Ok lately, the burden of being a veterinarian has been resting more heavily on me than the joys of it.
Friday night, a family of three rolls up, all smelling vaguely of alcohol (not that I'm judging, I drink, too). They were what can only be described as a term that rhymes with "night crash." Their dog had been hit by car. It weighed >100 pounds. It could not walk, had blood draining from both nostrils, a respiratory rate of >100, and other signs of polytrauma.
That's an automatic $500 deposit to get started (a Class I form). I knew they didn't have it, but I wasn't about to watch the dog die in front of me if I could fix some of the immediate problems (shock, pneumothorax) relatively quickly.
I placed an IV catheter, administered shock fluids, tapped his chest, and gave him a dose of pain medication. Meanwhile, the owner is running in and out of our lobby, disturbing everyone else present by setting off our loud door alarm, making phone calls, and talking belligerently about the money. He was trying to find another vet to see his dog.
In the end, they took the dog to a local GP who (according to his google internet reviews) is "only in vet med for the animals, not the money." He had $100 to pay us for the $300 worth of services I rendered. He was declined for CareCredit.
Last night, he called back for a refund on my misdiagnosis. Yes, you read that right. I didn't talk to him. My tech told him to call back and speak to the office manager if he had a complaint. According to him, the dog just had a broken/dislocated elbow, nothing else. It did, however, spend the entire weekend at the other vet's office (for $250, according to the owner).
If I had talked to him, I would have said, "Sir, I did not diagnose your dog with anything other than shock after being hit by a car. I recommended pain medications, IV fluids, hospitalization, and xrays. You declined due to your financial restrictions and elected to take the dog elsewhere, leaving us with a $200 unpaid bill. That does not constitute a diagnosis. I'm glad to hear that your dog did well. Have a nice night."
I need a day off. Sometimes veterinary medicine is downright infuriating. To work the hours that I do, as hard as I do, only to be harangued and treated badly by owners, thrown under the bus by other veterinarians, and thought of as a money grubbing thief...it just makes me feel sad and helpless and hopeless for the state of humanity.
The thing is, I do love animals, and I love what I do. It's the best job in the world and can be so amazingly rewarding. Vet school was not free, however. I work for an employer that must pay the electrical bills, pay the staff, provide the medical supplies we use at great cost to us, and keep the doors to our clinic open. Where do people think that money comes from???
It only takes one bad owner to erase the memories of all the great ones, all the thank you cards, grateful smiles, hugs, and enthusiastic reviews. Why does 1 bad apple so thoroughly spoil the bunch?
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