Friday, August 22, 2008

Things that make you go "Eh...?"

So, one thing that makes being a vet pretty interesting is that you get to see a lot of different stuff, medical and otherwise, every day. A LOT of different stuff. Some of it is just a new variation on an old theme. Some of it is different enough that you've never seen anything much (or even remotely) like it. Some of it is so different that you think: Are you having me on? (Or, alternatively: I guess we're not in Kansas anymore!)

One of the things that sort of brings me up short from time to time is the disconnect between what I think I'm saying and what the client thinks I'm saying. To combat this problem I tend to repeat myself at least twice, using different terms, every time I explain something to a client - but that's not always enough. I do TRY not to get too jargonized when talking to clients; after all, they would not be coming to see me if they had been to vet school themselves, so it stands to reason they didn't have the annoyance of - er, opportunity to - learn all that obscure medical vocabulary. Still.... sometimes I assume that people will get what I'm talking about, only to discover that I Could Not Be More Wrong. I'll take my lumps up front and admit that if there's a disconnect on communication, it's my fault and my job to set right. After all, it's my responsibility to educate the client. Still, I guess I kind of expect that there is at least a little overlap between the jargon-rich world of medicine and the everyday world of people's regular lives. I sort of assume that certain things are understood by both groups, that there is some common ground, that there are some terms and concepts we all understand even though not everyone has gone to medical school. But it isn't always so. There are times where I find myself going: "Now, is it just me...?"

As it turns out, it's not always me. Because today one of my nurses tells me this story.

When she was working at her previous place of employment (a vet hospital in a state which shall remain nameless but which rhymes with "spillinoy"), a client called up in a state of great irritation.

"I want to talk to someone about this medicine for my dog's ear infection," she says, in an annoyed tone of voice.

"Yes, Ma'am, how can I help you?" my nurse - always the professional - asks.

"I don't see any way this is ever going to work, " says the client, rather waspishly.

Well, that isn't too odd; sometimes it takes a few days for meds to kick in and show an improvement in symptoms. However, there are some other possibilities, such as a pet that's vomiting their meds (which obviously does no one any good), or one suffering some annoying or worrisome side effect from them. With this in mind, my nurse decides to get more detailed information.

"What seems to be the problem?" she asks.

"You gave me enough medicine for a week. I've only been treating my dog for three days, and I can't fit any more of the pills in his ears!" exclaims the client.

There is a moment of silence after my nurse relates this tale. "Really?" I ask her, with a sidelong look and a raised eyebrow.

"God's honest truth," she says, with absolute sincerity.

Now, is it just me....?


MaskedMan said...

Just please, please don't tell me that the offending client was blonde.

That would simply be too much.

AKDD said...

No idea. I was afraid to ask!

Natalie said...

Bwahahahahhhaa. Oh jeez.

It's not just you.

That being said, I find it annoying that every time I see a doctor (or vet, but that doesn't happen all that often, even with four pets) I really seem to have to prod a bit to get them to use actual technical terms. Because, probably given my personality and unique medical issues, have researched it to heck and beyond. So it drives me a little crazy when they dumb it down for me. But, I do understand it. Most people just can't be bothered to learn much of anything.

AKDD said...

Well, if I have a client who sounds like they know a little medicine, I usually nudge it up a bit. I had a client say "herpetic" to me the other day. (You GO, girl!) When that happens, I lapse pretty fast into technical talk. It's easier, really, as long as everybody is on the same page. It's tough, sometimes, to strike the delicate balance between talking down to clients and talking over their heads. I don't always get it right.

Sarah K. said...

I'd rather my vet talk to me in more medical terms, I think. It is up to me to ask for more clarification if I don't get it. Currently, I love everything about my vet except the explanation side of things. She is great and patient with my animals, has fair pricing, scheduling with her is not a nightmare, but often I leave with no clear answer of WHAT the problem is. Perhaps sometimes she's not clear either...but for a worry wart like me its nice to have some details and a name for sicknesses. However, the dogs love her and that is far more important overall!

AKDD said...

Well, we don't always get a firm diagnosis... but if the problem goes away and doesn't come back, you may not 100% NEED a firm diagnosis. But your vet sounds very reasonable, so maybe ask her to be more techincial with you? People often want LESS information, not more, so she may be automatically responding the way that suits the majority of her clientelle. She'd probably go into more detail if you asked her. I usually consider it a pleasant surprise if my clients do that!

Holly said...

it won't matter if you speak in the simplest terms, there are going to be clients that just won't get it.