Old school, new school: A new trick for an old Codger

October 5, 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!

Dr. Greenskin presents her veterinary staffing plan to her boss with much trepidation. His response leaves her jaw on the floor.

Illustration by Ryan OstranderPoor Dr. Greenskin has been losing sleep over this one. Ever since Dr. Codger's streak of relative absenteeism, Dr. Greenskin just can't get over the clinic's staffing issues. She's been constantly fretting about how to address the problem and what the ramifications would be given her almost-possibly-just-maybe-owner-to-be status.

She's examined the issue from every angle. While part of her wants badly to take a command-and-conquer approach (buy the old guy out and do whatever she wants with the place!), there's no conquering her own cautious nature. Greenskin just can't get over the notion that the decades of experience currently at her disposal (as wrinkly and grumpy as they may be) are not something to be taken for granted.

Many of Dr. Greenskin's professors were almost as codgery as Dr. Codger, so she's not totally comfortable with the idea of taking over. She also doesn't want to rock the boat so much as to push the old fella completely out of her corner. Plus, the dedicated staff and clientele seem to be inexplicably attached to his very aura.

Finally, Dr. Greenskin makes the decision to approach Codger with a well-laid-out staffing plan that would greatly help their work flow. The harder pill to swallow is that the plan involves hiring a full-time registered technician as well as a part-time assistant. She's crafted a couple different schedules and laid out the expected revenue increases. She's even considering the option of running 20-minute appointments instead of her current 30, to show the boss how much more productive they could be with a smoothly running staff to delegate to.

Dr. Codger is nowhere to be found as Greenskin finishes up her last morning appointment-a bichon frisé that's been looking at her owners in “a strange sort of way.” The receptionist hardly looks up from her Star magazine while she mumbles that he's “fixin' some lights in the kennel.”

Dr. Greenskin does find Dr. Codger toiling away on a stepladder in the closed chain-link kennel, with a couple of curious golden retrievers looking on. The dogs seem to be waiting for something edible to fall from whatever the old man is doing up there.

“I was looking for you, Dr. Codger!” the young vet shouts over the roar of the cage dryers.

Codger glances over to identify the source of this interruption of his peaceful solitude. “Oh, I thought you were fully booked today.”

Greenskin is used to the old man's tact and doesn't flinch. “I am. But I haven't run into anything unexpected so far. I helped the technicians stay caught up enough for me to take a short lunch break. So I wanted to talk to you about some staffing problems we've been having.”

Seeing that this probably isn't going to be a sit-down-for-coffee type of discussion, Greenskin squeezes between the gate and the boiling-over goldens, letting the latch clink into place behind her. At this point the two goldens are literally falling over themselves in utter ecstasy. The people! The ladder! Crunchy! Ball!

Codger winces at his own stupidity in allowing himself to be cornered this way. He pockets the screwdriver and descends the rickety wooden ladder. “OK, Greenskin, what are you complaining about down here?”

Greenskin hands over her clipboard full of Dr. Codger's favorite language: numbers! She flies through her rehearsed two-minute pitch on the pitfalls of how they're staffing the hospital, and her near-perfect solution to get things right again.

An eerie silence falls. The constant barking and clanking in the kennel seem to dissipate, as if the two were in a sound void. Greenskin nervously watches the old Doc pore over the spreadsheets for what seems like an eternity.

Finally Dr. Codger looks up at his associate and … a genuine smile forms slowly across his face! Greenskin feels a wave of joy and vindication that can't be described. The world comes back into focus and bright light surrounds her. The goldens are dying with happiness in a fit of flying fur. It may be Greenskin's overactive imagination, but even the barks in the kennel sound happy. Happy barks!

“You know, Dr. Greenskin, I'm glad you spent the time to put this together. I've been meaning to get this staff thing sorted out. But stuff keeps coming up.” He waves at the bird's nest of wires above them. “I've always tried to run a tight ship, and I need to keep costs down. People are expensive. They're also pretty annoying. But you're right. We need a better workflow and we've been too short-handed.” Greenskin can hardly process what is happening. Dr. Codger continues, “I want you to do all the recruiting. I want to interview the three strongest applicants with you. But you find us those top three, OK?”

Once Dr. Greenskin pries her jaw off the damp kennel floor, she gives an awkward grin, nods and lets herself out of the kennel. She dances across a cloud all the way back to her desk, where a nice fresh cup of her favorite ramen flavor is just waiting for some hot water. She's enthralled with the notion that she accurately assessed the situation, came up with a good business solution, and is now being trusted to carry it out. She's been needing this boost for a while. Maybe she has what it takes to be a practice owner after all.

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