Episode 170 | Refusing Service

In this episode, Dr. Cari Wise discusses the topic of refusing service to clients who come to veterinary hospitals while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Dr. Wise emphasizes the importance of utilizing the ability to refuse service and shares a personal experience where a client who was chemically altered came into her hospital. 

She discusses how this situation is becoming more common in today’s society and raises concerns about the impact of client’s potential inability to make decisions and provide proper care for their pets when they are impaired.

The discomfort and challenges faced by veterinary professionals when interacting with impaired clients are also discussed, along with the need to establish protocols and procedures for handling such situations. 

Dr. Wise advises veterinary professionals to trust their instincts and refuse service if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing the safety of staff, clients, and patients. 

She suggests involving outside help or authorities if necessary to ensure everyone’s wellbeing and urges veterinary professionals to establish clear expectations for client behavior and create a work environment where everyone feels empowered to put safety first.


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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 friends.

Welcome to another reflection Friday here at Joyful DVM. Today is Friday, February 23rd, 2024. And today we have an interesting topic. Today I wanna spend some time talking about refusing service to people who come to our veterinary hospitals and request care. We have the opportunity and the ability to refuse service, but it’s something that I think that we don’t utilize as often as we could.

And there’s several reasons why I re was reminded of this this week when we encountered a situation with a client who was chemically altered, if you will. And it was kind of obvious, not even kind of, it was blatantly obvious that this person was not in their full mental awareness that they were altered when they came into our hospital. And I think this is something that is more and more common because of the times that we live in.

And there’s no judgment one way or the other from me about that. But where this becomes a real point of consideration for veterinary professionals is when we are talking to clients about recommendations for their pets, and then they are required to authorize different treatments and then pay for those treatments. The question comes into play. At what point do we just call it? Do we refuse service because the owner or the client doesn’t appear to be able to make decisions or we have concern that those decisions may be not remembered or challenged later because of the way in which they are engaging with us?

And so it was quite interesting this week. I, I have to say that I’ve encountered this several times in my over two decades in veterinary medicine. But this week it was by far the most interesting situation that I’ve ever had. And without going into a lot of detail, I will just share that this particular situation included not only lots of personal items being dropped all over the floor,

which definitely supported our concern about chemical alteration, but also the client attempting to break into our sharps container when my staff was out of the room. So these are things that we don’t even realize that we need to be concerned about or to consider until it happens to us. And as sad as it was, as as sad as I felt for that human going through that experience,

I was also worried about my staff and our ability to handle that situation. They didn’t necessarily feel comfortable asking this person to leave. And I get it because I didn’t actually feel all that comfortable asking her to leave either though ultimately she did. You know, we did what we could. And she ultimately declined all of the services. But that wasn’t even the point of,

of the discomfort, right? It wasn’t what she did or didn’t do. It was the way that the interaction was because every step of the way, because we were interacting with somebody who was obviously impaired in some way, and there was nobody else there with her, the question was how do we interact in a professional way and at what point is this not a great situation for a professional type of interaction?

In hindsight, it was actually something that we recognized as a team when the appointment was originally scheduled. And so there was a concern, and my team definitely like gave a heads up, Hey, when this person’s scheduled, I had concerns that they may not have been a hundred percent coherent, that it may have been altered in some way. I don’t know if they’ll show up this way to the appointment,

but heads up. So that was great. And then yes, that is what happened, and then just kind of escalated from there. Now, at no point in time did anybody on the team feel unsafe, but that certainly is something that could happen. And, and if we feel unsafe, I think that it’s easier for us to ask people to leave.

But what we need to understand is that we have the opportunity and the ability to ask people to leave no for no reason at all. So for whatever reason that we feel it’s justified, we can ask people to leave. We can refuse services in this world that we live in. We are afraid, I think, to exercise that right? Because of our fear of backlash.

So that fear of backlash being perhaps getting blasted on social media, maybe that fear of backlash being something more physical or confrontational. And I’m not going to try to tell you that those aren’t legitimate concerns because those things can happen. We live in quite an interesting world right now. But it is important for us to remember that even though we might be afraid of certain things happening,

there’s no way for us to predict the future. And we can only make decisions based on the information that we have available to us at that time. And if our spidey senses are telling us something just isn’t right here, this doesn’t feel right to proceed, I wanna encourage all of us just to refuse service in those moments and to ask those clients to leave and to reschedule at another time.

We don’t even have to give an answer. We don’t have to say, Hey, I need you to reschedule because I think you’re high. And I don’t think you can make decisions. That’s not what I’m saying that we should say because we can’t make those assumptions about people. But what I am saying is we can say, Hey, this, this isn’t gonna work out right now.

Let’s reschedule your appointment for another time and maybe you can bring somebody with you so that we can make sure that to have the conversations we need to have and get the authorizations that we need to have in order to move forward with your, with the care for your pet. Something along those lines. We can even just say, you know, this appointment at the time is just no longer available.

We need to ask you to leave and we can try to reschedule this in the future if somebody refuses to leave. What we have to remember, what I think is important to remember, maybe some of you don’t even know this, so this is why I wanted to come on today and share this, is if you ask somebody to leave your facility and they do not leave at that point,

it becomes trespassing. So you can then ask them again, can you please, we we’re asking for you to leave. If you continue to stay, this is going to be considered trespassing and we can call the police if needed. And that I think is an important thing for us to remember, is that we can ask people to leave. We can then communicate that it is trespass if they continue to stay.

And at that point, you can get the authorities involved. I want us to remember this because in the world that we live in where things are so unpredictable, I don’t think that we lean on those outside resources as often as we could and in situations when it’s necessary. Now, in our situation this week, it didn’t get to that we asked for this person to leave and then they eventually did.

And so you know, everybody felt safe and it was just a real squirrely kind of deal. Like it was just kind of above and beyond what I have typically encountered with somebody who appears to be under the influence of some type of substance. But I don’t think it’s going to be a one-off kind of deal. I think it’s something that we are going to continue to see,

and I’m sure that many of you have already seen. So do you have something in place that is a protocol, a standard op standard operating procedure for your own facility on what to do in those situations? We kind of found ourselves a little bit behind the eight ball here, kind of scrambling, trying to find the policy, what do we do in this situation?

And so I think this is a great reminder for all of us, that even though we hope that this never happens, we hope that we never end up in a situation where we have a client who is impaired and we are unable to communicate that with them. We hope that we are never in a situation where we feel threatened and we need to ask somebody to leave or we need to ask ’em to leave for some other reason.

But just hoping that it doesn’t happen doesn’t prepare us for when it does, because my friends, it’s probably going to happen to you at some point if it hasn’t happened already. So knowing in advance what you’re going to do, including even having some verbiage written out on how you communicate, your request for the client to leave or to reschedule, is really helpful in the moment.

Because in the moment when this happens, your nervous system is gonna be on overdrive. You’re going to feel nervous, you are going to feel anxious, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. So as much of this as we can plan out, so we can just grab our policy and read it over and remind ourselves, okay, this is what I say, this is what I do.

Then as much easier to execute in that moment. That helps keep everybody safe, that helps keep the entire organization and all the clients who happen to be in the building, helps to keep everything flowing in a way where it doesn’t have to become this really big thing. And if it does become a big thing, if you run up against somebody who is refusing to leave when you ask them to leave,

then please do not hesitate to call in outside help in that situation because your safety and the safety of your patients and your clients and your staff always has to be at the front of your mind. And it’s important to know that because we are a service-based business in most places, we have the right to decline services for no reason at all. Don’t be afraid to exercise that,

right? If your gut instinct is something isn’t right here, if you feel uncomfortable with that client, by all means, never be alone in a room with them if you really just don’t want to engage with this client for whatever reason is just coming up for you. And like I said, even if it is just kind of this gut instinct, something doesn’t feel right,

please my friends, listen to your instincts here. It is okay for somebody to be mad because you decided not to see them better for them to be mad than for your entire hospital, all of your staff, your clients, everybody else to also feel uncomfortable and to have a bad experience or worse. It is okay if people don’t agree with your decisions.

That does not make them bad decisions. It is okay if somebody wants to go rant on social media because you elected not to see them. There are ways that you can respond to those things. Sometimes, get those comments removed. And quite honestly, when you have the opportunity to share your side of the story, that makes a huge difference to a lot of people who might see those reviews.

But even if you don’t, even if somebody goes out there and rants because you asked them to leave and you didn’t provide service, what I want you to know is the people who write those rants, the general public, is going to be able to see what a hot mess it is. Because people don’t write those, those kinds of rants being mad about getting refused service.

They don’t write that from a place of emotional stability. They typically are very highly emotive when they write those things. They ramble on, they share way too many details. And the average person is going to read that and be like, whoa, there is more going on here than what that person has written. And I think we have to remember that because I think we get in this idea and this belief system that when something bad gets written about us on social media,

that everybody who reads is gonna automatically believe it. But that is absolutely not true. The, the population of people who read information on social media is getting more and more savvy to what happens on social media. And so much of it is fabricated, and so much of it is blown out of control and and dramatized beyond what it really is. And when people overshare and they overexplain and they overdramatize what happened?

People realistic, reasonable people can see that. So the people who are gonna read a rant about some crazy thing that happened at a veterinary hospital and believe it are probably not your ideal clients anyway. The clients who know you, the clients that you’ve bonded with, the ones that you were there to serve in a very helpful kind of way in a collaborative kind of way,

those people are gonna read that stuff and be like, what is that? And they’re just not even gonna pay it any attention because they’re gonna be able to see the difference. Do not underestimate how the power of the positive experiences that you provide in veterinary medicine actually serve as a buffer when you come up against people who are a little bit extra and go into social media and and are difficult with your front desk staff and all of that.

And at the end of the day, remember that only 10% of your clients make up 90% of your headaches. And so as we look at that 10% and how they have a draw on the operations and the ability to care for the other 90%, we have to keep asking ourselves, to what extent are we going to be willing to refuse services? In the past,

we have just sucked it up and done it. We have dealt with every client who may be a little bit extra, a little bit challenging, a little bit abrasive and grouchy, and even verbally abusive just to kind of get them out the door quickly. We see them on the schedule, we jump to it like we, oh my gosh, Mrs. Smith is gonna be,

is coming in today. And she’s usually really cranky. She’s always in a hurry. And so everybody just gets on high alert and high anxiety to make sure that when she gets here, we can do everything we can as quickly as possible and get her out the door. I’m talking about those kinds of clients too. We have to take a step back and be like,

why the heck are we doing this? If we don’t do this for 90% of the other clients, but we are all kind of afraid of an on and on edge over this particular client, why are we doing that? What are we afraid of doing if we refuse services to her? Why is it that we’re not communicating what our expectation for client behavior is with her?

Like we might other people? My friends, we have to get braver about refusing services. We teach people how to treat us. Now, how they behave is never gonna be something that we control, but we can teach them what the expectation is to maintain a professional relationship with them, with us. And I think that expecting people to be respectful, to be kind,

to keep a normal tone and to not be altered by chemical substances when they come in for care, I do not think that those are unrealistic requests. And the more that we stand into that power, the more that we know what our boundaries are for our own facilities, when we have our policies and procedures in place on what to do, when those situations come up,

then the more empowered our entire teams feel in their jobs and the safer the environment is for everybody. So my friends, as you get ready to go through the next week, I want you to just consider, do you have clients or situations where you have been afraid to refuse service? And what can you do to change your perspective so that you actually create more and more of a work environment,

not only that you want to come to, but that clients want to visit a as well? All right, my friends, that’s gonna wrap it up. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.