Dear Second Opinion,
I’ve been working full time at a 2-clinician clinic for over a year. My colleague has been at the clinic for almost 10 years and is a fantastic mentor. She recently transitioned to a part-time schedule, and I inherited some of her chronic patients.
The owner of one of these chronic patients frequently contacts our office with questions and updates. Unfortunately, this client tends to call at the end of the week when my colleague is no longer in the office. I have personally seen this patient several times, and I’m confident my medical recommendations are best for the patient and in line with my colleague’s standard of care. Although the client initially seems on board with the treatment plan, she usually asks for my colleague’s advice the following week.
I get it; we all have favorites. My colleague doesn’t seem to mind, but I find myself getting frustrated when my recommendations are continually second-guessed by the client. My colleague is also occasionally on leave longer than just a few days, and I want to make sure this client trusts my decision-making moving forward.
How can I discourage this type of behavior?
—Not the Favorite
Dear Not the Favorite,
It never feels good to have a client second-guess the high-quality medical care you are providing, especially when it aligns with recommendations they would receive from their “favorite” clinician. Two things come immediately to mind:
Trying to control mistrustful clients never goes well, is an exercise in frustration, and goes beyond your job description. Let it go.
This client’s behavior doesn’t seem to cause you to second-guess or get down on yourself, but just in case it does, don’t let it. Dwelling on this behavior would be a waste of emotional and mental energy, as well as a form of self-sabotage.
How should you deal with this behavior?
First, check in with your colleague. If she sees a problem, ask her to speak to the client about her schedule limitations moving forward, put in a good word for you, and set the client’s expectations. If, on the other hand, your colleague doesn’t seem bothered, then don’t concern yourself either.
Second, if you have to care for this patient when your colleague is out, focus on doing your best work and communicating kindly, compassionately, and authentically. If the client isn’t happy or desires a second opinion from your colleague, well—that’s her problem, and she is going to have to wait to talk to your colleague. In the meantime, you can sleep at night knowing you have done your best, and that, my friend, is the only thing you can do. The client will either continue to work with you or self-select out, and both are okay.
Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ