You may be familiar with the lyrics of a country song by Tracy Lawrence that declares, "The only thing that stays the same is everything changes, everything changes." This sentiment is true in all areas of life, and we also find it to be true in medicine. As a client at a veterinary clinic, you may experience this as a new policy, a change in the availability of medications, a different treatment recommendation than you expected, etc. It may make you uneasy. You may think the change you encounter is a negative one. You may find it more expensive or less convenient. I'm hoping to explain why certain changes are necessary in veterinary medicine. Here goes ...
As veterinarians, we are obligated to keep our education current. We attend conferences and seminars led by some of the most cutting-edge members of our profession. We read journals, join associations and interest groups, practice new skills, discuss our views with colleagues all in an effort to bring our clients the best options for their pets, and to bring our best medical practices to our patients.
Good medicine requires change. Advancement in medicine and technology is not confined to human health. We are learning more about diseases, medications, new treatment options, superior surgical options, and ways to prevent illness altogether. We are challenged to master new skills and new information on a regular basis. We are constantly absorbing information, making decisions about how these things apply to our patients and our practices. At the end of the day, we are ultimately deciding the level of medicine we are committing to provide.
In order to provide the level of care I am comfortable with, I need to have a piece of certain knowledge regarding my patient, and I need to ensure continuity between myself and the other doctors in our practice. This is the basis for protocols. Protocols are individual to each veterinary practice, depending upon the location, common diseases in the area, state veterinary board regulations, and doctors' philosophies and personal experiences in practice. Protocols can be influenced by research, the information supplied by professional organizations, and the availability of treatment and referral to more specialized care. Veterinarians put a lot of thought into our recommendations and requirements for patients.
Veterinary medicine is moving at a fast pace. So, when the new vet does things differently than ol' doc so-n-so used to do, that's a good thing; not that there was anything wrong with doc so-n-so. Most likely he/she would agree that the new way is better. The past generations of veterinarians practiced the best medicine available in their time. Most of them updated their protocols a few times, too, throughout their careers. The foundations of medicine we learn from the beginning may stay the same, but the response we have to disease prevention and treatment should always be changing.
The next time your veterinary office informs you of a new policy, requirement, medication, or treatment, please see this as progress. More likely than not, new information and advances are driving those decisions, not for the promise of financial gain, but for the commitment to our oath:
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.
I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.
I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.