Tales from the Frontline: The Things We Say When No One Is Looking

Written by Jade Velasquez, LVT, Practice Manager
veterinary morale

When we talk about client communication, we often think about how we communicate during exams, phone calls and even social media. These are all big pieces of how we share our standards of care, customer service and spread the message of what type of medicine we practice and what our practice identifies with.  The piece of the picture we often forget is how we as veterinary professionals speak about our clientele when it seems like no one is listening.  The energy and dark humor we use can work against the type of practice we wish to have and deteriorate trust in our clients.  

What we say when we think no one is listening, is who we are. We've all had clients that don’t necessarily follow our recommendations. It can be frustrating and cause people to vent about how the client must not care about our recommendations. Presenting estimates, taking histories, and having discussions with clients and then going back to treatment and venting about our frustrations may seem like a quick release of pent-up energy.  How we vent and the words we choose affect our team members. Our energy and complaints are contagious.  

The hospital walls aren’t as thick as we think they are. Imagine sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing a nurse complain about us or another patient. How would that feel? So, when we step into treatment and make sarcastic or snide comments about a client, even if it isn’t a person in the room, clients can hear us.  Even if the comments aren’t regarding them, speaking about clients as an inconvenience or frustration can cause clients not to trust us.  It’s not a big jump to think if as professionals we are talking down about a client that as soon as they walk out the door the conversation could shift towards them. 

The energy we choose isn’t just about how we behave in the exam room. If we use judgement or frustration or anger in our words, that is contagious.  As easy as it is to feed on good vibes, it is just as easy to feed on negativity in practice.  One bad phone call from a grumpy client can shift the mood of an entire veterinary hospital. We have to ask ourselves If venting is productive of rehashing a negative experience and forcing our team to relive it with us.  

Ultimately, we have to assume good intent. Our clients care about their pets enough to bring them in. Our job is to make recommendations and let them decide what they can or cannot do.  This isn’t a slight on our expertise or education. It isn’t personal. It’s a moment in time and it will pass. We can be frustrated, disappointed, and upset. But is it worth it to live in that moment and not look for the good?  Do we choose to deal with the situation at hand instead of the way we believe it should play out? Are we giving too much energy to things we cannot change? To survive in this field, we have to protect our energy and sometimes that means protecting ourselves from going to a negative mental space. It means retraining our brain and behaviors.  Our clients and patients only get the best when we push ourselves to be the best. Choose your words kindly. Even if it seems like no one is watching or listening.