Extracts from Chapter 6

How not to look bad?

Monday afternoon, you’re ten minutes late to see the first appointment. As you slouch into the consulting room a glimpse of Day-Glo sock peeks from between your frayed jeans leg and your well-worn trainers. A lank lock of hair falls over one eye. As you smear it back onto your head, you recall that when it came to a choice between your fifth pint or going home for a bath and a shampoo, you chose beer. Perhaps the reheated balti you had for lunch wasn’t such a good idea. Apart from the interesting effects it is producing as it greets the remains of last night’s bitter, the receptionist did seem to recoil rather as she passed you the afternoon’s record cards. You have forgotten to bring a new white coat in as well, and there are distinct stains from the morning’s encounter with Mrs Dainty’s Cavalier’s anal glands. Well, less like stains, really, more sort of scratch and sniff patches. Still, if you lean up against the sink with your right side they are not too obvious.

Better get started. Looking at the name on the card, you call ‘Mrs Cameron’ into the waiting room. No client appears, so you move to the consulting room door while trying a hearty sort of call: ‘MRS CAMERON!’. Of the three men seated in the waiting room, the largest, a docker from the local port, slowly unfolds himself from his seat.
‘Ah! Good afternoon Mr Cameron. Come in. This must be Squidgy.’
‘This is Fluffy. Squidgy was hit by a car last Thursday and you put her to sleep.’
Fluffy has a couple of troubles today. She has been rubbing her bottom along the ground, and has also developed quite a harsh cough. You tackle the bottom first. Asking Mr Cameron to hold her upright, you advance upon her with your gloved finger forward. Something, however, seems to be wrong.
‘That’s funny. I can’t feel anything at all in her glands.’
‘Do they grow back then?’ inquires the client.
‘You removed her anal glands last year.’

Thankfully, a quick comb through Fluffy’s fur reveals a clutch of fleas. After informing the client that he’ll have to get some effective flea treatment (‘But I bought the drops from you not six weeks ago!’), you turn your attention to the cough. You place the stethoscope gently against the chest.
‘Whoah!’ you cry, stepping back a pace, ‘That’s a heck of a heart murmur. Your dog has congestive heart failure leading to her cough.’
‘Don’t the pills she’s been having keep that under control?’
‘You’ve been giving her medication for her heart for two years now and it’s working very well. I don’t know if it’s of any importance, but she was in kennels for a week. Came out seven days ago.’
As you commence treatment for Fluffy’s kennel cough, you explain that you are injecting an anti-inflammatory to make her throat more comfortable.
‘Will that be Ok with her Antistiff medicine?’
‘You started her on the Antistiff last year for her arthritic hip. It’s very good. Isn’t that an anti-inflammatory?’
Things haven’t been going smoothly, made worse by Fluffy’s loud squealing as you caught a tender spot with the injection you administered. Better soften Mr Cameron up a bit.
‘Good win for the Blues last night wasn’t it?’
‘I support the Reds. Have done man and boy. That’s why I’m wearing a Reds shirt.’

Time to call a halt to this session, enjoyable as you are finding it. You escort Mr Cameron to the reception desk where no one is to be seen. A gentle call produces no staff, so you have to go in search of your receptionist. Reassuring Mr Cameron that she’ll be along in a minute, you carefully call in your next client. A few minutes later there is a knock on the door. The receptionist puts her head round the corner.
‘Excuse me, but did you mean to prescribe Sindypox tablets for Fluffy? You know she’s got a penicillin allergy?’
Not a great demonstration of the art of client management, but these are all examples of what can happen if there is no attention to detail, no pride in one’s work. The art of looking good is more an exercise in avoiding looking bad. In this chapter we will cover some of the areas where you can make a good impression and how to do it.
Be older

Sadly there is one way of looking good to clients which may be beyond you at present. There is no doubt that many clients regard older members of the profession with more respect. Part of the reason for this is that over the years these senior vets have learned how to look after their clients and what they like. The purpose of this book is after all to give you a slight head start in making you aware of the range of non-clinical details that you need to cover in practice. Partly, though, there is simply an assumption that more years under the belt means more experience and so older vets command more respect. This can be frustrating for the young vet who knows that she is just as capable as her older colleague and far more up to date in veterinary science, and who sees minor slips and lapses by an older colleague either ignored or forgiven by clients when they would probably pass comment had she been in error. Don’t worry. If you perform your work efficiently and are pleasant to clients and compassionate to your patients you will soon be regarded with respect and affection by those same clients. The day when a client asks for you in preference to one of the more experienced members of the practice is a red letter day, and it won’t be long in coming.

The role of lay staff

Preparation is everything when you are getting ready to meet your public, and your lay staff can prime you nicely. They can indicate to you whether Mr or Mrs or Miss has come today, which animal they have brought and any snippets of information they have been passed. This puts you in a good position to discuss the client’s holiday or their daughter’s wedding.

Lay staff should also talk you up, not to the detriment of other vets in the practice, but so that you are given a good image in the public’s view. They should show confidence in your ability and point out your strong points without inferring that you have weak points. They should cover up for you if you have forgotten to do something or made a slight error, such as prescribing the wrong strength tablets or forgotten to phone a client at the time you had promised. In short they should act as a pr machine for the vets in the clinic because everyone benefits if the vets have a good image.

Text © Carl Gorman 2000

Illustrations © Hayley Albrecht 2000