"Now why is there two sets of directions on this bottle?” What do you mean? “It says on this label, give one pill twice daily, every 12 hours. Now, which is it?”
That is a true story. I knew that we had experienced some communication difficulties with this client while he was still in the office, but I thought we finally had things sorted out. Actually, I was afraid I’d have trouble when I first saw the gentleman. He had brought along a friend to advise him, and the friend is someone whose meager abilities require HIM to have a legal guardian.
Our receptionist explained (pretty patiently, I thought) that there are 24 hours in a day, so that the “two sets of directions” were not in conflict.
Here’s the thing: despite the gentleman’s limited capacity, he did exactly the right thing. He didn’t fully understand what he was supposed to do with the medicine, so he called back and asked for clarification.
Man, I try to explain things in a way that makes sense to the client. I try to finish with “Do you have any more questions? Do you understand how to give the medicine? Do you think you can give the medicine to him?” Most of the time I believe I succeed. Actually, I believe I succeed almost all of the time. Unfortunately, just because I believe it doesn’t make it so.
Sometimes the client doesn’t fully understand, and will ask the receptionist instead of me. Sometimes they will just go home and hope for the best. I think that people don’t want to look dumb, so they nod sagely and agree with you.
I feel that if people don’t understand my explanation, that generally the fault lies with me instead of them (cell phones and crying kids, not withstanding). It’s like the joke about the preacher who asked an elder to stand at the back of the congregation. “If you see anybody going to sleep, come forward and wake up the preacher.”
Many of the emails I get are from people who really should be calling their own veterinarian instead of Doctor Internet. They didn’t get a good enough explanation the first time, and they are embarrassed to call back. Their doctor assumes things are going well when he/she doesn’t hear from them. You’re paying for our services, so get your money’s worth: get an explanation that satisfies you.
Of course, after you understand your instructions, you need to follow them. Give the medicine as directed (or the therapy or whatever). If you’re not getting the results you expect, contact your veterinarian instead of changing doses or stopping too soon. If he/she doesn’t hear from you, they assume things are going well (I said that before, and it’s still true). It’s perfectly okay to make changes in the treatment plan when the results are not what you want. Give your veterinarian some feedback and make those changes TOGETHER.