Harmony

harmony [ˈhɑːmənɪ]
1. agreement in action, opinion, feeling, etc.; accord
2. order or congruity of parts to their whole or to one another

Pet Authority is open on Saturdays. That’s not likely a surprise to any of you, nor would it be to most clients out there. Very few vet hospitals aren’t open on Saturday. It’s an important day for many people to have available for appointments. We understand that you have jobs that coincide with most of our regular hours. Not everyone can take a half day or a day off, nor even leave early, nor come in late. (Some of you can do those things, which is great! We’d be pretty bored Mon-Fri otherwise. 🙂 ) Additionally, a pet getting sick rarely happens according to a convenient schedule.

Saturday isn’t a “normal” day for us for a few reasons. First, there’s only one doctor on duty. Normally, we have two. With only one doctor, we have fewer support staff as well: two receptionists, three techs, and one or two boarding employees. Most of the time, this is plenty of people to keep the hospital running smoothly.

From my perspective, Saturdays are a great work environment. I get to be the captain of the ship. I’m responsible for all of the patients. I have a staff on hand that knows how I like to get things done, so they’re able to anticipate my needs. I can give directions to them to carry out with the confidence that they’ll do exactly as I’ve asked. I also tend to see more of “my” clients — the people that regularly choose me to care for their pets.

Once in a while, we have an insane Saturday. There’s more work to be done than we properly have time for. My attention is pulled in too many directions at once: phone calls, emergencies, urgent-care-level sickness, regular health care, phone calls with questions, medication refills, pharmacy refills, pharmacy call-ins, lab work interpretation. It’s way too much to handle on my own.

I’d be completely sunk if I didn’t have a staff I could trust. There’s literally no way for me to be in more than one place at a time. Sure, I can work in 2-3 rooms at once by juggling. I still can’t defy the laws of physics and reality. There’s no cutting of corners, either. I can’t decide to do a crappy job with anyone’s pet, nor to limit a client to a certain number of questions. Each pet deserves my full attention. It’s also critical to me on a personal level to retain good bedside manner.

That’s where harmony comes into play. I mentioned already that the staff knows what I need and how I like to work. The situation goes well beyond that. The reception staff begins prioritizing files for me so I know what to attend to immediately and what can wait for a small free moment. The technicians will often get things started for another appointment that they are certain I will want done. Our boarding staff offers to help with whatever needs doing. Everyone comes together to accomplish the necessary tasks in the proper way. That’s harmony.

When I was an intern in Hollywood, Florida, I had one particularly horrible night. From about 10pm to 4am, I had eight rooms going at one time. Yes, eight. From vomiting to a broken leg, as soon as I had one patient squared away, anther would arrive to take its place in the exam room. At that time, I was still pretty green. I didn’t have the experience I do now, so handling this level of stress was not easy for me. I was slower, needed to look things up more often, and wasn’t sure how to direct an extremely capable staff to get things done. One of the techs at that time responded to my grumbling by saying, “Just think about how much you will have accomplished by the time the sun comes up.” I was livid at that particular moment and snapped, “That’s three hours away. What am I supposed to do until then?” She calmly replied, “Just keep working.”

Her wisdom was that with harmony, you can make it through. By the time the sun had come up, I had everything settled. The patients were stable. Reports had been written. Orders had been created for the techs. The incoming receiving doctor took the cases from me and sent me home to sleep. All of that was according to plan. As much as I wanted the sun not to set again, which would waive my responsibility for another night, it did so. I went back to work with a better understanding of how to view a day’s work. I was able to pass that wisdom on to the incoming crop of new interns.

You may start at a given time. You may have the goal of finishing at a certain time. In between, you will work as hard as you must work to get done what you must get done. Your staff is there to help you. Empower them to do so. Your clients need your best regardless of the simplicity of the vaccine or the complexity of the trauma case. You do not have time to worry about you. You must worry about your patients instead. The sun will rise and set independent of your wishes, so let it do only what it does: mark the passage of time. Today may be horrible. Tomorrow is a new opportunity.

We had a rough Saturday yesterday. Last night, the sun set. This morning, it … lit up the rain, more or less. Thanks to my staff, we completed what needed to be done. I worked hard. The staff worked harder, without complaint, and supported me by performing admirably well with each case.

Saturdays: a lesson in harmony.

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