Old School, New School: Feeding that empty feeling ... and zombies

March 13, 2018
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!

While Dr. Greenskin takes a mental break and does a little Netflix binge-watching, a relief vet comes in and wows everyone in the clinic, including Dr. Codger. Is a practice shake-up in the offing?

Dr. Greenskin's mental health break started off with Cap'n Crunch but graduated to cookies 'n' cream. (Illustration by Ryan Ostrander)It's been a tough couple of days at Dr. Codger's place. Ever since the doctors' not-so-pleasant exchange, the team has had to make ends meet with one doc instead of two. Did you figure Dr. Codger would reschedule at least a few appointments? Well, you figured wrong! This ol' boy has never backed down from an overfilled day. It's a wonder he ever hired a second doctor to begin with. However, today is a bit different, with a relief veterinarian on board for a trial run.

Dr. Middles is poised and confident, walking into the clinic ready for business. He's not half-bad to look at either, and a few of the female staff are feeling a little flustered. Dr. Middles has been practicing a fair bit longer than our tender Dr. Greenskin, but he's nowhere near as stubborn as dear old Doc Codger.

Meanwhile, back at home …

Dr. Greenskin has been on a three-day binge of TheWalking Dead with no end in sight. Thankfully, her therapist supports her taking some time to herself and checking out of work for a little while. Dr. Greenskin pauses the hordes of zombies for some much-needed sustenance.

As Cap'n Crunch overfills the bowl, she wonders how things are going at the clinic-or if she even cares. She's still smarting from being so harshly judged by her mentor, whom she has always respected. She can't help but feel betrayed. But those notions directly conflict with her desire to step up and eventually be the boss. How can she ever move forward as the clinic Cap'n if she can't even finish a day of work under a little fire?

A further concern-how the heck is she going to save face in the eyes of the whole team? She can only imagine what rumors are circulating about her brusque departure the other day. She knows she'll need to call Dr. Codger soon, but for now she's jumping back into the zombie apocalypse-and a 10 a.m. mimosa. Don't judge!

Meanwhile, back at the clinic …

Dr. Middles has just rocked out his day, even squeezing in a couple of emergency procedures to finish out the afternoon. He's made the whole show appear effortless, with clients tripping over themselves in sheer ecstasy at Dr. Middles' medical acumen. Same-day flowers, treats and thank-you cards from overjoyed pet owners are pouring in the front door to honor the better-than-perfect service at the hospital today.

As the team buttons things down for the evening, there's a sense of a job well done that they haven't experienced in some time. Could Dr. Middles be the answer to all of their prayers? Even Dr. Codger is swooning and makes Dr. Middles promise to “stay in touch” as he leaves the clinic.

Scribbling in a pile of charts, alone in his office, Dr. Codger fights that nagging feeling of unmet duty. Try as he might, he can't fend it off anymore and he picks up the phone.

Back at home, Dr. Greenskin sees the number flash on her iPhone and dread sets in. As much as she wants to just turn up the volume of the screams and gunshots blasting from the television, she reluctantly pauses the show and answers with a hesitant “Hello?”

Ready to eavesdrop on the conversation? Turn to the next page ...


Codger: Hey there, Doctor! I wanted to check on you and make sure you're doing all right. I also wanted to apologize.

Greenskin: Um, well, wow … that's very kind of you, Dr. Codger. You don't need to apologize.

Codger: That's baloney and you know it. I shouldn't have gotten in your way on that case. I wasn't being courteous or respectful, and I let things get out of hand. As long as I've been practicing, it's very hard for me to let go or to not get my way. It isn't fair to you, and I've been thinking a lot about the business sense you bring to the clinic. You also didn't do anything that was medically wrong, and I am very sorry I made you feel that you did.

Greenskin: I understand, Dr. Codger. I accept your apology. I guess I wish that some things were different-that the environment we work in would be more accommodating to all of us. We all want what's best for our patients, but the stresses we're under can sure make this job more difficult than it needs to be sometimes.

Codger: I'm not sure exactly what needs to change, but I'm open to suggestions. I don't want to talk your ear off right now. I want to give you your space. But we also need to have some idea of if and when you plan to come back to this crazy place we call a clinic.

Greenskin: I know, Doc. I shouldn't have left the way I did. I do want to come back but I need a little more time.

Codger: Dr. Middles was great today as a relief vet. The whole place was buzzing! I think he might be considering moving into this area. I can ask him to come in on a more regular basis.

Greenskin: So you can give me another week off?

Codger: I suppose we can make that work. But do keep me posted, OK?

They finish the conversation cordially, and Dr. Greenskin utters a loud sigh as she hangs up. She's only partially relieved by Dr. Codger's apology, though she feels he was being sincere.

“One week?” she asks herself. She knows she actually needs more time. But she can't help feeling pressured-even threatened-knowing someone might be poised to take her job.

Well, no point in dwelling on all of that nonsense right this moment! She fetches a gallon of cookies ‘n' cream from the freezer, presses play, and the zombie gore resumes.

Did Dr. Codger talk about the new relief vet to manipulate Dr. Greenskin into coming back sooner? Or was he just not thinking before speaking, as per usual? How will things turn out when Dr. Greenskin heads back to work? Will Dr. Codger be open to making some changes, and if so, will Dr. Greenskin be ready to make a big push to affect the types of changes she wants?

Find out next time in Old School, New School.

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