Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald: The buck stops here

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Aug 25, 2008
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The buck stops here

We are only human. We laugh, we cry, we get tired, we need to eat, we can be nice, and we can be very naughty. We make mistakes. Tons of them. All the time. Hopefully, we take stock of them and learn from them. We all have friends who constantly stub their toes by making the same mistakes over and over. Well, I am here to tell you that most of us are those friends. We all seem to have these magic spectacles that can so easily see the faults in others while being incredibly myopic about our own. Some psychologists say that we are hardest on those that we feel have shortcomings that we ourselves possess.

We are veterinary teachers, researchers, administrators, and clinicians. We have worked long and hard to be where we are. No matter how high we climb, no matter how rigid our specialization and technical excellence, we are still human. We still make mistakes. It is part of the plan. It’s okay to fail as long as we get up again. Don’t grovel in your stumbling, learn from it. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back up on the horse! You are human.

You know who else is human? Your staff. Do you hold them to a standard that they can never achieve? Help them to succeed. Teach them and praise them. Verbalize your expectations; they are not mind readers. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised if you look for the strengths in your staff, not their weaknesses. It is so easy (and human) to find fault. One harsh rule in our profession is that the doctor is held responsible for mistakes and accidents, not the receptionist, not the technician. The buck stops here. That is a tough reality, but once you realize it, it is very freeing. Don’t blame your staff. EVER. Learn. “How could we have done it differently?” “How could we have prevented this?” It is okay to fail; it is not okay to fall into the same trap twice. In your hospital, when you succeed, you all succeed together, and when we fail, the same chain binds us all. Take time training your receptionists, your technicians, and your entire staff to do it the way that you would like them to. You cannot expect them just to know. Praise them. Let them see the fruit of their work, their successes. Let them feel your appreciation and admiration. Learn to forgive them and forgive yourself, too.

Alright, so the buck stops here. It stops with you. Now that you know that, so what? So what is that your clients will appreciate the type of veterinarian you are and the type of human being that they bring their animal to. Now, go do your hobby.

See you next week, Kev