Why Don’t They Like Me Anymore?
I was working at my desk the other day, focused on what I was doing, but overhearing conversations of the other doctors around me. It suddenly dawned on me that I had reached an age where my colleagues oddly no longer often looked to me for advice very often. And I realized I wasn’t alone; my older partners were not often asked for advice either. This may seem strange; after all, those with the most experience will be older. But studies repeatedly show that humans are most comfortable with the other humans that resemble them most closely.
I see this occurring in my clients too. Recently, as I begin to need glasses and my knees aren’t what they used to be, some of the little kids that I watched growing up now are young adults, and they are more comfortable with a veterinarian that is more their age. At first it really hurt my feelings, so I examined the situation more closely. I even asked my peer aged friend to inquire of one of the twenty-something horse owners that she knew. Had I done something wrong? Had I offended them in some way? The answer I got was interesting. The young woman replied that she liked to see Dr. A better because she was “like a friend”, and liked the same music and clubs, and they could “relate”. This made me feel better; at least I hadn’t been a jerk without knowing it. The rest of the feedback “She’s more like my mother’s age” prompted me to wrinkle my brow. I did some reflection. Would I prefer someone my mother’s age or someone more like a peer, if I were a client? Definitely the peer said the little voice in my head. I started paying attention, and realized that many of my most loyal clients were my peers: we could joke about our aching knees, our hot flashes, our 401K accounts. We adored our horses, and didn’t care much about showing anymore. I understood their concerns, not just about their horses, but about their lives. When these clients have a visit from one of our younger veterinarians, I generally get a call; the client wants my opinion on the handling of the case because we “speak the same language”. These moments give me an opportunity to support my less experienced colleagues, and start the process of forging new bonds for my clients with the younger practitioners in anticipation of my retirement.
Back to sitting at my desk, and feeling underutilized…it is hard not to feel a little sad as you watch young veterinarians animatedly debating a new surgical technique you have little knowledge of, and you realize that you were them just a few years (well okay, decades) ago. But that sadness quickly turns to pride when you realize how proud you are to be part of a profession that is constantly growing and changing to provide the very best care to horses and their people. Veterinarians rock!