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Is Your Feedback Helpful or Harmful?

All humans, being the social creatures we are – not only need feedback, we thrive on it. Feedback helps us grow, improve and contribute to the world in meaningful and better ways.

And sure – we all accept that feedback for improvement isn’t always positive; negative feedback is often the greatest trigger for self reflection and positive change.

In our world that is Veterinary Practice – we get feedback every day. From a dear client’s chocolates to say thank you for taking such good care of her beloved pet to flowers and cards expressing gratitude for a job Veterinary Reviewswell done.

Helpful Feedback

We welcome both positive and negative feedback. Positive feedback means we’re doing things right so we make sure we continue doing those things and do them well.

Then there’s the helpful critical feedback which we appreciate the most – the information that lets us know where we’ve let you down in some way and gives us the opportunity to make changes or amends.

You may not know it – but we act on feedback every day. In our busy Hospital we do our best to make sure your pets are taken care of in the best possible way as well trying to run on time for consultations, respond to your phone messages, update inpatient fee estimations, schedule diagnostic procedures, perform surgery, do farm visits and house calls and attend to any emergencies that come in unexpectedly.

With so many things happening at any given time – Yes – as hard as we try not to, we do slip up at times.

And when we do slip up – we ask you talk to us because for most problems or complaints we can usually find a solution that’s agreeable to everyone involved.

Harmful Feedback

Sadly though – not all feedback we get is constructive or civil and when we are blamed or vilified for things we have no control over this has devastating affects on our team.

  • We’re hard enough on ourselves without being subject to unnecessary abuse. It hurts to be told that we don’t care and that we are terrible vets because we can’t meet the prices of low cost clinics. Yet we’re expected to provide everything that low cost clinics can’t.
  • We’re shamed on Social Media when we can’t diagnose a problem because the client won’t pay for an X-Ray or a blood test. Of course they never mention that fact.
  • If we make a mistake we’re labelled as incompetent. But if the medical profession fails a human patient that’s acceptable.
  • A client complains because their preferred vet can’t meet their scheduled appointment because he’s busily trying to stop a patient crashing in theatre. Apparently saving a life does not take priority over a routine consultation.
  • We’re yelled at because we won’t supply prescription drugs to someone whose animal we haven’t seen for years. Blamed for not breaking a law that could cost us our licence to practice?
  • We are told off for poor service for not being able to see a horse immediately that has been sick for 10 days. It’s us who are negligent – not the owner who has let her horse suffer for days.

And just last week – slandered on Facebook for allegedly ripping off a vulnerable pensioner by providing unnecessary, expensive treatment for her 17 year old dog.

Feedback 1Here’s the Real Story

When “Patch” was seen for the first time last week he was a very sick dog indeed.

In addition to his Illness (vomiting & diarrhoea) – He also had a very big lump on his chest which had now grown so large it made it difficult for him to walk.

We had not seen “Patch” before and it was clear that he had not been checked by a vet for a long time.

The priority was to determine the cause of the vomiting and diarrhoea and painful abdomen.

The second concern was the large lump which had a significant impact on Patch’s quality of life.

From the outset our client accompanied by her adult son were given the option to start finding out the cause of the medical problem OR euthanasia on humane grounds. Taking “Patch” home with pain meds and left to die on his own terms (as this person said we should have done) was not considered a humane option therefore was not offered.

The clients were also informed that if removing the lump after stabilisation of Patch’s medical condition was not wanted then there would be no point proceeding with treatment for his medical condition as we would not be able to achieve quality of life standards. Again – euthanasia was offered as a kind alternative to treatment.

Clients agreed to diagnostics and treatment.

(Examination, Blood Tests and X-Rays) indicated irregularities in the abdominal region plus kidney disease.

Feedback 2An Ultrasound was performed to investigate the abdominal irregularities in the abdominal area. Images revealed pancreatic inflammation and a pancreatic abnormality. Blood tests confirm inflammation

Over the next few days “Patch” was treated for these conditions in hospital and and was responding well and comfortable.

We then discussed the option of sending a sample (obtained via keyhole sampling) of the pancreatic tissue to the laboratory for more accurate diagnosis. This would allow us to determine a prognosis for Patch.

Sadly, despite his initial good response to treatment, Patch relapsed a few days later and it was at this point his owners chose to let him go.

Unfortunately but Yes – these diagnostics plus 24 hour hospitalisation with treatments over several days add up. None of this is basic care. Communication of Patch’s condition, his results, consent for treatments plus estimated costs were via phone as well as face to face when the owners came to visit Patch in hospital.

The clients never voiced any concerns during these conversations or during their visits that could have alerted us to a problem.

At no stage we we ever told to get permission from any persons other that this lady’s mother and son. We were never informed that they were incapable or had no right to make those decisions. It is not our fault that this lady was on holidays during the time of “Patch’s” treatment and therefore not included in any discussions.

So when we read her comments online – we were absolutely shattered.

Did we want Patch to pull through his illness? Of course we did. We treat similar cases every day – even geriatric ones. We even see some pets which aren’t expected to survive an illness or trauma, make a full recovery.

Medicine is not an exact science and outcomes can never be predicted or guaranteed.

As for “Who in their right mind would agree for such an expense in a pet 17 years old and no positive outcome.”

That’s your opinion.  There are many people who do that in Veterinary Centres all over the world every day including our practice. Maybe this was true 15 years ago before the advances in veterinary technologies however in today’s world it’s fast becoming the norm.

For some people having their pet around for an extra few months or even weeks is important to them and just because there are no guaranteed outcomes for some treatments doesn’t deter some people from trying.

People will spend money even when the prognosis looks less than positive. Peace of mind knowing they have done everything they could possibly do before electing to euthanase is important to them.

There can be a lot of anguish around premature euthanasia. In this case people feel guilt, questioning whether they made that decision too soon and should they have asked to find more conclusive evidence that their decision at that time was the right one for their pet.

There are never any easy answers to these situations.

The Ugly Side of Harmful Feedback

Accusations and degrading comments like these add enormous stress to vets and nurses who try their hardest to do the right things by people and their animals every day. Can you imagine how we all felt after this – especially the younger team who looked after Patch day and night?Vet Feedback

Little wonder the profession boasts the highest suicide rate and good caring vets change careers every day.

So shame on people who believe its their mission to spread half truths about others with no information about the facts. You forget that there are real, caring well meaning people at the end of these hurtful comments.

If you have a problem with any aspect of any service whether that’s from us or anyone else – have the decency to make a time to speak with the people involved face to face before you rant online.

In this case we would have welcomed some honest discussions from the concerned party before voicing “her opinion” to the world.

When we spoke with her the following day over the phone we asked her what she wanted from us. Her answer was “Nothing.”!