Episode 126 | Client Interactions in Vet Med- The Common Ground Most Of Us Miss

In Veterinary Medicine, our client interactions often end up in “us against them”… especially when the interaction is emotionally charged or perceived as negative or aggressive. 

Given the state of our world these days, it’s not surprising.

We are seeing this type of fear-based division everywhere.

In our heightened states of emotional reaction, the consequences are often not intended.

Negative interactions can escalate quickly, often ending with everyone feeling victimized.

Where does the veterinary patient fit into this?

When are egos take over, the veterinary patient never wins.

As veterinary professionals, we also totally miss what we have in common with the client.

It is this common ground that builds the foundation of veterinary medicine.

It’s why we do what we do.

Turns out, we actually want the exact same things…

Veterinary Professionals & Pet Owners both:

…want to help the pet.

…want the pet to get better.

…don’t want the pet to be scared or in pain.

…want treatment to be affordable.

…want to be a respected parter in the pet’s care.

When the ego gets involved, it is fear rather than concern and compassion, that drives the human interaction. 

Thankfully we get to choose which version of ourselves shows up in the moment.

In this episode I share how the common ground is the path forward for veterinary professionals, pet owners, and most importantly, the animals.



Website: https://joyfuldvm.com

Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay


Thank you so much for listening! If this episode supported you in any way, the best way you can pay forward is by taking a screenshot of this episode and sharing it on social media or with your team, and tag me!


This transcript is auto-generated and may contain typos.

Hi there. I'm Dr. Cari Wise, veterinarian, certified life coach, and certified quantum human design specialist. If you're a veterinary professional looking to uplevel your life and your career, or maybe looking to go in an entirely new direction, then what I talk about here on the Joyful DVM podcast is absolutely for you. Let's get started. Hello,

my friends. Welcome to episode 1 26 of the Joyful DVM Podcast. Recently, I've had the opportunity to be spending more time with clients within a veterinary setting, so in a clinical veterinary setting. And as I've had the opportunity to interact with clients in a veterinary setting, I've been really curious about their reactions and their interactions and the things that they say and the things that they do.

We spend a lot of time here at Joyful dvm, and we have on the podcast talking about the human interactions. And it's one of the main stressors for us in veterinary medicine is the human interactions. And so it's something that I'm very familiar with, but I looked at it this time. I've been looking at it, I would say through a totally different lens,

maybe an enhanced curiosity would be a good way to put it. As I've been interacting with them and watching what they're doing and and really pondering on it in the days that have passed since I've been wondering what exactly are they feeling. I've been trying to put myself into that space between what's happening around them and the way that they're responding. So we know that within that space is where all of our emotion comes up,

and then all of our thought patterns, which then ultimately drive the response that we have. And as I've been thinking about that, I also have been considering what brought them to the veterinary hospital in the first place. And I think that's the best place to start here with episode 1 26. So if we think about pet owners, why do they come to a veterinary hospital?

Well, obviously they come to get care for their animals, but why? Why is it that they're coming in? And I really found that there are about five things that drive people to make an appointment and bring their animal in to the veterinary hospital. Number one, they wanna help their pets. So whatever might be going on with their pets, even if it is just a wellness exam,

there is a true desire to take good care of their pets, and that drives them then to make those appointments. If the pet is ailing, then driver number two would be, I want the pet to get better. So if they're concerned about its physical health or a wound or something that's going on with it that's outside of the normal for that animal,

that drives them to seek help. So they want them to get better. Another thing that drives them is the desire for their pets not to be in pain and not to be scared. So whenever pet owners are concerned that their pet might be afraid of something, which is unusual, or they might be in pain, then they're gonna seek expert advice to try to solve that for their pet.

Another thing that that's on their mind, like number four, if we're thinking about the driving things that drives them to make a decision to come in, does have to do with finances. And so they're wanting a treatment plan, a veterinary experience to be affordable. And they have some level of belief in that when they make those appointments to come in. And number five,

they want to be respected as a pet owner. They also like us, have a concern of how they might be perceived if they don't do all the right things for their pets. I mean, we can make this one really short and sum it up, meaning they want people to like them. And so if we think about these different things, the things that clients want when it comes to their pets and their experience in veterinary medicine,

they really aren't all that unfamiliar. They wanna help the pets. They want the pets to get better. They don't want their pets to be scared or in pain. They want their treatments to be affordable, and they wanna be a respected partner in that care care process. They wanna be liked. And as I look through that list, and I consider those driving factors for pet owners,

I realize they're the exact same driving factors for every single one of us in veterinary medicine. The starting point is exactly the same. When we go to help a pet and a client in an exam room through a veterinary care cycle, we want to help the pet. We want the pet to get better. We don't want the pets to be scared or to be in pain.

We want their treatment options to be affordable, and we wanna be respected for our role. We want them to like us. And I think if we can start to really focus on this common ground, it may go a long way in helping us to create the exact kind of experience that we want for ourselves, not only as the veterinary care providers, but also as the pet owners.

We're starting at the same place. We have the same goals. So if we start at the same place and we have the same goals, then what goes wrong? How does the whole thing go sideways to where so many clients leave feeling frustrated or confused, and so many veterinary professionals feel frustrated and angry and disrespected? What happens in there? Well, what happens is a very normal human experience.

It's all a result of fear and fear that's showing up in multiple ways. If we think about it from the perspective of the client, let's look at money. They don't know how much it's gonna cost. They might have an initial idea of what an exam's gonna cost. They've probably called ahead to find that kind of stuff out. But ultimately, they don't know what kind of financial requirement is going to be needed for their pet to get the care,

the optimal care that it may need. And every single one of us has a money story. This is a generational money story, something that we have been taught by our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents. It's something that we hand down from generation to generation to generation. And most of us have a money story that includes a lot of pressure,

a lot of responsibility, a lot of scarcity, and a strong tie to self-value and self-worth. That's really scary stuff. And a lot of responsibility to put on money, which is just this manmade thing. That's maybe a topic for a whole other episode. But in regard to our client interactions, we want to just understand that just like us in our money stories,

they have their own money stories. And those money stories are mostly anchored in fear when their ability to take care of their pet is determined by their budget, and they get to a point when they recognize that their, the cost associated with optimal care exceeds the budget that they have to utilize, then they really feel bad. And that's a really generic word.

They feel bad, but what are they feeling bad about? They, a lot of it is, for them, it's guilt, it's shame. They wish they had more money to spend, they, they're stuck in this really hard place between they want to help the animal, but they don't have the money to do it. And many of us in the veterinary community,

we kind of amplify this situation because when people decline our services, we take it personally as if they're saying no to us, as if they don't like us or they don't trust us, or they would do what we said. We don't realize their decisions are driven by all kinds of things. And we'll never know all of them, all of the reasons why all we hear is the no.

And then we try to deflect how uncomfortable that makes us feel by blaming them for it. They're doing the exact same thing. They're trying to deflect how uncomfortable they feel because they've made the decision of no. And now they have to communicate that to the veterinary team. And because they're afraid that we are gonna judge them for their no, they try to deflect the blame on us.

That's where they say, you're only in it for the money. And do you know what we say? If you can't afford a pet, you shouldn't have one. Both sides of that argument are completely wrong, and they're defense mechanisms. It's the way that we have been taught to attack each other when simply all that's happening is there is a service that is offered,

there's a price tag attached to it, and then there either are or are not, or are not resources available to purchase those services. None of it has to be personal. But as soon as we tie on our generational money story to it, and we also tangle it up with likability and success, then the stakes become much, much higher. And the truth is,

when a client says they can't afford treatment, we don't ever know. So let's just say that number one, like they may just not want to pursue whatever we recommend, and that is their choice. They get to decide, but they would much rather tell you no and then blame their finances on it than say, no, I just don't want to.

And and risk being judged by you for the choice that they're making. As a veterinary professional, you do have authority in that situation, right? You're an expert in those situations. And so you make a medical recommendation based on your expertise. The client always gets to decide. But if they decide they just don't want to pursue that route of treatment, I want you to consider then how scary it must be to tell us that.

Because here they've come for your expert opinion, your expert advice, and you've given it to them. And they're gonna tell you no, totally their choice to make, but a scary choice. Because as a human, they're afraid to say no. Just like we're afraid to say no to all kinds of things. And so it's easier for them to say no if they have something else to blame.

If they say, no, I can't afford it. Somehow that seems like a more legitimate reason, I guess, to say no to a treatment option. Now, it doesn't have to be it. It actually isn't. But in our culture saying, no, I can't afford it, is a lot easier to hear than, no, I just don't want to.

Right? It's like why? We make excuses for everything. If somebody invites you to go to the movies and you don't wanna go, you might say, no, I gotta work late. Or No, I already have. You know, I already promised my mom, I'd come over and do whatever things she needs done. You know, what we call the little white lies that we stick on the end of stuff to justify the decisions we're making.

Because we're afraid, ultimately, of the reaction of the person who we are saying no to. Clients are no different. They may tell us it's about the money, it may not be about the money at all. They may tell us that it's because of some other reason. But the truth is they get to decide. I mean, and no is fine.

However, because of the fear that goes along with saying no to things. And then you know it very well may just be they want to, but they just don't have the budget. All of that fear around money comes into the appointment cycle. And then that emotion drives actions on both sides, their fears around their own money, and our fears around our pricing.

And that emotion alters the way that we interact with each other. Another way that fear pops up is in the thought that the pet owner has when they're coming in, especially when the pet is sick of, I don't know what's wrong with my pet. So they're scared, they know something's off, they don't know what's wrong with it. They're hoping to find answers.

But just being in that state of being able to recognize that there's something just not quite right with the pet, but they don't know what it is, that's really scary for them. But you know, who else doesn't know what's wrong with that pet until they get more information? Us. So when we see them on the appointment, on the appointment schedule,

you know, Fluffy's coming in for vomiting and diarrhea for two days, we also can sometimes feel a little bit nervous. We don't know what's wrong with them. We don't know if it's gonna be a simple dietary indiscretion, it's gonna respond to conservative therapy, or if we've got a full blown foreign body, or you know, a million things that it could be,

we don't know either. And so we're in the same place as what I want you to see here, that neither one of us know yet what's wrong with the pet. But together, through information and diagnostics, we can learn together as well. This doesn't have to be an individual journey for either side of this veterinary care cycle. Cause this veterinary care cycle involves three parties.

The pet itself is stuck right in the middle. The other parties are the clients and the veterinary team. Together we go so much further, but we both come into these interactions often from a place of fear. Another place that we come in from a place of fear. The clients come in with the, what if my pet doesn't get better? So they come in with that.

Or after we've gotten a little bit further down the diagnostic pathway and we have maybe a diagnosis and we're giving a prognosis and it's guarded, they're afraid, what if the pet doesn't get better? But you know who else is thinking, what if the pet doesn't get better? We are. And we carry that home too. So they're carrying home their worry.

They're hoping that their animal's gonna respond to the treatment plan that they've agreed to. But we are also doing the exact same thing. And I think we forget that, that when we spend our time worrying about our patients, like we're not alone in that worry. It's not just us. It's the clients who are doing that as well. And it's ultimately because we both care about that animal.

And finally, the anxiety. The anxiety. I think the fear that is a kind of an offshoot of the anxiety is woven throughout. All of this is a fear of judgment. The clients are afraid that we are gonna judge them when they bring their pets in that whatever condition their animal is in, that we're gonna chastise them, that we're gonna say mean things to them,

that we're gonna tell them that they should have done something different. And if they had done something different, they could've prevented what's going on with their animal right now. And for any of us who have done the client shaming, or who have told the owner that they could have prevented this if they had done X, Y, or Z, I want us to take a second and recognize that we cannot,

with 100% certainty, ever make that statement. Even if we think about heartworm disease, which is probably gonna be the thing that comes top of mind, can we 100% guarantee that if an owner gives heartworm prevention every single month that their dog will never get heartworm disease? The answer to that is no. We cannot guarantee it. So if a patient, a client comes in and the patient has heartworm disease,

why do we shame the client for it? Why do we make them feel bad? Because we're believing that if they had done what we said, that their animal wouldn't be suffering. That's a very ego driven opinion. And we don't know that. We don't know that at all. I can personally remember back early in my career, a family that had a pair of shelties,

both of them that came down with heartworm disease. And those dogs for in every area that we could tell had been on their heartworm prevention. They were on sentinel every single month for years. We could look back on the medical record, we could see where it was purchased. These clients were diligent. They gave the heartworm prevention every single month. They came in for their testing year after year.

And one year they were both positive. Everybody was stunned. Everybody's like, oh, that was just, you know, it had to have just been like a weird deal. You know, a medication failure, whatever, you know, turned it into the company. Novartis ended up paying for it. And it was like two years later when that family went to move,

when they pulled out their couch, behind the couch were dozens of heartworm pills, dozens they had been giving them. And the dogs have been spitting 'em out, and they had no idea. Now you might be thinking, well, that's different. They at least tried. And some people just declined. And I wanna ask you, why is it different?

In both cases, the owners just simply made a decision. And in both cases, eventually the animals in ended up positive for a disease that we could then go in and do something about. We can't, you know, of course, can't give a hundred percent positive prognosis. We don't know. We have to see how they respond to treatment. But the options that we give the client and the way that we approach the case is not different depending on how the animal got the disease that it has.

When we see it judging and blaming the client doesn't do the pet any good at all. If anything, it does the exact opposite. Because when people feel judged, they will avoid the situations of judgment. It will avoid the people who judge them. And what's so fascinating about judgment is judgment's always a mirror. Whatever we judge others for, there's always part of us that's doing the exact same thing.

So if we're judging them for not being good enough pet owners, that's simply a reflection of us judging ourselves for not being good enough veterinary professionals. It's another version of that deflect and blame cycle that the ego part of our brain, the lowest parts of our brain think that we need to maintain in order to create safety. And when we shame clients over their decisions,

we really limit our ability to help the animals. And remember, we're all here because we wanna help animals and serve people. That's what we do. They come to our clinic because they want us to help their animals. We start from the same place. And when our human egos get in the way, that's when communication breaks down. And our ability to help is limited.

And when we then both sides, the client and the veterinary professionals feel frustrated because the ability to help is limited, whether it be by finances or decisions, or simply the the status of the animal. We wanna blame somebody for that. And when we blame each other, when the clients blame us, and we blame them, the animal loses 100% of the time.

So they come into us with a fear that they're gonna be judged for the condition of their animal. And we go into appointments with the fear that they're gonna judge us for the what? The quality of the care that they receive. And we're humans. So guess how both of us are judging each other? Guess what we're using to measure how good of a pet owner the one side is,

or how good of a veterinary professional? The other side is we're putting the outcome of the patient as the ultimate test. If the patient gets better, that was a good veterinary professional, that was a good pet owner. And if the patient doesn't get better, that was a bad veterinary professional, that that pet owner didn't follow my advice, they should have done something else.

And it never should have gotten to this point. Do you see how it's just the cycle of the same thing, two sides of the same situation. We are all just people trying to do the best that we can for these animals. And just like every other aspect of this world, there is opportunity for us to divide ourselves and to convince ourselves that we are on different sides.

And what I wanted to share today through this episode is just to remind all of us that we're actually on the same side here. We want the same things. We want to help the pets. We want the pets to get better. We don't want pets to be in, be scared or be in pain. We want treatment to be affordable, and we want to be liked.

And it's when our ego gets in the way and brings up all the fears, all the what ifs. What if it costs too much? What if I don't know what's wrong with the pet? What if it doesn't get better? What if they don't like me? When all of that fear inducing belief pattern is the main driver of our interactions with each other,

it's no wonder we end up divided. And you'll notice that in every single one of those statements, it really comes back to us. It doesn't come back to the pet at all. We've lost focus on what we're there to do. So the next time that you're in an getting ready to go into an exam room, or you're interacting with a client who you've deemed difficult,

I want you to just consider what is this person afraid of? Because the most disrespectful, aggressive, bad behavior from a human comes from fear, whether it's our bad behavior or theirs. So what are they afraid of? Because if you can step back and consider that, I'm not saying that you should solve it, because when it comes to things like pricing,

it's very likely that you have no control over it. It is what it is. You can't solve that for them, right? If it's a, if there's a budget discrepancy there, of course there's some options that we can offer them. Care, credit, you know, things like that. But outside of that, you can't solve their budget situation.

But you're also not required to shame them or judge them for it. And you're also not required to make their decision or reflection of how well you did your job, because those things are completely unrelated. So when you notice that they're in fear, when you notice that somebody's interacting with you in a way that you're finding uncomfortable, I want you to consider two things.

Number one, I want you to consider that that behavior from them is coming from some place of fear. So fear, anxiety, worry, all the same types of emotion is coming from that. So just have a little compassion and be curious, what might they be experiencing that's causing this? Is there a better way I can communicate with them so at least they know that I still have their best interest and the pet's best interest in mind?

You can't change the situation for them. It's not your responsibility to make them feel better, but what your responsibility is, what every single one of us has the responsibility to do, whether or not we are in veterinary medicine, we're talking about, or we're talking about in our everyday life, is to make sure that we each show up the way that we wanna show up no matter what else is happening around us.

So when somebody is being ugly with us, when they are being aggressive, when they are saying mean things, do we allow ourselves to slide into that exact same emotional situation and react to them in that exact same way? Or do we take a minute to leverage that space to slow down what's happening so that we can decide with intention, how we wanna feel and what we wanna believe so we can interact from that intentional leveraged space?

When we'll take a minute to slide into compassion for the owner with curiosity about the situation at hand and with intentionality around our response, the entire situation can be diffused pretty quickly. And most importantly, you can interact with the client from the way, from the emotional state that most serves you. That's really what I want you to get out of this episode,

is that as much anxiety and fear that we carry around in this profession, it's never being created by what's actually happening in the moment. It's being created about what we, by what we believe, and more importantly by what we believe might happen, not what is happening, but we can drop ourselves back into what is happening in this moment. Instead of letting that lower brain of ours take us down a downward spiral in a direction that's not gonna be useful for the client and patient in front of us.

We can then just interact in a way that is authentic to us. And when we do that, not only does the client interaction get easier, but the pa, the patient itself will benefit every time. All right, my friends, just something to consider. We're on the same side with the same goals. Keep that in mind next week, and I'll see you soon.

Bye for now.