Cataloguing Veterinary Clients - Part 1: Subcategories
Dr. Khuly, over at Fully Vetted, recently touched on a topic that I’ve had bouncing around in my head for years: We (veterinarians) see many, many types of clients — good, bad and ugly.
As Dr. K puts it, "There are the do-all-you-can types, the hyper-emotional types, the pragmatic types, and the I-don't-want-her-to-suffer types."
Over the last 13 years in practice, I’ve created a handful of sub-groups or categories of clients that are "special" in their own ways.
Maybe some of the DVMs, MDs, dentists or other people who read this and work with the public can add a few of their own.
"The Fire Engine Client"
These clients love their pets dearly, but don’t come in for routine exams, preventative care, etc. They only go to the vet when things are bad. I mean really, really bad.
I know right away the pet is going to have one paw in the grave. If I’m taking a gander at the appointment schedule and I see a Fire Engine Client’s name and they are coming in for, say, a "teeth checkup," I cringe inwardly (and probably outwardly too).
In their world: Fluffy recently stopped eating and has an odd odor coming from his mouth. In my world: Fluffy will either have a giant oral squamous cell carcinoma (horrible, nasty cancerous tumor) that’s so huge and necrotic that he can’t swallow, or is in end stage kidney failure and the smell is his body rotting from within.
Again, these particular clients love, love, love their pets and will do whatever is necessary to save them (financially and medically), but often it’s too little too late.
"The Beatdown Client"
This client, to me, is the emotional equivalent of a dementor in the Harry Potter series. They (the dementors) are creatures that, when they come near you, suck all the happiness, hope and joy out of your body. Thus, leaving you a catatonic shell of your former self.
Often these clients are retired or unemployed and spend 99.9 percent of their time watching their pets. If the pet does anything out of the ordinary, they call or come in and spend hours discussing every possible nuance of the pet’s behavior, possible problems, related maladies, their own personal maladies and everything in between. By hours, I literally mean hours … spent usually on the phone discussing the vagaries of each case.
These clients just drain me emotionally because they are genuinely and wholeheartedly concerned about their pets. But if I allowed myself to get sucked into their misery (which a tiny part of me always does) I could lose my mind and fling myself off a cliff (although, really, there aren’t any cliffs in Dallas, so I’d have to get creative).
The sad part (aside from the obvious) is that I feel like they spend so much time obsessing about minor issues that a "Peter and the Wolf" effect occurs. I find myself filtering out the majority of what they say, as a mechanism to cope with the astonishing volume of useless information. They "cry wolf" so often with the little things, that I may occasionally miss a big thing that is an important fact or legitimate concern.
God forbid their pets get really sick. Then the hours become truly heartbreaking and many glasses of wine are required when I get home, for my own personal recovery. My husband may feel that I am a tad irritable during these times as well.
Next week: My absolute favorite type of client … "The Pineapple."
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll
Pic of the day: The Dementor, courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios