Why Veterinarians Love Lists

Writing a list
Dreamstime

In case you haven’t already noticed from my frequent application of the top-ten format in my posts, I love lists — all kinds of lists. I wouldn’t think of going to the market without a checklist nor would I plan my day sans bullet-pointed itinerary, so why wouldn’t I take a list along when I go to the doctor?

Yes, I always take a list when I go see my GP to make sure my memory doesn’t fail me. And you should take a list when it’s time to hit the vet’s. Veterinarians love lists. Well visits, sick visits, whatever. We love 'em. Why? For a few reasons I’ll outline below — in a list, of course.

1. A List Helps Us Cover All The Bases

Having a list allows us to proceed stepwise and logically through a process that might otherwise happen in a more disorderly fashion (as you haphazardly recall the items you really should have included on a list).

Not only does it simply make more sense to do it this way from your vet’s POV (Do her teeth need cleaning? Are those cataracts I’m noticing? Am I cleaning her ears right? Is that too much shedding?), but it also means you’ll be less likely to forget items — and more likely to remember the answers, too.

2. A List Helps The Vet Prioritize

What’s on your list allows us to home in on issues that are important to you as a pet owner. Not only does that help us treat your pet exactly as you expect us to, it gives us tons of information about you so that we can make better decisions for all your pets in the future.

3. A List Helps Us Manage Our Time

The reality is that veterinarians have only so much undivided time to offer you. Having a list means it can all get covered efficiently.

4. A List Helps Your Vet Help You

During the course of any office visit there are plenty of ways in which a veterinarian can fail to focus on items you might’ve wanted her to cover. We’re only human, you know. Having a list means your vet is much less likely to disappoint you — and your pets.

5. A List Makes Your Appointment Cost Effective

What’s worse than getting home from the vet and remembering that you needed to mention the occasional head shaking thing your cat does? Having to return a couple of weeks later because the head shaking has become persistent. Not only is an extra visit more expensive, but think of the two weeks of discomfort your cat has suffered.

6. A List Helps Keep Your Pets Healthy

Lists help keep potentially important issues from slipping through the cracks during a routine — or any — vet appointment. Healthier pets are invariably the outcome.

By the way, lists are extremely useful for medical providers for this very reason. Interested in hearing more about how lists can help your veterinarian become a better practitioner? Reference Dr. Atul Gawande’s excellent book on this subject, The Checklist Manifesto.

7. A List Will Earn You the Vet's Respect

And then there’s the issue of all that respect you’ll get from your vet for caring enough to make a list. This strategy truly speaks volumes about how much you care for your pets. Sure, it might also say lots of nasty things about your memory, but who cares? As long as your pets get great care, what does it matter?

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