Hypothetical questions give audience members a chance to make mistakes without suffering any consequences. Robert P. Magnus, DVM, from the Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hospital in Oconomowoc, moderated a panel discussion about some common problems that veterinarians might face in their practices at the American Association of Equine Practitioners Annual Convention on Dec. 7-11, 2013. Panel members were Kathleen M. Anderson, DVM, from Equine Veterinary Care, PC, in Elkton, Maryland; Benjamin R. Buchanan, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC, from Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Navasota, Texas; Andrew R. Clark, DVM, MBA, from Georgetown, Kentucky; and Amy L. Grice, from Rhinebeck Equine, LLP, in Rhinebeck, New York.
The scenarios ran the gamut of clinic woes: missing Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) drugs; a breach of client confidentiality when photographs of a patient are posted on the Internet; a long-term employee who develops physical problems and a toxic attitude; the pros and cons of major equipment purchases; a new specialist who takes advantage of training funded by the clinic, then accepts a new job; a veterinarian who suffers fatal injuries on the job; an emergency call from a client who has not paid bills in the past.
Several important principles were developed through discussions of possible solutions.
- Document everything.
- Seek advice from legal counsel or a consultant familiar with veterinary practice when problems arise.
- Obtain a signed photo release from clients if photographs of their animals are going to be used for any purpose, by anyone associated with the clinic.
- Develop comprehensive employment contracts that anticipate problems for all clinic veterinarians, technicians and staff.
- Recognize that accidents happen and plan for mishaps before they occur.
- Establish a policy for dealing with clients who are behind on their bills
- Know and fulfill any legal obligations, such as reporting work-related injuries to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, in the event of an accident or injury.
- Finally, no matter the situation, do the right thing.