The Curmudgeonly Things Veterinarians Do

Patty Khuly and her goat

Ain’t any one of us here who doesn’t have a bad day every now and then.

When veterinarians have rough days, we prefer not to take it out on our patients. Instead, it’s you, our clients, who may sometimes bear the brunt of all that accumulated angst.

And we have many bad days. Studies have repeatedly documented the high stress levels among veterinarians. And then, even though we know it's not fair, we share the stress and act out in curmudgeonly ways.

The definition of curmudgeon according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is:

  1. archaic: miser
  2. a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man

Definition of curmudgeon according to Patty Khuly:

1. a modern euphemism for being self-centered, misguided and rude, all at once.

It’s normal. And I'm certainly guilty of being a curmudgeon myself. Which is why I'm telling you not to take it personally –– or take it at all. You are the client, the customer, the one on the side of the angels when it comes to this particular interaction.

Still, it’s a truly wonderful thing if you can find it in your heart to have compassion for our plight –– annoying though we may be. But before you can go there, you need to know how it is our inner curmudgeon manifests.

  1. We make you wait. It’s a pet peeve of mine, but it’s common. And disrespecting your time is just plain wrong –– not to mention bad for business.
  2. We refuse to offer you a written prescription. Reference Tuesday’s post. ‘Nuff said.
  3. We lash out at you for no good reason. I can count the number of times I’ve done this in person on one hand. And it’s always been on a really bad day. So it’s not really your fault in most cases. It’s just that we’re seriously out of sorts.
  4. We refuse to take your phone calls. Yes, it’s true. If a doctor is having a bad day, why not compulsively make it worse by failing to demonstrate professionalism, diligence and industriousness by returning a simple phone call? (That was sarcasm, by the way.)
  5. We reschedule your appointments at the last minute because we are in a bad mood and would rather go sailing, shopping, golfing, running, riding or fill-in-the-blank since it’s a really slow afternoon and you’re the only one currently booked.

Armed with this information, you, too, can become aware of the signs of curmudgeonliness. But beware: Impending burnout can look the same. If you value your veterinarian you might just want to reach out to this misbehaving soul and make sure she’s OK.

After all, veterinarians are just like you. We have bad days. And days we act badly. Hopefully, just not too many of them.


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