How many times have you been approached in a social setting with a personal anecdote of a favorite pet once someone learns of your profession? Although at times I find myself wishing I could say I was ‘an analyst’ or ‘an insurance saleswoman’ to escape a possibly long-winded story, our job title comes with a certain distinction and respect. With this authority, we are inherently viewed as leaders in the community setting. The expectation of a compassionate ear is seen as a universal trait among those with the initials ‘D.V.M’ behind their name.
I recently was approached for advice in the pet food aisle of the local grocery store—my scrubs and the close proximity of my clinic (literally next door) were a dead give away. I will admit that the last thing I wanted to do after a grueling 13-hour day (which included with four euthanasias) was to discuss the pros and cons of cat food varieties. However, it was clear that this customer was a client of my practice and was seeking my expertise. I listened to her talk about Fluffy’s latest antics, and encouraged her to make an appointment.
There are times when I feel my patience waning in these situations. However, I try to remember how I feel when I am visiting my own doctor, or seeking advice from a technical service representative for my computer. I know those individuals do not want to hear about my stories or complaints; however, their attitude towards me as I tell these stories will influence how I will view their profession in the future and the likelihood of my request for their services in the future.
Communication and understanding are critical aspects of being a leader, and it is so easy to forget that each client comes with his/her own story and history. A personal goal for me in the Future Leaders Program is to better understand the perspective of our clients, especially those that are considered to be challenging. In my own life, I can say with confidence I have at times been labeled as ‘That Client’ —you know, the one whose name is denoted with whatever symbol or acronym your clinic uses to represent a difficult person. I like to think of myself as perfectly rational; however, frustrations build and emotionally charged situations can lend themselves to the appearance of less than admirable personality traits. This is true for our clients as well. By raising my personal level of self-awareness, I hope to dispel previous transgressions while gaining a better understanding of those in my immediate work environment. My training through the Future Leaders Program has further strengthened my resolve, and in turn, has raised my level of awareness of the leadership role that veterinarians serve within society.