The internet, bookstore, and media are rife with sensationalistic stories about veterinarians trying to soak their clients, offering tips to help you combat those sneaky vets for only $19.95 plus S/H. I hate those stories- not because they’re exposing my “secrets”, but because they set up this combative atmosphere of distrust that make it very difficult to do my job well.
When someone comes into the office with this attitude, it’s apparent from the first moment. Every piece of advice is met with a sniff, every recommendation met with, “how much is that?” and “is that reallllly necessary?”
The questions are fair, but the tone says, “I don’t trust you.” It makes it near impossible to have a good working relationship. Most of the time disgruntled people holding an estimate in hand wait until I leave the room before asking the tech, “Is this a joke?” – but not always.
Let me be clear: I have a job, and that job (making pets better) involves recommending tests and treatments that cost money. I can’t do it for free, nor should I. But I don’t ever recommend anything that isn’t in the pet’s best interest solely because it makes the bill higher. Do some vets do that? I’m sure some do. Do most? I highly doubt it.
If you trust that that is my purpose, welcome. Let’s work together. If you don’t trust me, you should find another vet you do trust.
I recommend things that people can’t afford all the time. It’s my job to at least offer those things. How unfair would it be for me to make an assumption about you and what you can and can’t afford without giving you the chance to make that decision yourself? I’ve seen people on very limited incomes pay for a $5000 surgery and a guy in a $90,000 Range Rover (I know this because he told me himself what he drove and how much it cost) decline $200 in medications for his elderly father’s sick poodle. You just never know.
It’s a sad reality these days that medical practitioners have to function with one eye on the case and one eye on the potential lawsuit. It’s the reason informed consents are so long and the reason we have to tell you all the options even when you don’t really want to hear them. I’m not trying to make you feel badly when I tell you what the options for treatment are, but I do need to inform you. I have to. The standard of practice demands it. Whether or not you accept those recommendations is up to you.
I’ll be straight with you if you be straight with me. If you can’t afford my recommendations, let’s figure out the best use of what you can afford. This just doesn’t work if there isn’t some fundamental belief on your part that I really want what’s best for your pet.
I owe you the same. People come to the vet wanting to help their pet the best they can, and if you can’t afford the optimal treatment you should be able to figure out a Plan B without having to endure a lecture. We are both responsible for setting the right tone for a good visit. This is why I stopped playing the Mortal Kombat theme as I walk in the door (kidding.)