Holding human hands in pet medicine: How far should veterinarians go?
When it’s time for your pet’s euthanasia most of you want a veterinarian who will show the right degree of compassion, know just what to say, give you a big hug or the room you need, and treat your pet with reverence and humanity—almost as if he were her own.
That’s hard to do. But most of us try hard to do it right—to the best of our abilities.
When you’re trying to make decisions on the ideal timing for a spay or neuter, which kind of microchip, diet choices for your puppy or aging kitty, whether to amputate and biopsy a toe or not…you want a veterinarian who can give you all your choices and help you arrive at the best decision possible.
Sometimes that means a lot of phone calls or emails back and forth as your research on any given subject is refined. It can be challenging for us—but how much time is reasonable for us to invest in your decision making process?
Should you have a hard time coming up with financial solutions for your dog’s oral surgery or your cat’s hyperthyroidism medications, how far should your veterinarian go to help you find affordable approaches?
You could view these veterinary service benefits as intrinsic to what you pay for. Or you could consider them going above and beyond the call of duty.
Some might argue that veterinarians did not go to veterinary school to help you save money on your prescription medication choices—nor to serve as grief counselor, confidante, financial advisor or any of the other non-medical hats we’re often expected to wear.
The latter point is one my [vet surgeon] boyfriend argued convincingly last night over dinner. He feels that too many veterinarians burn out as a result of taking on too much of the non-medical details traditional veterinary practice has always offered. He thinks we commit less of ourselves to the increasingly challenging medical aspects of care by trying to be all things to all clients.
The conversation came up as a result of my recent post on prescription medications when it was referenced in PetConnection maven, Gina Spadafori’s article on the same topic. When the Veterinary Information Network’s inclusion of Gina’s article on its Veterinary Partner home page raised a bit of a ruckus among some veterinarians (and was pulled from the page), I was compelled to defend it.
In doing so, the issue of “how far should vets go to help their clients get good deals on meds” was raised—at least in last night’s conversation.
Should vets work hard to help their clients out in these tough economic times? Is doing so by recommending ways to save money just shooting myself in the foot? Does it condemn my profession to the same? Is it even our place to worry about our clients’ finances? Is playing financial advisor placing an undue stress on me? On the practice I work for?
My answer? Our clients are going to find ways to save money whether we veterinarians like it or not. It’s only responsible that we show them how to do it right (by avoiding unethical outlets that might offer counterfeit prescriptions, etc.). As a practicing vet, however, it’s NOT my responsibility to help my clients save money. But it is one of the ways in which I go “above and beyond.”
But is going above and beyond on the topic of finances—holding my cients’ hands, if you will—any different than going above and beyond when it comes to providing the best euthanasia experience possible? When our clients find some decisions hard to make? I doubt that. Nonetheless, I’ll concede that wearing all these hats takes its toll...