Ask Shawn: Dealing with a smoking veterinarian


Q. Our doctor is a heavy smoker, and his smoke breaks are getting in the way of patient care. What should I do?

Risky business

The doctor at my practice is a heavy smoker. It wouldn't be a big deal, but his smoke breaks are getting in the way of patient care. He'll have his technician induce an animal for surgery, then go out for a smoke break. I hear his technician page him, but he's still outside for the next five minutes. This worries me, as we're all trained to minimize anesthetic time. As the practice manager, what should I do? —QUIETLY STEWING


The issue isn't smoking: It's patients' well-being. Sit your doctor down and explain that you're concerned about the time that his breaks take. Ask him if he'd like to adjust the schedule for his breaks so clients aren't inconvenienced and patients aren't threatened. If he resists, point out the physical and service threats he's taking and ask if he'd go on record saying he finds the risks appropriate. If he answers yes, you need to tell him you're disappointed in his answer. Then explain that you will be looking for another position.

Do any of us want to work at a practice where a personal addiction takes precedence over patient care? The answer couldn't be clearer. Snap out of it! —SHAWN

Shawn McVey, MA, MSW, is a member of the Firstline and Veterinary Economics editorial advisory boards and is CEO of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago. For videos and articles containing more of McVey's tips and tricks on issues relating to veterinary personnel management, conflict, and communication, visit

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