Sunday, June 3, 2012

On how to be a better veterinarian

Self improvement is something I work on constantly. This week brought a new experience that helped to open my eyes to ways that I can improve my interactions with owners.

Wednesday morning, we had a doctor's meeting. I'd been up all night at work, obsessing over my dead patient. I was tired, demoralized, and just stressed in general. I stopped by the house prior to the meeting to pick up Evaline. I wanted to let my husband sleep in, and she is usually a very good baby out and about in public. The first half of the meeting, she happily ate her egg and entertained herself. Toward the latter half, she became fussy and tired. I had my husband come pick her up, and the meeting continued.

When I got home, she was napping. It became apparent when she woke up that there was something wrong. She was glassy-eyed and very lethargic. Her cheeks were flushed, and she seemed to be breathing with effort. My husband thought I was hallucinating from being overtired and emotional, but I know my baby. I knew she was sick. We packed her off to the pediatrician's office quickly.

I was a mess quite honestly. I was overtired, emotional, and stressed about work. And to see my little Smoosh become so ill so quickly was terrifying. I started to cry. I cried the whole way to the doctor's office and while we waited. Worse case scenarios kept running through my head.

The doctor that saw Evaline was not her normal pediatrician. She was kind, thorough, did an excellent physical exam, and listened to my concerns. Despite my somewhat overwrought tears, she listened to me and took me seriously. She didn't make me feel silly about how upset I was. She explained her physical exam findings and then she went over differentials with me. She answered all my questions carefully and seemed to really understand my anxiety. Despite being fairly confident in her diagnosis (bronchiolitis likely secondary to a virus), she sent me for a chest X-ray. She knew it would assuage my worries.

I learned a lot from her mannerisms. What Evaline has is a common disease of infants. History and physical exam are usually sufficient for diagnosis. She's probably seen it a thousand times. Yet, she never made me feel rushed or as if I was overreacting about a fairly common illness (which I was).

It reminded me that although I see bite wounds and hit by cars and heart failure dogs all the time at work, most people are seeing it for the first time, and it's scary. It reminded me to talk to people gently. To listen to owners' fears and concerns. To answer questions and take the time to make sure my recommendations are understood. It reminded me to be compassionate no matter now silly or over the top an owner's reaction may be.

To that end, I wrote a thank you note to her and her staff saying pretty much all of that.

Evaline seems to be on the mend, although she is still hoarse. Me - I will be on the mend once Monday rolls around and I can forget I'm a vet for 9 days.


The Nurse said...

Very interesting.....I, a human health care professional, have been reminded about all the things you learned from your daughter's visit with the pediatrician, from my own vet when my last dog was so sick (and even now with my pair of heathy ones!). We are both very lucky to have kind, compassionate, and empathetic doctors to take care of our loved ones :)

Holly said...

When I have a new student, I often stop to simply be quiet and observe. I do this because it also refreshes me that although what I am teaching is second habit for ME, it is new and difficult for them.

I think it is good for all of us to be on the "other side" of an equation sometimes. To be the parent/owner instead of the doctor/instructor.

I am very glad that the baby is on the mend.

Krissy Wood said...

Well Said, thanks for sharing, hope your baby gets better soon!

Nicki said...

A good reminder for all of us

Anonymous said...

I had a very similar experience and can relate! When my baby was 3 mos old, the daycare called to say she was "pale and lethargic" and the cough she'd had for awhile was much worse. I nearly fell apart in the 5-minute drive to pick her up and take her to the pediatrician. She was diagnosed with RSV. All I wanted to hear them say was that she'd be ok. Gave me new perspective on my clients who just want the same reassurance for their four-legged babies.
As an aside, you might be interested in the Seattle Mama Doc blog, written by a pediatrician.