Don’t Say It... Please, Don’t Say It

Are there certain phrases you just can’t stand to hear at your job? If you’re a server or a hairdresser, maybe it’s “Wait, I changed my mind again.” If you’re a cashier, perhaps it’s “Oh no, I’m gonna need to run back for some bread.” When you’re the customer, you sometimes can’t help it. Everyone forgets things, makes mistakes, and changes their mind from time to time. Then again, some behaviors don’t happen by accident. I have a couple of items for the don’t-say list, things I could reasonably hope to never hear again in a clinic exam room.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Please don’t make that mindless joke about the thermometer. I heard that joke already. Twelve times. Today. And it wasn’t funny the first dozen times. Wait, you’re not sure which joke? I’ve heard them all. Not even one of them was the least bit amusing.

When you bring a patient with an ongoing problem, I am going to ask you what’s already been attempted to solve this issue. Please don’t say, “Everything. We’ve tried everything!” If that’s genuinely true, then there is nothing left to do but cry. I know you did not come to my exam room so we could cry together. If you still hold out any hope for your pet, we need to buckle down and work. If you don’t know what treatments your pet has received or can’t recall what happened after each round of therapy, we will have to start way back at square one and repeat them. The other option is to just give up and cry.

Please don’t come back to the office nine months later and say, “The medicine didn’t work, so we stopped giving it to her.” You need to be telling me that on the phone, 4 days into the prescription. If it was supposed to make her sleep and didn’t, I’ll calculate a different dose. If it was supposed to make her stop peeing in the house and didn’t, I’ll get you a different pill. If it was supposed to clear up her skin and didn’t, you haven’t given it enough time. You want your money’s worth, right? Pick up the phone.

So that’s it, the top three things I can’t bear to hear at the clinic. You can ask me to explain things again and ask what I’d do if this were my pet. You can start out with, “This might sound bad, but…” (I hear that a lot!) You can tell me it’s too expensive or tell me you can’t do it any more. You can use hilarious euphemisms for reproductive organs that have me fighting the urge to laugh out loud. (Heard a lot of those too!) You can describe gross things in detail. You can even try to tell me that your pet can’t possibly get a tick because the back yard is fenced. But please, don’t tell me you gave up on the pills without calling or that you’ve already tried ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. And whatever you do…no thermometer jokes. Don’t.

Dr. M.S. Regan