The Power of a Phrase: How are YOU doing?

Veterinary clients that suck up your time shouldn’t keep you from checking in on your more peaceful clients.


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We are talking again today about the power of words, and how just a simple phrase can mean so much to your clients. We are all well aware of, and used to, those clients who are considered “high maintenance.” They ask a lot from us of our time, our energy and our patience at times. They ask a lot of questions, outwardly display their negative emotions, and assumedly do not realize we have five other clients waiting on us. They can be exasperating. As I like to kid around and say, they "suck the life out of us." When they finally leave the exam room, we take a big deep sigh of relief, and often vent our feelings of frustration to the nearest coworker.

But it might be time — or way past time — to look at why these veterinary clients act the way they do. They are reaching, stretching, pulling our resources from us, yes. But maybe, just maybe, that is because they have not been willingly GIVEN our resources, or those of our colleagues, in the past.  Perhaps these clients were basically forced to ask questions because no one ever told them all the information they needed. Perhaps they “suck our energy” because they need someone to understand and empathize with what they are going through. Perhaps they take our time simply because in the past, no one has GIVEN them the time they felt they needed. They are forced to take from us what has not been given by us, or those like us, in the past.  How does that realization make you feel?

Don’t Forget Your Peaceful Clients

It feels rare to encounter a client who does not need so much from us. These clients are, it seems, few and far between. But be careful, because as the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” We are so familiar with squeaky wheels that we forgot to check the air pressure on the OTHER tires, those clients who are pleasant, thankful and “low maintenance.” We have to remember that they have feelings too, and just because they aren’t “sucking the life” out of us, we still need to give them our available time, energy and empathy.  Whereas we know how the squeaky clients feel, we should take time to find out how our non-squeaky clients are feeling. These are the people who seem to be doing fine … but are they?

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Writing blogs gives me the chance to look at moments that occur in life with a desire to see what can be learned, and what I might be able to teach others. As I mentioned last time around, my mother has been ill, gravely ill in fact.  So with me being the ‘medical person’ in the family, I have been translating her condition to my dad and brothers, talking with the nurses, asking questions of the doctors, and trying to hold everything together.  I am in my ‘professional mode’ without even trying…I just lack the scrubs I suppose.

But in the midst of all this chaos and heartbreak, a nurse named John motioned for me to join him in the hallway when the room was full of people.  I followed, thinking he would need to tell me something ‘medical’.

Instead, he just looked me in the eyes and said, “How are YOU doing?” 

“What?” I stammered in reply. 

“How are YOU doing?” he repeated.

My eyes filled up with tears. I told him I was OK, but I did accept a nice big hug from him. It was the most special moment of that long week. 

Turns out he is a ‘new’ nurse, still learning. I hope he never forgets how he can touch a person’s heart with just a phrase like, “how are YOU doing?”    

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