Episode 155 | How Client-Shaming Is Hurting Our Profession

In the first episode of the Joyful DVM podcast in 2024, Dr. Cari Wise addresses the issue of client shaming by veterinary professionals on social media. She emphasizes that blaming clients for the stress of the veterinary profession is not productive. 

The habit of client shaming, particularly in relation to euthanasia, is discussed. 

Dr. Wise expresses concern about a specific post that shamed clients for not staying with their pets during euthanasia. She argues that it is not the place of veterinary professionals to judge clients’ choices and that staying or not staying during euthanasia does not reflect the level of care a client has for their pet. 

She reminds us of the importance of helping people as well as animals and urges veterinary professionals to be mindful of the impact of their words and actions on social media, and to consider the impact of their words on building (and breaking) trust with clients.

Dr. Wise encourages self-reflection and understanding of one’s own motives when expressing opinions. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Blaming clients for stress in the veterinary profession is not productive.
  2. Staying or not staying with a pet during euthanasia does not reflect the level to which a client cares for their animal. 
  3. Judgmental posts hinder the ability to help animals by creating doubt and mistrust in the minds of pet owners.
  4. Individual choices and opinions are powerful, but forcing them onto others is not productive.
  5. Self-reflection and understanding of one’s own motives when expressing opinions is encouraged.
  6. Respect for the choices of others and recognizing that there are many factors that play into decisions about euthanasia is important.
  7. Judgment only fosters mistrust, and it is crucial to think before posting harsh opinions on social media.

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Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay



Website: https://joyfuldvm.com



Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay


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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 are 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 friend.

Welcome back to the joyful DVM podcast. This is the first episode of 2024, and I cannot believe that we are already in a brand new year. It seems like 2023 went by past in the blink of an eye here. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a little bit of downtime, and I will admit I have spent some of that downtime scrolling social media.

And as I’ve scrolled social media, I have seen a trend that I knew was there because I’ve noticed it before. But for whatever reason over the last few weeks, this has really gotten under my skin. So I thought I would dedicate our first episode of 2024 to talking about the habit of client shaming that we are doing as veterinary professionals on social media.

Now, my friends, I know that this is a high stakes, high pressure, high stress job. I’ve been a veterinary professional going on 25 years, almost half my life, and I’ve experienced the highs of the highs and the lowest of the lowest of the darkest of the lows of this profession. And I also spent years blaming the external circumstances, specifically blaming client behavior for a lot of the stress that I experienced.

But what I’ve come to realize over the years as I’ve done my own internal work to take a look at what I, where I have insecurities, where I have judgment against myself, is that the external world really does not create the experience that I’m having and it never has all this being said until we know that it’s very common for us to blame the things around us and for us to get up on our high horses and to presume to tell the world how they should care for their animals.

If you’ve ever been one to say you shouldn’t have an animal, if you can’t afford it, then you are who I’m talking to and my friends. I don’t say that from harsh judgment. I say that from clear reality because I was that person too. Over the last few weeks, there’s a post that’s been cycling around, and it’s not a new post,

quite honestly, I’ve seen it out there several times over the last several years. But this time when I saw it, it just really rubbed me the wrong way because I took a look at that post from the perspective of a client, from somebody who really does care about their animals and who values the veterinary profession. And if I were that client and I saw this post on the social media of one of my veterinary care providers,

I would think twice about going back to them for service. The post was about euthanasia and specifically client shaming, calling clients a coward for not staying. When their animals are euthanized, it goes as far as to be in the voice of the pet that is being euthanized and talking about what that pet is feeling as if the human who wrote the post has any idea,

my friends, none of us do. But what really bothered me the most about this is just how poorly considered it was, just how much it actually was attacking clients, the very people we depend on for our livelihood. When we get trapped in our own egos, that’s when we presume to know what’s right for each client and what’s right for each pet that they own.

My friends. Our knowledge base does not give us permission to stand in judgment. It does not give us permission to call names and to call out the choices that other people make in the world that we live in. It’s all about choice. We all get to make our own choices. And if as a veterinary professional, your preference is to never do a euthanasia,

if the owner isn’t present, then that’s a choice that you get to make. But if you do, if you will follow through with euthanasia with an owner not being present, that I don’t really think it’s fair for you to judge that client for leaving. Whether or not somebody stays with their pet during euthanasia is not a direct correlation to how much they cared about their animal.

We don’t have any idea what people are going through and what plays into their decision to stay or not to stay. Some people, it’s just too hard for them to stay. And my friends, that’s okay. We are trained veterinary professionals. We know how to help a pet, a pet pass peacefully, how to make that transition surrounded by people who care about them.

And if it’s not their family members, that’s really okay. Now, if we personally have an issue with it, then we have to take a look at the choices we’re making ourselves. Why are we moving forward with a euthanasia in a situation that we don’t feel comfortable with? In doing that, we are out of integrity with ourselves, and it is that self-judgment that then comes out as an attack toward other people.

It always is a judgment of anybody else, is always simply the mirror of the self-judgment we hold. So as I take a look at these posts, and I see this trend of making snarky comments about clients, of being sarcastic about the veterinary profession, of out and out name calling of people who make choices different than what we might make for ourselves. I’m frustrated for the veterinary profession because my friends,

things are never going to get easier if we keep buying into this victim mentality while simultaneously standing on our high horse telling everybody else how they should live their lives. That’s really not our place. And what we miss with these posts is just how many people are watching. You may be just sharing somebody else’s post that shares a snarky sentiment, but your clients probably see it.

And if it’s not your clients who are seeing it, there are pet owners who are seeing these posts. And this is having a greater negative impact that any of us even realize. You see, when clients of any kind, when pet owners see these posts, these posts like this one that flat out called a pet owner a coward for not staying with their pet during euthanasia from the pet owner perspective,

that puts doubt in their mind, that makes them question whether or not they’re good pet owners, and that makes them hesitant to come to us for help because of their fear of our judgment. We can’t help any animals that don’t come our way. If the clients who own them are afraid of us, if they are afraid that we are gonna pass judgment on them,

that we are gonna behave unprofessionally toward them, that we’re gonna ridicule or shame their decisions, why would they ever bother to come? I know I wouldn’t. And so I think we have to think more broadly about the things that we share on social media and the way that we talk about clients, because at the end of the day, we are on the same side here.

We all want what’s best for the animals. And this veterinary medicine thing, it’s called practice for a reason. There’s a million different ways to do this job. Each and every one of us gets to decide how we want to practice, and we can set our own boundaries and our own policies around all kinds of different aspects of this profession, euthanasia included.

But if we elect to move forward with something that we don’t feel comfortable with, that’s not on the client, that’s on us. And I think it’s pretty presumptuous to believe that any one of us can read the mind of an animal, that we can share with any kind of authority what they are thinking and feeling because there are very, very few of us that can tap into the animal kingdom In that way,

I think it’s irresponsible for us to go out on social media and to rant on and on about client decisions to paint pictures of despair and anxiety of pets. I think that really just goes against everything that we’re trying to do here. And when we do it without a second consideration, without a second thought, what we’re missing is how much we are alienating the very people we are here to help.

This job is as much about helping people as it is about helping animals. And if we constantly stay in judgment of the people who own the animals, our ability to help the animals will be greatly impacted for the negative. Now, my intent behind this podcast episode today wasn’t to stand in judgment over all of you. I want you to just see what’s happening here.

I want you to understand how much impact you really have, and I want all of us to pay attention to what we say and what we do, not because we need to be people pleasing. Not because we’re trying to paint some picture of fiction, but because the impact of our words and our actions, it spreads far wider than any of us ever even realize.

Together as a community, we have a bit of an obligation to each other and to the protection of what it is that we do. I think it’s completely fine that each and every single one of us makes decisions regarding the way that we practice in order to stay in alignment with ourselves. Individual choices are absolutely powerful, but when we take our individual choices and our individual opinions,

and then we try to press those individual opinions and choices onto other people, we’ve moved out of our area of responsibility and into a realm that was never ours to try to control. You’ve heard the saying you do, you and I wholeheartedly believe that, and maybe you doing you, is you standing in judgment of the rest of the world, shaming the clients,

speaking for the animals, and generally trying to make people feel bad. If so, check your motives there, my friend, because that’s not about them. That’s about you. Each and every one of us has an individual journey here, and part of what we’re here to do is to understand who we are, to find the courage, to stand up for what we believe in.

And if the way that we try to influence others is by convincing and forcing and blaming and shaming, no matter what we create from that kind of energy, it’s never gonna be sustained. What’s more, it’s just gonna continue to foster the mistrust with the veterinary clientele. This is a challenge that each and every single one of us face, especially as the cost of veterinary care continues to rise.

And in the tumultuous world that we live in these days, in every single industry, there is already this undercurrent of distrust and fear and lack. And so when veterinary clientele see these postings by veterinary professionals that out and out shame clients for their choices and call them names, How do we stand together and defend that? I personally can’t, it’s not my decision to make whether or not a client decides to stay for a euthanasia.

For me personally, and I can only speak for me, I believe that euthanasia is the final gift that we can give so many of our pets. I believe if an animal is presented to me for euthanasia and I don’t believe it’s the right choice for that pet, that I will decline it because I believe I have the right to do that. After all,

I’m the one who has to sleep with that ultimate decision having been the one who does it. I also get to decide whether or not I’m gonna proceed if an owner’s not present, if they’ve given authorization, but have chosen to leave. And for me personally, I will because I know how hard that decision is to make. And I know personally how many other factors play into that decision to stay or to go.

I think that we never really consider the entire story of another human because we can’t ever know all of it. We make so many decisions based on assumptions. We think we know what their motives are, And then we decide what those people are, who their, what they’re about, and we can’t know their stories. My friends, I think about my own life.

I think about my my own husband who when we euthanize an animal, he doesn’t stay. I don’t judge him for that. That man has seen enough death in his lifetime that I understand why being there in those final moments is just too hard. And I know that his ability to step away from it is because he leaves his pets in the hands of somebody he trusts.

And yes, in this case it happens to be me. It happens to be his wife. But it’s no different than with any other client with which you have built a relationship. They trust you. You’ve cared for those pets oftentimes for years, if not decades. And for some of you who maybe you’re seeing a client for the very first time, jumping straight to judgment about their choices,

take a step back and realize they have a lifetime with that pet, a lifetime of living and decisions and caring for that animal, and they came to you to help them give one final gift. If they can’t stay, does that negate in a lifetime of caring for that animal? No. If they can’t stay, does that make them a coward? Absolutely not.

If they can’t stay, are you unable to do your job? I hope not. I hope for all of us that our ego doesn’t get in the way of doing what we can to care for animals. And I hope that we will as a collective think twice about the things that we post in social forums and the opinions that we chant in public. Because as much as we may believe that we are right and we know all,

we never know the entire story. And the more that we continue to share opinions that drive isolation between us and our clientele, the longer and wider the divide will become. It is very difficult for us to have any kind of positive impact if we don’t build trust first and posts like that, posts that absolutely intentionally shame clients and go as far as calling names and presuming to share what an animal is thinking does nothing to move forward.

The opportunity to provide veterinary care to more pets, it does not build trust, it does not reflect compassion, and it certainly doesn’t make you feel better at the end of the day. So my friends, as we go through the next several days, weeks and months of 2024, I would love for us all just to take a minute to think before we start spewing our opinions about anything out there.

There’s a million different opinions about everything from veterinary medicine and every other aspect of life. If we would just take a second to stand in the shoes of somebody on the other side of our opinion, we might be surprised about what we see. And when we take that minute to think before we act, to think before we speak, we may just be creating an opportunity for somebody to step forward,

to ask for our help and to serve in the way that we were meant to serve. All right, my friends, just something to consider. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.