Old School, New School: Too nice for too long?


The regime change is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of Dr. Codgers clients. And Dr. Greenskin is a little bit glad shes not taking the blame.

Illustration by Ryan Ostrander.

Some time has passed since Dr. Codger informed Dr. Greenskin about the eventual corporate takeover. Just a couple of months ago, the entire staff was also informed and the response was mixed. But things definitely are changing. Corporate capital is in the air: Greenskin can't help but be impressed-even the teeniest bit excited-about the renovation projects already beginning and the all-new in-house laboratory equipment. There are also talks of using computers to document transactions and keep legible medical records!

Yes, you could say that the practice is about to catch up to the 20th century. To catch the 21st century will take some more doing, but Greenskin can't help but feel like that's much closer than even she could have executed had she been successful in buying out Dr. Codger on her own.

One consequence Dr. Greenskin is observing during this transition is one she'd predicted-and was one of her biggest hesitations in deciding whether to purchase the practice herself. Having had Dr. Codger as a mentor for several years, she knew that many of his management practices were directly opposite of what little business training she'd received in veterinary school. That was all well and good for Dr. Codger's fading regime, but since his exit, the remaining parties had been left to deal with the fallout: How were they supposed to retrain the practice's clients not to expect all of the niceties they'd enjoyed for decades with the old guard?

The receptionists were working overtime, taking the brunt of the frazzled and confused clients' anguish. Among the endless chatter at the front desk, a few statements could be heard over and over again. (Please note: We have translated the following statements to reflect their true meanings. The actual messages delivered by the receptionists sounded much more pleasant!)

“We're not cutting pills for you anymore! Enjoy this pill cutter ... first one's on us!”

“Discount? What discount? We don't do discounts!”

“No, you really do need a current exam for us to refill your pet's medications. Yes, we know he's been on enalapril for eight years, but you haven't been here in six years so it's time for a new exam!”

“No, recheck exams aren't ‘free.'”

“Well, that nail trim did require our technicians' time, so we are going to have to ask you to pay for it. I understand you're upset, but we're not aware of any surviving businesses that have paid their employees to work for free.”

“It's six o'clock and our doctors are going home to their families. I know, they've only been here for 12 hours. Well, actually they won't be done with records until 8 p.m., but still. Let me tell you about this wonderful place called the emergency clinic.”

And those are only a few notable examples! The transition is looking more and more like a shakeup. Some of Dr. Codger's “best” clients are even leaving the practice altogether. Lucky for them, Dr. Geezer's place on the other side of town is always accepting new clients, and he seems to be one of the last veterinarians around who “actually cares”-which means he does lots of work at little or no cost. However, rumor has it that Dr. Geezer might not be practicing much past 100 years old, which is coming up soon. And he's hearing some tempting stories from his colleague Dr. Codger about corporations paying smoking hot prices to take over vet clinics just like his.

As Dr. Greenskin watches these struggles, she can't help but feel just a teensy bit relieved that this really isn't really her problem as she's merely an employee of the company. They certainly would have been had she bought the place, although she probably would have phased in changes a bit more slowly. She's fairly certain the current pains are only temporary. And with the new branding and advertisements, new (and younger) clients are coming through the door, taking the place of the old.

Dr. Greenskin is doing her best to observe and learn all the steps involved in transforming the clinic into something more viable and modern. These lessons may still come in handy for her someday!

Are Dr. Codger's loyal clients being left out in the cold for no good reason? Or are these the inevitable consequences of modernizing something that has sat unchanged for decades? What lies ahead for Dr. Greenskin's career? Find out next time, in Old School, New School! 

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!

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