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Is patience still a virtue?
When you're stuck in line and think you're suffering serious frustration, just think about your patients.
Have you ever wondered why the same word used to describe an individual under medical care is also a virtue that requires forbearance and endurance? Do you think that’s an accident? I have been practicing veterinary medicine for nearly 20 years and I can tell you: It’s no accident.
Are you a patient person? I’m not. In fact, when Dr. Michelle Dockter recently told me about her experience at a supermarket, it created some self-evaluation in me. Here’s what happened:
She was in a hurry, as we often are, and the checkout lines were long. She sized them up — looking at the volume of items in peoples’ carts — and finally settled on a line in which customers had just a few items per person.
The old couple just in front of her looked to be retired and only had two things that needed to be purchased. There were a few baskets ahead of the old couple, and the checker working the line was good and fast. In no time at all the old couple had laid their items on the counter and were about to pay when the old man said, “The newspaper says you have lettuce for 69 cents. We couldn’t find any there in the produce section. We want a raincheck.”
Dr. Michelle was in a hurry to get back to a sick horse. The last thing she needed was to wait for a rain check that saved someone 12 cents on lettuce. To make matters worse, the checker was out of rain checks at her cash register. She started walking from checker to checker, trying to find a rain check to give to these people for 69-cent lettuce.
No one had a rain check, so the checker had to go to the front office. Dr. Michelle looked around and discovered that she had actually chosen the slowest of all lines and that every customer who would have been behind her in this line was checked out and gone.
Just as she was about to offer the people a dollar if they’d just move on and let her check out, the much-anticipated rain check arrived. But instead of handing the rain check to the elderly couple, the checker started writing on it. It was a generic rain check, and the details about a product had to be filled in and signed by a manager. Of course, there was no manager around, so the checker had to get on the overhead loudspeaker and summon him to her register. Makes you want to pull your hair out just reading about it, doesn’t it?
That feeling you’re having is a lot like what a dog experiences when it chews its stitches out five minutes after it wakes up from surgery. Or a horse that kicks the stall wall over and over with the leg you spent all day putting a cast on. Maybe a cat that bites and scratches you every time you try to treat it for a disease that will be fatal if it doesn’t take the medicine. Or a cow that runs you over and stomps on you while you’re trying to deliver the calf that’s stuck half way in and half way out. With veterinary patients, well, we all just need a little more patience.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.