As a student on placement, I’m often in awe of the vets I’m working with. The ability to take a history, examine an animal, run through differentials and come up with a diagnosis or action plan within 10 minutes – all while listening to an owner commenting on the weather or traffic – seems superhuman.
This may seem an exaggeration (after all, vets aren’t superheroes), but when considered like that, it is pretty impressive.
While seemingly intangible at the moment, I know the ability to do this with such ease comes with practice – and clearly some presentations are far more complex than that.
However, while I find this impressive, others have a different opinion…
A family friend recently commented on their own vets, claiming they would avoid seeing the partners if possible because – in their opinion – they see an animal for five minutes and see it as a money making exercise, whereas the younger vets spend a bit more time with the clients.
Obviously I can’t comment on the vet/client rapport, which may have a huge influence on this opinion, but I can’t help but think that a younger, newly qualified vet would spend more time during consultations purely due to experience, or lack thereof.
It has become evident recently that the profession has an image problem and we must try to change that for the better. But what do the public consider as a “good vet”? Apparently the opinion differs depending which side of the table you’re on.
This is just one example, but in general, do clients want the vet to spend more time with their animal? They probably do – but, at the same time, they don’t want to be kept waiting and they want to be able to get an appointment. There has to be a balance between the three.
As for cost, I’ve seen some vets charge meticulously, whereas others would try and keep prices as low as possible to please customers. In the clients’ eyes, the cheaper the better. But a vet practice has to function. It’s no good offering neutering for £10 because the practice would be bankrupt within a week.
Surgical skills and experience are perhaps something that the client will never fully appreciate. For a start, the vet seen in the consultation room may not be the same one who performed the operation, particularly if it’s something fairly routine. Also, the most highly qualified and experienced surgeon in the practice might not be the best at client communication.
A vet can have such a diverse set of skills and knowledge that it is difficult to pinpoint which of these defines a “good vet”. Many vets have certain areas of expertise and will be better than others in certain situations, but not all.
The key to time and money is striking the balance between what the client desires and what is realistic.
Communication, however, doesn’t need to be compromised and can be the difference that alters the client’s opinion. For example, the manner in which an examination is conducted and the attitude of the vet during a 10-minute consult could leave the client feeling rushed, whereas a different vet with a different approach could leave the client with a far more positive impression.
Client opinion is important, but at the end of the day, the welfare of the animal in front of you is your priority, whether or not the client values you highly.
While the profession as a whole should take heed of what clients want, the customer is not necessarily always right, and at the end of the day, it is the welfare of the animal in front of you that should be paramount.