Talking text: Boss's fat-finger fumbling drives his veterinary associate crazy

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Ah, yes, old people texting. It will never not be funny. But ... what if you are the old person in this scenario?

Illustrations by Ryan Ostrander and Anne McDonald Campfield, DVMLast month, we met the ripe old Dr. Codger and his brand new associate Dr. Greenskin. As they prepare to square off, we'll dissect the behaviors and attitudes that define them as old school and new school. With little in common besides their advanced degree and love for veterinary medicine, these two vets are in for a bumpy ride!

This month we'll take a look at the new and the old way of using technology in and out of the clinic. The exponential evolution of technology over the past couple of decades has provided avenues for better service and practice growth, but pitfalls abound if we aren't careful in how we use them. Technology talks-well, unless it's beeping, vibrating or blinking!

Before his morning appointment, Dr. Codger arrives early to sift through the faxes and call clients back about lab results and patient updates. As he goes back through the paper charts and scribbles notes along the way, the extra work in the morning can pile up. After his final appointments of the day, Dr. Codger usually makes  half a dozen phone calls to colleagues for patient consults or to the emergency clinic about any transfer patients.

Saturday afternoons are “catchup time” to get ahold of clients while signing checks and mailing out payments to his creditors. By the time all that's done, and after his nightly walk through the building to make sure all the lights are off, the exhausted Dr. Codger usually ends up re-microwaving the dinner his wife cooked at home.

Dr. Greenskin likes to take it easy in the morning and usually arrives at the practice just in time for her 9 a.m. appointment, happily sipping a paper-cup latte. Greenskin texts nonstop between rooms, which irks some of the technicians who adhere to the strict no-cellphone policy. Thanks to the handy tablet pocket inside Greenskin's lab coat, she is never more than a millisecond away from her email, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The tablet is a lifesaver for her. She can check her electronic formulary for every prescription, set her DVR on the fly, and run quick VIN searches to expedite patient care and make sure she's on track with the tougher diagnoses. At 5:01 p.m., Greenskin is nowhere to be found. She's been known to call the receptionist during her commute home to dictate prescription refills, invoices and other matters that were overlooked during office hours.

Greenskin has been trying to groom Codger into using the text message feature on his flip phone so that they can stay in contact when needed after hours. Codger is having a tough time adjusting. Here is their latest exchange:

Dr. C:  how Iss sCooper?! thit parvo dog? can you come in early tommorrow>

Dr. G:  elev PCV 50%, decr TS 3.0, USG 1.030, gave Norm-R bolus and started Hetastarch CRI, can we get FFP? I can't … early spin class.

Dr. C:  Is shee eatings? AND diarrheal? YES

Dr. G:  Not eating but no V. D darker, no blood. Added reglan. Did you order FFP?

Dr. C:  Yes give reeglan.. wh

Dr. C:  at ffp

At this point, an exasperated Dr. Greenskin quietly exits the sold-out movie theater to phone Dr. Codger and make sure everything is straight. Dr. Codger jumps at the opportunity to answer his ringing landline and spends the next 25 minutes coaching his young associate on all aspects of treating canine parvovirus. Dr. Greenskin concedes and says she will skip her morning spin class and come to work early.

It seems that Codger and Greenskin have a lot to learn from each other! Codger may want to spend some time getting more familiar with the technologies that could increase his efficiency and free up some of his personal time. Greenskin tends to rely on the devices too much, which makes her seem less personable to her immediate coworkers, since she is always “connected.” She should probably learn to leave the devices in the doctors' office and let her radiant personality shine through during those office visits.

For us newbies, we should remember that sometimes making that phone call might be more appropriate and personal than the quick and easy text or email. Them old farts may consider how their practice might benefit from social media, or how some of the quicker forms of communication might be suitable in the right situations, not to mention saving precious time.

And don't forget the sticky notes. Young or old, those things can never be replaced!  

Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in emergency and critical care private practice in Southern California.

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