Build relationships with veterinary clients with healthy power and helpful behaviors

Build relationships with veterinary clients with healthy power and helpful behaviors

You need to modify your behavior to the situation and build power relationships that help, not hurt
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Nov 01, 2010

Monday: A moderate-sized practice in a Baltimore suburb.


David M. Lane
Dr. Tonya Anderson looked at the cage. A dog, Juno, was jumping up and down looking for attention. Juno was the next procedure, and Dr. Anderson wanted to get organized. Gail Venuti looked in the doctor's direction. Donna Nelson, the other technician on duty, was finishing up paperwork.

"Gail, get Juno out. I want you and Donna to anesthetize this patient, and then I want you to prepare the site for surgery."

Dr. Anderson barked the orders like a Marine sergeant. She then sat down and watched.

Dr. Anderson had been out of veterinary school for 18 months and was confident in her approach to small-animal practice. This was her second practice and her first time in charge of the practice while Dr. Sample was gone.

Donna nervously inserted the catheter while Dr. Anderson watched with a knitted brow. Donna and Gail successfully intubated the dog and proceeded to the anesthetic machine and started preparing the surgery site.

Dr. Anderson approached the prep table. The IV catheter had been inserted and secured but had become angled to the side during the rotation of Juno's body.

Dr. Anderson pointed to the inserted catheter.

"This, of course, is unacceptable," she said to Donna.

Donna, who was happy to have inserted the catheter in the first place, was crestfallen.

Dr. Anderson grabbed the arm and proceeded to try to rewrap the IV set.

"Insertion of this type of catheter should be taped in the other direction," she said. "The university protocol for this can be found on their website—if you would bother to check."

Just then, the drip from the IV bag quit dripping altogether. The IV had come out during Dr. Anderson's dialogue and re-wrap.

"See I told you. This was inserted incorrectly in the first place. Please replace this while I call one of my clients."

When she returned, Dr. Anderson looked at the shaved surgical site, and then looked sternly at Gail. "This is all wrong and will most certainly lead to contamination and possible infection. You need to shave her 3.5 centimeters anterior and two more centimeters laterally on the sides. This is done improperly. This is another example of inadequacies in your care that Dr. Sample pointed out," she said brusquely.

Dr. Karen Sample was the practice owner and was coming back from vacation in two days. Dr. Sample had owned the practice for 15 years and was admired by clients and staff alike.

After the surgery, Donna and Gail talked briefly in the laundry room.

"She's good at what she does, but she is so difficult. I'll do what she says but nothing more," whispered Donna.

"We have to deal with this," Gail whispered back. "Dr. Sample left her in charge. It's obvious she took the opportunity to lord it over the whole staff and even the clients at times. She constantly is harping on how they did this or that at her last practice and how they do it at the university. It's all about how everything at our practice is wrong, and she needs to change everything.

"She doesn't show any interest in any of us as individuals," Gail went on. "I told her last week that I had a new puppy at home, and she just turned and walked away. I'm with you. We'll do what's necessary to do the job and protect the pets but I, for one, won't lift a finger for her otherwise."

"Should we talk to Dr. Sample?" Donna inquired.

"I think so. Even though Dr. Sample is critical at times, she always encourages us when we do a good job."