Whilst listening to Radio 2 the other day I heard a very interesting interview with Noel Fitzpatrick, Channel 4's 'Super Vet'. He was talking about his new TV series (of which I have yet to catch an episode) and my ears pricked up for several reasons - his obvious enthusiasm, love and devotion to his job; the lovely Irish lilt in his voice, which carried a real smile; but mostly because of something he said which really struck chord with me.
Noel was asked if he had ever come across a case which he didn't know how to treat, and it was this reply which will stay with me for a long, long time.
He said, 'People don't care what you know, they want to know that you care. That's the trouble with the medical profession these days - there's no point in having all this knowledge and qualifications if your bedside manner is zero. What's wrong with giving someone a hug in their time of need?'
He went on to say that because animals can't tell you what's wrong, vets have to really rely upon their senses to make a diagnosis - touch, sound, sight, smell, and their intuition. How very Five Element!
It just so happens that my late Father was a vet, and I was all set to follow in his footsteps until my body decided that it wasn't a great career choice for me (severe allergy to animals!). I used to spend as much time as I could with my Dad whilst he was working, despite the sneezes and wheezes. He was very much 'old school' in his approach and I remember him saying over and over how important it was to use the senses before anything else. He would despair at the new graduates came to work with him as they would run up enormous lab bills with blood tests, x-rays etc before even hinting at a diagnosis, and then they would proceed to prescribe very sophisticated (ie expensive) drugs. Dad always stuck to the generic forms - simpler, effective and much cheaper, and resorted to using the branded medications as a back up.
One other characteristic which my Dad definitely possessed, which I sensed this Vet also had, and which I aspire to possess - is courage. How courageous is any person who takes on cases when others have failed, given up on or who have shied away from, be it through fear (of failure) or lack of knowledge.
Our practice is a life long lesson which we undertake with honesty and humility. Often the most valuable lessons we learn are not through study or university, it is through life itself and our patients. It is up to us to be open and receptive to this knowledge, and never arrogant in assuming there is nothing more to learn.