Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Less than Perfect

When I was in vet school, someone gave us a lecture that was supposed to be humorous at a student convention. He was an older vet who was a little jaded by general practice. He told us that he alerted his staff to pain-in-the-butt clients by putting an "A" with a circle around it on the front of their files. He thought it was brilliant, because if the owner saw it, they would think they were A+ clients, but everyone who worked there would know that they were a-holes from his crude symbol. Like I said, he was supposed to be funny, but he really just made us more wary of practice, and unapologetically showed us how mediocre he was.

He also said, "I guarantee every one of you will try to spay a tom cat and put an IM pin into your palm when trying to fix a femur." He knew that in a busy practice how easy it was to check an animal in for a spay, have your technicians prep it for surgery, and not realize until you were digging around in there for way too long for a non-existent uterus since the cat was actually a "HE." Damn, and you could've been at lunch already, since cat neuters only take about 5 minutes. Fortunately, I have never made this particular mistake, but I can see how it could happen. As kittens, the female and male genitalia look almost the same (especially on orange cats), so the owners may at the beginning think their cats is the opposite sex (and name it accordingly). Four months later before the big surgery, you should examine the animal, listen to its heart, but you might not actually inspect the privates. 60 minutes later, you are scrubbed in and presented with a cat, shaved and scrubbed for ovariohysterectomy, so that's what you try to do...

The old guy's prophecy has not come true for me (yet). So I would not think too poorly of a vet that accidentally tried to spay your male cat - if that was what was asked for, and as long as he only charged for the neuter, not the spay. Also, no vet should ever try to spay a male dog, since there is a big prepuce in the middle of their abdomen.

The other half of the prophecy hasn't come true either - although I can see how whilst trying to force a steel pin into a femur you could ram it right through the other side and into your palm. I don't do much orthopedic surgery, thanks to much more skilled surgeons being close by.

I have, however, made my share of mistakes, and I hope you'll forgive me for not exploring them further. Each one is too painful to recount, especially recent ones -- nothing fatal, thank god. This is the difficult part of the job for me, not dealing with death, which is usually a mercy, but when my lack of intellect or lack of attention causes an animal and its owner suffering. That's when I wish I had an easier job, not when it gets busy or when staff drama gets out of hand. Making a medical mistake makes me question everything.

10 comments:

A.Norma said...

Thanks for that write up,Jenn. I will certainly pass that message on to the person who had the 'he' cat speyed! when we had the Pet shop I used to be able to tell the sex of the creature by how far 'up' the genitalia was...like was it a bum or a vagina? anyway enjoyed your explanation because it truly was puzzling as to how a Vet. can get mixed up with a Tomcat.

COUSIN BEVIE said...

Good Post! Hey, everyone makes mistakes...in your case reapairing snaggled limbs, helping a mother cat deliever,feeling compassion on every creature who enters your office... etc,etc FAR outweighs any little error that may occur!!!!!!! Keep doing what you do because if you DIDN'T make one mistake I'd start to worry you weren't human!!

XOXOXOXO!

Emily said...

I agree with Bevie. I'm sure you're much tougher on yourself than on others, and you do much more good than harm.

paula said...

I totally agree with Em! Although don't completely forgive you for the title of this post as it has made me think about my fave soap opera that I can no longer watch on abc1(sob).

Daisy said...

Jenn - thank you for the great post and quick answer, and most of all, the perspective. I'd never thought about the difference in the observability of canine vs. feline genitalia. I passed your observations on to my colleague.

ColeBugsmommy said...

You should never question yourself. You are truly the most passionate and caring doctor I've ever known. You are always able to put yourself in the client's shoes and offer true respect and compassion. I still remember when I had been working there only a few months and someone handed me a syringe and asked me to "pre" a dog SQ, it seemed like a lot but I didn't ask any questions. I did as told but felt uncomfortable, a few minutes later I asked someone and found out it was Pentothal. One of the surgery nurses had put the wrong label on and then when they needed help the other nurse handed me the syringe without a second glance. I have never forgot that feeling and that was over 7 years ago. But we all learn from our mistakes, heck we are only human after all. And FYI that surgery doctor was a lot like you. She didn't panic, belittle me, or make me feel stupid. I would hands down always choose you to take care of my pets and my family and friends pet. Heck I'd even let you do my dental work if that was legal!

Leah said...

Everyone makes mistakes. You are highly respect by your peers. I trust your judgement about everything. Thats why I come to you with questions about all my animals dogs,cats,ferrets and sometimes my horse. Keep loving what you do and learn from your mistakes..that is why we have them.

Joey said...

Great post. I'm with you sister on what makes for a tough day. I, too, don't dwell on how busy we are. But the possibility of making a mistake will haunt me for a long time. I have to remind myself that I'm human and I'm doing the best I can. The fact that we care so much (and consequently torture ourselves over any mistake) is what makes for a good veterinarian, I think.

EdamameMommy said...

Can't help but read some heavy regret in tone of this entry. Telling you not to be so hard on yourself is the compulsion, but really I think that is impossible to carry out. Maybe instead, be hard, because you must, it is your nature, but then please then let yourself move on. There is always more redeeming vetmommying to do.

What is a prepuce?

The End is Near said...

i'm just a vet student, but i'm already trying to prepare myself for the inevitable mistakes by reciting to myself -- i'm only human, not perfect...over and over again...