There is a storm brewing in our professional world. Presently, it is a mere rumbling, but unless something is changed, it soon will be an earthshaking experience.
Veterinary medicine has always been a wonderful profession. I remember many years ago, a young lady client smiled and said, “Oh what a wonderful way to spend your days working with all the animals.” I have never forgotten that.
I have been a vet for almost two scores, and that seems like a long time. I can still remember the challenges getting into vet school, making it out of vet school and beginning my career as a young sprout of a clinician with lots of knowledge and little experience. Like Augustus McCray in Lonesome Dove said on his dying bed, “It has been one hell of a ride.”
Back in the old days we took pride in being ranked the number one, most trusted profession. We stood atop the pile for many years. This, unfortunately has changed. Today, we rank somewhere between third and fourth. Nurses claim the top spot now. Does this mean that our profession is slipping in quality? No, it means that we are slipping in the trust factor.
Trust is a funny thing. It is the absolute foundation of all good relationships. It cannot be handed to you. You have to earn it. It is the effect in the old cause and effect relationship. It is what comes out in the wash when you are not looking for it. You wake up one day and the relationship between you and your client has changed. You can’t explain it, yet you sense it.
It is funny that we spent so many years in school learning about the ins and outs of the animals that we would be treating, but so little time about the importance of the relationships that we would have with our clients. If I were to give a class at the vet school, it would be the first thing I talked about and the word trust would be implanted in every young veterinarian’s mind.
Once our clients genuinely trust us, then the magic happens. Then, there seems to be a harmony that arises between ourself, the pet and the caretaker. We have all experienced this, but few have taken the time to recognize it and even fewer have understood its importance.
Trust happens when the ego-mind gets out of the way. The doubts, the fears, the skepticism drop out of the experience and in doing so, life flows through each of us unimpeded. We are all on the same page. Our intention is one and life responds to that intention. This is the magic.
Today, we are letting the single most important factor in our practice life slip away. Our profession is losing its trust in the public’s eye. And, we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.
I don’t like to point fingers, at you or me or anyone else, but we have to look at how and why this is happening if we are ever to regain the trust that we once had.
As a profession, we are like a two-sided coin. We certainly have a caring, compassionate part of our personality, but on the other side of the coin, we have a rather large ego. That is understandable as our schooling is totally based on intellectual thinking and rationalization and that is the breeding ground for our ego. Psychology, tells us that the more intellectual one becomes, the larger is the potential for a strong ego development.
Ego, basically emphasizes me and mine. You know that voice in our heads that says, “Why is she questioning me, I am the doctor?” If the ego goes uncontrolled, then we become defensive and when we do, it blocks the harmonious connection between ourselves and our client. If our ego is threatened on a regular basis we become more and more defensive and in time it becomes woven in our personality. Believe me, most women clients sense that personality as finitely as the nose on your face.
I have had clients tell me that their veterinarian became defensive when questioned about a health issue that their opinion differed from the vet’s opinion. They tell me that they are afraid of asking questions and some are looking for another, more caring vet. I tell my colleagues that when the ego of the vet is in a heated discussion with the ego of the client, no one is focusing on the pet and all of the original intention of helping the pet is gone. The client might as well go home. It is a total waste of time.
I remember a wise old vet telling me, “When a client likes you they will likely keep silent, but when a client does not like you, they will yell it out loud for all to hear.” The pet caretakers are yelling it out loud and we need to hear their calls.
The most intelligent thing I have ever learned is that I don’t know everything and I never will. Learning is like life itself, it never stops and it is always changing. Any attempts to keep this from happening causes resistance and that creates suffering and suffering expresses itself in many ways.
The ego-driven mind wants to use its intelligence to figure out how things work, control things and keep them the same. In doing this, it creates a sense of security. The ego-mind is fear driven and is always trying to avoid change once it believes there is security. Change is perceived as a threat.
This happens with us as veterinarians. We learn lots of really good information, put it into practice, see some success and become content and secure in our way of life. We resist change. Sorry to tell you, but that is a pipe dream. Pet health care is changing and we, as a profession, have dug our boots into the sand. We are trying to resist the changes and any attempt by our clients or the public to force us to change is seen as a threat. And, this certainly threatens our ego.
If we are to survive, no thrive, as a profession, we need to see what is really happening and allow life to change. Change is always for the better and if we get back into the flow of life, it will improve our ways to provide for our patients, re-align ourselves with our clients and re-establish the trust that is absolutely mandatory if we are to do our jobs well.
We need to accept that our knowledge is limited and be open to new ideas and methods of pet health care. Just because we weren’t taught something in school or conflicts with what we were told by some representative from industry, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be open to it. Being open is the first step to change. Then, we can objectively do our research and make up our own minds. Good intention is a powerful thing.
Always stay focused on your intent. The same intent that you had when you chose to be a veterinarian; to be a compassionate caretaker of your patients and their caretakers. If you do, you will once again be in synch with with the harmony that lies in the depth of all relationships. There, and only there, will you foster trust once again.