When doctors put technicians on trial

When doctors put technicians on trial

In the latest installment of "Old School, New School," we ask the question: Where's the line between appropriately righteous indignation about pet owners' choices and getting really judgy about those choices? Dr. Codger and Dr. Greenskin seem to differ. Where do you fall?
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Dec 01, 2017

"Yes, Your Honor, I may have, umm, judged the veterinary client a little bit. But, umm, upon reflection, I still wonder if the client might have brought the animal in a little earlier before our only solution was likely to be euthanasia. Sir. Your Honor. Ahem." (Illustration by Ryan Ostrander)Winter is setting in at our favorite veterinary hospital, yet our two veterinarians' schedules are unrelenting. So, it’s another hectic afternoon following missed lunch breaks ("lunch break" has become an office punchline, but nobody's complaining as business is good). Staff members are hurriedly scarfing down sandwiches one bite at a time when the coast is clear (no clients looking their way). Far from a day like any other, on this busy day a notable distinction between the young and the old is going to become painfully apparent.

You're a poor excuse for a pet owner!

Veterinary associate Dr. Greenskin exits exam room two with a solemn look on her face as she locates one of the outpatient technicians.

“This is just going to be bad,” she starts. “I just can’t believe Ms. Ded waited this long to bring Doornail in to see us!”

The new technician, a big burly fellow named Seabass, is all too eager to play into Dr. Greenskin’s tone and sentiment.

“Oh boy," Seabass says, "Not another one, Doc! I told her three days ago when she called that this just could not wait. Look, I even recorded the conversation right here in the medical record! Why can’t these dumb morons just listen to us?! We can’t fix their animals if they don’t bring them to us in time!”

Both professionals seem to bask in their supreme mastery of all things animal as they put together a punishing estimate for Ms. Ded. It’s a miracle Seabass can even see his way to the keyboard through his continuous eye-rolling over this "poor excuse for a pet owner."

Exchanging knowing looks, the magnificent duo decide to go ahead and print the estimate for the pink-juice special.

“Yeah, we might as well just give her that one first and save us a whole bunch of time,” Seabass growls.

You're doing the best you can!

Meanwhile, Dr. Codger is overheard through the open door of exam room 12.

“It’s going to be alright, Mr. Sepsis!" says Dr. Codger. "I completely understand. Life gets in the way, and I know you want the best for your poor girl Drippy. Rest assured, we're going to work with you to keep you two together.”

Between sobs, the pet owner is heard making some pretty dire deliberations.

“Do what you need to do, doc," says Mr. Sepsis. "I just knew it was time to put her down. At 4 years old, she’s lived a good life and we got a couple really nice litters out of her. But she hasn’t eaten in weeks and I know it’s time.”

Dr. Codger stays cool and calm as he continues: “There aren’t any guarantees, but with some good strong antibiotics and surgery this evening, we should be able to get her all patched up!”

With a knowing grin, Dr. Codger adds, “She won’t be able to have any more pups, but I know that isn’t your main concern right now. My staff will be right in to discuss some options with you.”

Dr. Codger catches Seabass between rooms just in time.

“Let’s get some numbers going for Mr. Sepsis’ dog, Drippy. I haven’t seen a pyometra this bad in a long time. He’ll need some options, but let’s work with him to get this dog to surgery.”

Seabass is on top of his complaining game this afternoon and chimes in: “That grumpy old Mr. Sepsis doesn't care about any of his dogs. I’m surprised he didn’t drag her out behind the barn and shoot her himself!”

Seabass revs up his best eye-rolls and immediately senses he should probably tone it down. Dr. Codger is glaring at him, and Seabass immediately feels about two inches tall. Although Dr. Codger says nothing for what seems like 20 minutes, "probationary 60-day initial employment" rings loudly in Seabass’ ears. Dr. Codger takes a moment to insert his philosophy into the budding technician’s professional development.

“The important thing is that the client is here and the pet is here," begins Dr. Dodger. "Now it’s up to us to be compassionate and caring. If we can’t do that, then what can we do? I need to go check on a patient. Please keep me updated as to the arrangements you make with Mr. Sepsis. We’ll start prepping the OR and treatment areas.”

Seabass toils away uncomfortably. It sure is a lot more fun working with the younger doc! Maybe he can arrange his work schedule to cover days that Dr. Codger's off—oh, wait, Dr. Codger's never off. Come to think of it, pretty much all of the clients seem to adore Doc Codger. And he’s so old, that he must know just about everything. Seabass is torn: Should he gravitate toward the young up-and-comer, or does the wisdom of the ages potentially have more to offer? He plans to reflect a bit more on the situation later, but for now there’s work to do.

How judgy is too judgy?

Was Dr. Greenskin just having a bad day, or is Dr. Judgy McJudgyFace here to stay? Was it the stress talking, or even worse, might she have learned some of these traits from colleagues and mentors? Is it an inherent quality among veterinary professionals that she unwittingly and subconsciously absorbed the often-blogged-about God complex?

And what has shaped Dr. Codger’s very different approach? Does it have something do with his training taking place just as the Pleistocene ended, leading to lifelong guilt for having failed the woolly mammoth? Or did he get his demeanor and semblance of sincerity over time based on his own trials and tribulations?

We’re all hoping for the best for poor Drippy and Doornail, but will the veterinarians' varying approaches have any effect on case outcome?

Will any dialogue be had in the clinic about the pet parent's assumed role as Supreme Ruler of All Animal-Related Incidents?

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.