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Filthy Hu-mans - 1370°C

Dec. 9th, 2006

04:41 pm - Filthy Hu-mans

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The LVC job is making me constantly rethink the way i organise my mind.

In my several incarnations as a Vet Tech, i've always been able to remember a ridiculous amount of information--i've always viewed it as part of the job that i know every animal on sight if i've seen them before, that i remember exactly what and how much of a particular drug i gave to a hospitalised animal for several days, that i can anticipate what several different doctors might want ahead of time, or that i know how to perform particular tests that i haven't done for months without looking up the directions.

However, i'm terribly bad at placing the faces of human owners with their animals. It's not that i'm awful at remembering faces or names. I'm quite good at the former and passable at the later. But in a Veterinary setting, i'm just so much more interested in the animals than i am in the people. Sure, i'll listen to their stories and enquire about their weekends, etc...but the cute yellow lab puppy who repeatedly chews on my hand or the 20 year-old cat who's still in great shape are what i'm devoting most of my processing time to. In one sense, for me, it has to be this way. In a fast-paced environment like CCAH or the other Vet jobs i've worked, i simply haven't had time for most of the humans. Even though every time i work at CCAH, i chat with clients, explain their pets surgeries, go-home instructions, and medications to them, it's as if they're not really there. At CCAH, a human has to be a serious regular (say, we see their pet once a week or so) for me to put their face together with their animal's and to notice them. By contrast, a puppy or kitten we've seen once a month for shots, an animal that had abdominal surgery half a year ago, or even a frequent border elicits a response from me akin to "oooh, how's my little "insert strikingly unoriginal name here" doing? Are you feeling better after the antibiotics?"...etc.

It doesn't work this way at LVC. Dr. F. knows almost everyone by sight (and will fake it if she doesn't put face to name right off), and we're expected to do the same (without the faking). The amount of brain cycles i devote at this job to knowing every single client by sight that i've ever seen before is astounding.

Examples: today we saw no appointments because Dr. F. was out at her daughter's "We the People" competition. [Note to self: make a post about Dr. F.'s continuing to beat a dead horse, yeah, only i know what this means for now]. So i was in the Clinic alone, just selling food, doling out prescriptions, and making referrals. First KC came in to get the ashes of her dog that we euthanased [this is also a useful story for another time...maybe i'll be the new James Heriot.] I recognised her right off, all was well, i enquired about her state-of-being considering the tragedy of her dog (who was very young). Still, i had to search in the computer under her dog's name, as i couldn't for the life of me remember her last name. Luckily, it's a small practice, so the number of "Shadow"'s isn't so excessive that i didn't find it right off when my memory was jogged. Luckily, she wasn't the sort who would expect me to know exactly who she was without question.

Second, AS popped in with his two dogs in tow for medications. This time, i recognized the dog and knew that she'd been diagnosed with a cancerous mass recently. I easily searched on the counter for Leche's meds without remembering her last name--the helpful drug label reminded me of who the man was. I'd have been deeply embarrassed if, for instance, i needed to make up the meds from scratch as i'd have had to ask him his name. Considering he's been in three times in the last two weeks, i'm expected to know.

Lastly, the kicker, and the reason i've said that this experience has changed something in me is that DH came in. Her very geriatric Siamese was recently diagnosed with serious renal failure. We're about keeping him alive by spit and hope alone. She was in for SQ fluids, prescription food, and medications. She's a bit...high maintenance. She launched into the clinic, went over to the food closet and started digging around for what she was after. Mind you, she'd already put her credit card on the desk and was dictating to me what she needed while she poked about. I actually *did* recognise her instantly, as i've had to deal with her on a few occasions recently and her personality stands out. But honestly, i've met her all of thrice in two months. In any other setting, i'd likely have had to ask her pertinent info that would have probably made her even more inclined to be a pill.

So, this job has already changed me. I'm not sure if the change is useful quite yet.

The reason for this post, and the analogue i'm seeing is that i am inclined, in normal settings, to pay attention to people and who they are. But as far as i'm concerned, in Veterinary medicine, it's the pet that counts, so that's what i see. In the same vein, i've always been both inclined and intellectually committed to the notion that, in academic settings, there are your fellow students and there are ideas. Yes, your compatriots are exactly the ones who have the ideas, but in class i separate them. This is because i want to be able to deal with the things said in class, including academic experimentation, on its own level. And because i'd rather not be annoyed *personally* with someone who has incredibly stupid ideas in an academic setting. My system has always worked rather well, in my opinion, other than a few people (none of whom were even a bit friends) viewing me as harsher than need be in discussion.

I guess i'm wondering if this new found "hey there's a human behind the whatever" extends to other venues and whether it will be a good or a bad extension.

Current Mood: introspectacle


[User Picture]
Date:December 9th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
I really believe there is a genetic component to face recognition. I have a very weak version of it. This makes it very difficult to learn students' names...
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[User Picture]
Date:December 9th, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
I usually play the game with my students that i'll know all of their names in two weeks. I'm not bad at it. But, for me, that's a different venue. When i'm teaching, the students matter and not what they say. Maybe it's because they've been Freshmen.
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Date:December 10th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
There is actually a specific part of your brain whose sole job is to recognize human faces. There is also a condition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopagnosia) that results when that part fails for whatever reason.
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