have lives other than their animals they have to deal with also. If you’re getting into vet med because you don’t like people, thankfully there are jobs as pathologists, lab animal vets, and USDA inspectors you can choose to go into, but you’re still probably going to have to talk to people!
I feel very fortunate to have ended up at a practice with really amazing clients. I have clients who OK thorough work-ups because they trust me. I have clients that ask me how my home renovations are going because they remembered at the last visit I had bought a new (to us) house. I am blown away how even though I have to put down someone’s pet, they will thank me profusely and send flowers to me! Me! The one who just euthanized their sweet old dog! I’ve formed some really amazing connections with some really amazing people and I’m thankful that their wonderful pets brought them into my life.
A big part of practice that took a bit of getting used to was talking to clients. You have to go over lab work or a diagnosis, and you have to take all the super smart long words and make them into something that the client understands. You can’t spout off, “Well, his alanine aminotransferase level is high which could indicate hepatocellular disease,” to most clients, and instead you would say something like, “It looks like Fluffy has some elevations in one of his liver enzymes which could mean something is wrong with his liver.” That being said, know your clients, because there is nothing like trying to simplify what an azotemia is to a client who is an ER doctor! You also have to make sure they understand what their options are, what the diagnosis is, what the prognosis is, what the treatment and recommendations are, and you have to do all of this in a limited amount of time. It’s tricky at first and definitely took some getting used to. I still find myself thinking of how I want to best present something to a client, or how I want to word something so that everyone will be on the same page.
One last thing is that you have to remember that there are going to be some people in this world that you’re not going to jive with. We can’t get along with everyone (as hard as we may desperately try), and that’s something we may have to accept. We have clients at our practice who request my boss, and that used to bother me. What about me is so bad they don’t want to see me?! However, my boss said to me, “It’s not that they don’t want to see you, they just want to see me.” People who have developed a relationship with a particular veterinarian may wish to solely remain with that vet, just like we would for our family practitioner. That was something as a new grad I had a hard time with, though it’s definitely wearing off as I’m starting to have clients request me! So new grads, take that advice to heart and work on your communication skills because it will do wonders for your clinical practice.