Old School, New School: 'Maybe I should start looking for another job … '

Old School, New School: 'Maybe I should start looking for another job … '

Drs. Codger and Greenskin face a crossroads, with both of their futures hanging in the balance.
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Mar 21, 2017

Illustration by Ryan OstranderIt might just be a miracle, but Drs. Codger and Greenskin have actually set aside some time to talk over a few issues. As it turns out, that last drop-everything-emergency turned out to be a happy wiggling puppy with kennel cough. The pet owner, receptionist and even the new head assistant were all thoroughly convinced the poor pup was choking to death on a rawhide. Timing and situation were fortuitous, as the scene afforded the young and old veterinarians the chance to smile and assure the rest of the crowd that the puppy was going to be just fine.

Doc Codger knows something is amiss with his associate. While nobody ever accused him of being the world’s best personnel manager, he has enough sense to realize that Dr. Greenskin’s concerns demand immediate attention. He tells the front office team to block off the next hour, and Dr. Greenskin follows Dr. Codger into the well-lit and cozy pharmacy.

It’s a big improvement from the break room “dungeon” where there conversation began. While the pharmacy is not large by any stretch, two doctor’s stools fit without a problem, the door latch works and, well, what else could you possibly ask for in a veterinary hospital meeting place?

Their paths meet …

Dr. Greenskin is now feeling thankful for the interruption. She knows she might have said some regrettable things to Dr. Codger if it hadn’t been for that “emergency.” She’s had a minute to disconnect and refocus, and she feels a bit more prepared to face the issues with professionalism and restraint.

With a deep breath, she begins to explain her difficulties with the clinic’s antiquated on-call policies. She continues, “I know the team at our local ER and they’re all fantastic. Wouldn’t it be advantageous for our clients and patients to go 15 minutes up the road for their after-hours emergencies, where they have a full team ready and able to provide excellent care? I know the ER will work with us closely and treat our hospital with respect, as well as support the relationships we have with our clients.”

Dr. Codger takes a long, thoughtful pause. He counters by explaining that “being there” for his clients has been a cornerstone of building the practice. “There’s also the business advantage of seeing our own emergencies,” he says. “That income helps cover our obligations every month, including payroll.”

Dr. Greenskin can tell Dr. Codger is doing his best not to sound dismissive, but that last payroll comment irks her. She feels her poise slipping a bit. “None of my classmates are subject to this kind of scheduling, Dr. Codger,” she says. “When I tell them about how we run things here, they seem to think our approaches are very outdated. I know your clients love you, and you don’t want to let them down. But I don’t think there’s another DVM out there who would sign on for my schedule.”

Her tone grows sharper. “Frankly, I’m inclined to ask you to cut my regular shifts at this point,” she continues. “If you’re going to continue to demand hours and schedules that negatively impact my life and my personal health, I may just need to back off my commitment here. At least that would give me time to start looking for other jobs.”

... and separate again

Both doctors look a little stunned. Dr. Greenskin wishes she could take back that final comment, but her words linger in the air of the small pharmacy, along with the familiar homey scent of injectable vitamins.

“So I take it you’re not interested in ownership then?” Dr. Codger finally manages to ask. “I was excited about the idea of handing over the reins to you, Greenskin. I think it could really be a great thing for you. And we’ve all come to enjoy having you as part of the family.”

“Not without some changes in the things we just talked about,” Dr. Greenskin replies. “I wouldn’t run the practice this way, and I doubt anyone else would, either. If you mean what you just said, then let’s start making some changes. In the meantime, you need to find someone else to take call and take care of the boarders on the weekends. I’ll take one weekend a month emergency call to help out, but that’s it from here on out.”

Dr. Codger can’t help but be impressed by the backbone displayed by his young associate, who only a couple of short years ago couldn’t neuter a cat in less than 20 minutes. On the other hand, he’s concerned about the future of his practice and his own retirement. He hears the undertones of truth ringing in Dr. Greenskin’s words, but he feels they’re muddled by the whining of a generation that never learned the meaning of a “hard day”—or the true value of a dollar.

The conversation goes on …

Where will this meeting land our two favorite docs? Is this the end of a bumpy road for two veterinarians who tried but were ultimately incompatible? Or are we going to start seeing a melding of generational philosophies? Maybe both sides can learn some new tricks. Find out next time in Old School New School! 

Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in general practice in California’s Sacramento Valley. He is an avid kiteboarder.