Self-test: What Kind Of Person Are You?

What kind of veterinary professional are you?

After a golden retriever's unexpected passing post-surgery, Dr. Zeltzman learned a valuable lesson from the dog's owner, a physician.

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Tasha, a 9-year-old female golden retriever, needed surgery to remove a thyroid tumor. Although the tumor was richly vascularized, surgery went well and Tasha recovered nicely.

However, a few hours after surgery, Tasha became dull and less responsive. Her breathing pattern was very odd, a strange combination of inspiratory and expiratory effort.

A few hours after waking up, she arrested. CPR was unfortunately unsuccessful. A tumor thrombus or a blood clot to the lungs and/or the brain was suspected. Of course, I called the owner to offer my condolences.

A week later, I mustered enough courage to call the owner, a physician, to check on him. I had spent a lot of time with him and answered multiple questions during the consultation, so I probably developed a stronger bond than with most clients. He was very understanding, and knew that sometimes things go wrong even though everything was done right.

The owner shared a concept that I have never heard before. Surely you have heard the ultra-classic quote, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Well, here's a twist on that quote, courtesy of Tasha's owner.

According to him, there are four types of people in this world:

• People who don't know and don't care. Ouch! I hope there are not too many of these people in the medical and veterinary field.
• People who don't know but care. I suspect this applies to some new grads (with all due respect). We have all been there. We come out of vet school full of empathy and good intentions and enthusiasm, yet have so much to learn.
• People who know but don't care. I imagine this could happen to experienced colleagues who invested a lot of themselves into patient and client care, and might end up burnt out or blasé. This is certainly one place where we should strive not to end up.
• People who know and care. Clearly this is the Holy Grail. As we remain caring, loving and empathetic while we acquire knowledge and experience, we should all strive to end up in this coveteed category.

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So something good came out of Tasha's demise. Her owner paved the road to greatness. By analyzing ourselves, and thinking about this self-test, we can make a conscious effort to be perceived by our clients and coworkers as both knowledgeable and caring.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, Pa. His website is www.drphilzeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.walkahound.com). 

Chris Longenecker, a certified veterinary technician in Reading, Pa., contributed to this blog.

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