Mind Over Miller: We're pretty good

Mind Over Miller: We're pretty good

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Apr 01, 2009


Robert M. Miller, DVM
When I was 50 years old, I bragged that I had never been in a hospital except when I was born and for three days when I had bacillary dysentery while I was in the Army. Well, that's changed! Since then, I've had a lens and a hip replaced, numerous orthopedic procedures secondary to a life spent on skis and on horses, and a variety of other procedures that become necessary as one is ravaged by age. In other words, I have had lots of experience with physicians and human hospitals.

Our profession has a tendency to emulate the medical profession. For example, an issue of our JAVMA is only distinguishable from JAMA upon close inspection. Generally speaking, trying to do things similar to the way the human medical profession does them is beneficial.

However, and I speak from experience, in some respects we veterinarians do a better job than physicians do. Take oral medication, for example. The dosage for people is usually labeled for children or adults. Why? Some children weigh more than many adults. A 90-lb woman and a 300-lb man are both adults. We dose according to weight, be it a 5-lb cat, a 50-lb dog, or a 1,000-lb cow.

I have had several intra-articular injections over the past few years. The prep consisted of a gentle wipe with a disinfectant. It took about 10 seconds. I always did a surgical scrub before injecting a joint. Maybe that's why I never experienced a joint infection in one of my patients after an intra-articular injection.

Recently, I had a dermatologist remove a suspicious mole from my thigh. Again, there was the 10-second wipe. I would have shaved the area and done a full presurgical prep. I'll be out of town when it's time to remove the sutures, so the dermatologist said, "You're a doctor. Can you take them out yourself?" I said, "Sure, I'll bring my pocket knife."

If I kept a small-animal client waiting for more than 15 minutes after an appointment time, I'd apologize. Sometimes, I'd peek into the exam room and say, "I'm sorry I'm running late! Had an emergency come in!" Most people really appreciated that.

By comparison, I had a hip replacement performed by a renowned surgeon in Los Angeles in 2005. For my first post-op check, I sat in a crowded waiting room four and half hours after my appointment time. I had to accept this because I had to drive two hours to get to his office. When he saw me, he didn't comment on the delay but instead asked how I was feeling and then asked me to return in 90 days without touching me or watching me walk.

I made an appointment for 90 days later and asked for the first morning hour. I got one for 9 a.m. and started driving at 7 a.m. in order to be on time. It was 11:30 a.m. when I was seen, and again there was no comment. But at least my hip was doing fine.

We veterinarians do a pretty good job.

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site at http://www.robertmmiller.com/.