As President of the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, I have had the opportunity to meet with both state and national political leaders. In discussions about veterinary medical policy issues with these individuals, the veterinary client-patient relationship (VCPR) was a central theme. The simple definition of the VCPR is the relationship that exists when the veterinarian has come to know an animal well enough to optimally diagnose and treat any medical conditions the animal may develop. Although straightforward, this definition does not do our profession justice. For most of us, the VCPR extends well beyond any individual patient visit. We not only want to establish and maintain the VCPR at a given visit, but also to nurture the relationship into a long-term one. In other words, we want to provide care for the owner’s animal today, for its lifetime, and also care for any future animals they may own. This idea can be taken a step further in that we hope the owner’s family will bond with us, such that their grown children will bring their animals to us.
This desire for a long-term relationship makes veterinarians unique amongst health care providers. This unique relationship trumps the short-term, per-visit profit goal. The public perception and economics of our profession have changed in recent years. As a profession, we need to share with the policy makers and the general public what we already know about ourselves: veterinarians are caring professionals who are passionate about maintaining long-term relationships with their patients and clients. As our profession faces the challenges of the future, we need to focus on this important fact.