Like it or not (mostly not) talking money is the vet care team’s responsibility – from the estimate of costs of care through to the actual payment. The discussion can vary and be fraught with guilt, awkwardness and no eye contact, to being too clinical and abrupt about the whole thing.
It’s easy to talk about set-price services, like a vaccination, and more difficult when there’s a case in hospital where the care has had to increase or change. Then you need to communicate the health information to the owner, as well as why the invoice is blowing out and they need to rejig their budget this month.
Charging for what we do doesn’t mean we don’t care, and yet it astonishes me how guilty we, as in the vet care health team, feel about it. If we don’t charge for what we do, the practice where we work won’t exist, we won’t have jobs, and the next set of patients that need us won’t have us.
I’ve worked in places where the veterinarian isn’t allowed to touch the bill – we apparently couldn’t be trusted to charge appropriately. Nurses did the entire invoice. If you wanted something taken off the bill (and it was a service/treatment that had been provided) then you had to go to head-honcho and ask for it to be removed. With very good reasons. For the most part you learnt to talk to owners about money pretty rapidly.
Talking money should just be like another procedure really. My husband had his cruciate surgery appointment with a private orthopaedic specialist. After the doctor examined him, declared that he would fix the knee better than God had made it in the first place (eye roll: surgeons) we were sent out to see his PA. The PA gave us the handout about the surgery, the run down on the days in hospital/rehab expected, and then the costs to us, when payment was expected, and how payment could be made. It was just another thing in the list of things we needed to know.
Rehab weekly: check, payment fortnightly: cheque!
We absolutely should be mindful of costs and our client’s expectations. After all, you and I know money doesn’t grow on trees. But if we don’t have
these conversations, then we don't know what our client’s expectations or budgets are, and cannot possibly hope to serve them the best way that we can.
Money talks, and so should we.
Yours in conversation,