It's not that veterinarians necessarily suffer from bad habits more acutely than any other hardworking group of people, but the reality of our daily stress load is a tad off the beaten path … what with all the potentially adverse client interactions and stomach-churning nastiness that often accompanies our work.
Always in search of greater clarity — not to mention some great stories to add to my collection — two years ago I polled this blog's contingent of in-the-vet-biz readers (I was going by Dolittler back then) on this very subject. I asked, "What unhealthy, unique-to-your-profession work habits will you cop to for the sake of a little illumination (and fun, of course)?"
Here's what I got:
1. Eating lunch too close to the microscope. We're all guilty of this. And by we, I mean those of us who consider a little fecal material on one's person to be an inevitable constant. Why the fuss? It's just a little poop, right?
2. Taking clients at their word. Ignore clients when they urge you not to put a muzzle on their dog. "My dog does not bite!" is altogether too often followed by, "She never did that before!" (A trite non-expression of sympathy which helps us not-at-all in the emergency room, and less still when we have to cancel all our surgeries for the next week.)
3. Not wearing gloves while flushing out ears … or examining a potential abscess. (So much for a dinner date appetite.)
4. Investigating a possible ringworm lesion bare-handed … and then getting distracted and suffering three circular lesions to your ankle. (Presumably after scratching the mange mite bumps on your leg.)
5. Agreeing to conduct a post-mortem on a two-day-old specimen.
6. Rejecting vet-tech assistance for a house call euthanasia … especially when it's a 100-pound Rottie with a personality disorder.
7. Filling two vaccine syringes at once. One colleague confessed to having attempted this reserved-for-professionals, do-not-try-this-at-home trick and ended up with two syringes sticking straight out of her chest. (Attractive, no?)
8. Uncapping a syringe with one's teeth … and then stabbing oneself in the tongue with a rabies vaccine after indulging in this very, very bad habit. This is another confession from a colleague, but I confess to having found it difficult to break this habit myself, once upon a time — though I never stabbed my tongue.
9. Using the necropsy knife to cut into brownies. Now that is an extra-special one I will never forget. Foul! (Megan, I think that was yours, no?)
10. Eating with same cutlery used for serving the cat food … which often ends up in the litter pans in the sink. I happen to do this a lot — which disgusts my co-workers to no end. I just smile as I happily lick the peanut butter off the kitties' spoon.
During the discussion that followed my original post on this, it was posited (by FV reader BarbaraA?) that it's these often uber-gross habits that keep our immune systems in tip-top condition. If so, I must have the gruelingly-conditioned immune system of an Ironman champ.
Now it's your turn to add to the list...
Dr. Patty Khuly