Old School, New School: Like a boss

September 1, 2017
Jeremy Campfield, DVM
Jeremy Campfield, DVM

Dr. Jeremy Campfield lives near Sacramento with his family, including an aging mini Aussie and an obstreperous pitbull mix that some mistake for a chocolate Lab (to the delight of her owners). When the family is not getting their hands dirty in the garden, Dr. Campfield indulges in his love for the outdoors with hiking, kitesurfing and climbing aboard any two-wheeled contraption. Please remember: Watch for cyclists, share the road, and pass them like you love them!

Without Dr. Codger breathing down her neck, Dr. Greenskin is able to grow her confidencebut can she convince her boss that they need to grow their veterinary team?

Illustration by Ryan OstranderOver the last few weeks, Dr. Codger has been taking care of some chores that have been piling up at home and has scarcely been seen at the hospital outside of daylight hours (which is highly unusual). His absence has allowed the budding Dr. Greenskin to spread her wings and practice in her own way, eliminating some of the fear brought on by the old doctor's constant scrutiny.

Dr. Greenskin has enjoyed so much autonomy, in fact, that the prospect of someday being her very own boss is starting to sound rather pleasant. She's been able to revel in some successful cases and take time to pat herself (and her team) on the back for the victories-no matter how small.

Take poor Mrs. Keepsemseparated, for example. She was flabbergasted when her intact female Chihuahua appeared to be whelping (again), but Greenskin was able to manually deliver a single large and very alive puppy! Mrs. K, who had been agonizing about what a cesarean section might cost, was impressed and relieved that she didn't have to euthanize her precious pooch. High-fives were given all around.

Wait a minute. What about the toxic tech from last month's column?

The problems posed by Mrs. Actright won't be solved this month. Dr. Greenskin is a little too, well … green to take on a toxic team member at this point. But the time is coming when the young associate will be ready, so stay tuned!

The unfettered doctor also convinced a couple of her boss's longtime clients that they had other options for managing their pups' minor skin flareups besides the usual once-a-year “allergy shot” of triamcinolone. But not all of these attempts were successful. On more than one occasion she was heard to mutter, after a solid 45 minutes of attempted client education, “Screw it. Just give him the steroid shot.”

It may be that this independence is helping Dr. Greenskin come into her own as the DVM-in-charge. While being completely on her own remains a terrifying proposition, her confidence is growing-and the team is mostly pleased. A few technicians have even managed not to text Dr. Codger a few times when Dr. Greenskin has made a surprising decision. (Not to worry, though. He still calls the front desk anytime several hours have passed without an update from the office.)

Dr. Greenskin's freedom has given her the space to notice a few issues during the past month-issues that take on a whole new significance when viewed through the lens of potential future owner. One glaring problem: understaffing. Being shorthanded is becoming more of the norm than an exception, and it's becoming harder for the young associate to shrug off these hectic days as just another bit of bad luck. One employee out sick is one thing, but one on maternity leave, one at home with a sick family member and another on vacation is making Greenskin feel like a technireceptionarian a little too often.

What's a prospective business acquirer to do? If Dr. Greenskin pushes hard for Dr. Codger to hire another technician, how will that affect the purchase price and profitability of the practice? Yet she knows that they need another RVT-and soon. She also understands that competent RVTs more than pay for themselves as far as the business is concerned.

With the problem identified, we come to the more challenging issue: How should Dr. Greenskin bring this up with Dr. Codger-a veterinarian who would rather ask his clients to scrub in for surgery than pay for a trained and qualified technician? Would trying to convince the old boss man to hire someone be a waste of energy-like running headlong into a brick wall? Would Dr. Greenskin be better off just waiting until she's in charge to make things run smoothly?

Here's something else Greenskin just can't shake: the anxiety-inducing question of how and why the old man became so stubborn! The business value of a hardworking RVT who would increase production and profitability and contribute to a positive team environment seems painfully clear. So where did all of that Codgeriness come from?


Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in general practice in California's Sacramento Valley. He is an avid kiteboarder.