Letters to dvm360: Doctor should be supporting technicians, not hanging them out to dry
dvm360 readers have some input on Rosenberg's July column.
Editors' note: We received the following letters to the editor in response to Dr. Marc Rosenberg's July column "How rude! A nasty veterinary client and two ticked-off techs."
I have two wonderful licensed veterinary technicians (LVTs) who are incredible assets to our practice. They are smart, skillful, caring people. But they are both very nonconfrontational. So what Dr. Rosenberg sees as “empowering,” I see as a cop-out and nothing less than abandonment of the technicians. Asking these LVTs to confront rude client Leah Kinney would feel like the proverbial “throwing them to the lions.” They get plenty of practice just dealing with every other client who comes into the practice.
If this were my clinic, I would talk to the client and say, “It seems you're unhappy with Joyce and Randi's care of your pet Susie. Can you tell me about it?” Maybe I'll get some valuable feedback. Maybe she's picking on the technicians because she's worried about her cat dying, or maybe she feels their handling is too rough, or who knows what else it could be? I will find this out only if I ask, not if I have Joyce and Randi tell the rude client she's out of line.
We can't fire all the people we don't like, but we can set limits on what is enough. If Leah Kinney is really that dissatisfied, empathize with her, call her bluff or send her away. But saying that you're “empowering” your staff-well, we have different definitions of the term.
Dale Rubenstein, DVM, DABVP (feline)
I cannot abide by Dr. Rosenberg's response in his July column for several reasons. First, given Dr. Sims' hands-off tactic, I wonder how he would react if, after the technicians' next interaction with her, Ms. Kinney decided Elsewhere Veterinary Hospital would be a better fit for her! Would Sims stand by his staff or blame them for chasing away a longstanding client?
Second, while I agree philosophically that "people need to deal," there's an entire civil justice system that exists in recognition that sometimes they cannot. Maybe less of a black/white response would include Sims facilitating a meeting between the involved parties. Not only would this provide him with some insight on his staff's ability to deal with the public, it would allow him the opportunity to decide if truly Mrs. PIA might be a headache he'd rather see go elsewhere.
Ken Hallock, DVM
I can agree that veterinary staff members are professionals and should be able to tell a client that her comments are out of line and need to stop. My real question would be how the boss would react if the client decided that the staff members were being rude to her when they called her on her rudeness to them?
In many clinics where I've worked, the staff doesn't feel empowered to handle such rudeness "just as they would if they encountered an offensive service person in any retail setting" because the management (owner, practice manager, etc.) has made it clear that the clients' perceptions are all that matter when complaints are made. My guess is that these staff members were asking the boss to intervene because they weren't confident that the boss would back them up if they simply told Ms. Kinney that she was out of line and needed to stop making the rude comments.
Kris Clements, DVM