Don't let bad karma come knocking at your practice's door. Institute these unofficial policies for preventing karmic payback.
Veterinary management advice is abundant these days, thanks to websites like this one and magazines like Firstline. While these sources are filled with sound ideas and information, there's one subject I've yet to see addressed: karma.
What does karma have to do with the average veterinary clinic? Well, one thing that seems true, at least in our industry, is that there's only one kind of karma—bad—and what might appear to be good karma is really just an ability to avoid any karma.
Among our practice's policies is an unofficial one that addresses this mysterious force. It goes something like this:
1. Never speak out loud the name of a client who's a pain in the rear. If you do, without fail, said client will call for an appointment (or more likely with a million questions he or she hopes to have answered over the phone for free).
2. Never mention how large a patient's vein appears to be when you're holding off that vein for a blood draw. It doesn't matter if a Chihuahua's cephalic vein is the size of a horse's jugular and a 25-ga needle is being used, the vein will collapse after giving no more than 0.1 mL of blood.
3. Remain humble when drawing a blood sample, no matter how skilled you are (or think you are). If you don't, you give the assistant permission to mention that the vein you're about to draw from is bigger than an interstate freeway. If you wonder what happens next, see the previous rule.
4. Never mention how smoothly the day is going. Doing so ensures that somewhere, a pet is about to suffer a serious injury that will require immediate attention—regardless of your already-full schedule. If you say it twice, the pet owner won't have any money.
5. Please note the list of terms that shall not be used (other than for the purposes of client education) until you're faced with them directly: parvovirus, barium, C-section, hit by car, foreign body. Enough said.
6. If you're standing near the on-call veterinarian and mention how few emergencies there have been lately, you're now the on-call assistant for the night. Don't bother going to sleep.
7. If you're working with a veterinarian who's trying to diagnose a difficult case and the client mentions something she read on the Internet, show respect and listen. If you show your annoyance at the citing of Internet information, guess what? You just found the diagnosis—or rather, it found you.
8. If an owner declines histopathology or cytology because he doesn't want to know the results, don't do a no-charge test out of professional curiosity. Doing so will ensure that the patient is suffering from some form of terminal disease, and you will be faced with a difficult ethical dilemma.
9. Last, but not least: If a team member breaks one of these rules, don't react or draw attention to it. Simply go about your regular routine and pretend it didn't happen. Every now and then, the "karma kommittee" overlooks such indiscretions—if you show proper respect and are really lucky.
Kyle Palmer, CVT, is practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic PC in Silverton, Ore. He blogs regularly—under the username pmcvt66—at dvm360.com/community.