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Issue: 70 - Oct 15, 2014
2 Spooky Situations That Can Be Avoided
By: Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ & Kelly Serfas
Dr. Phil Zeltzman1

Picture this… Everything is running smoothly in your practice. Then suddenly, your technician shrieks!  HORROR, disaster strikes!

1. Running out of supplies

Jason called your practice to get a refill of phenobarbital for Casper, his seizuring poodle. He is now completely out!

Your technician Tabitha is about to fill in the prescription and HORROR, she realizes that you only have half a dozen of half and quarter tablets at the bottom of the bottle…how could her co-workers be so thoughtless?

Few things are as embarrassing as running out of common supplies or medications, especially for a faithful client who needs such an important drug.

Drugs are only the beginning.

General practices run out of IV catheters, flea medications or pet food. Many times, it’s not quite a disaster. Most suppliers will ship orders overnight. Then again, we have seen surgical practices run out of IV fluids, orthopedic plates, scalpel blades, gauze square and bandage material. Yes, it’s possible!

There are many ways to avoid getting in this situation. Here is one simple way: color-coding products.

  • “Green” products are not all that critical. If you run out, you can order them and get them within a few days. This typically represents about 50% of your inventory (by units sold or used, not in sales).
  • “Yellow” products, or about 30% of your orders, need to be watched more closely. It is important not to run out of those. So about 80% of your inventory is not all that critical, following the well-known Pareto Law.
  • And then there are “red” products, the top 20% you should never run out of. What they are depends on your practice. If you are a dermatologist, running out of glass slides would be horrifying. If you are an acupuncturist, running out of needles could be a disaster. If you are a general practitioner, running out of phenobarbital tablets would be an embarrassment when you need to confess to Jason that you ran out.

Color codes, such as green-yellow-red, are a simple solution to avoid getting in trouble.

2. Calling a male patient a female

Pet owners can be so ruthless…they sometimes have no pity for us. They name their pets, of either gender, Angel, Bailey, Casey, Dakota, Harley, Hunter, Hershey, Jesse, Madison, Montana, Morgan, Murphy, Quinn, Reese or Sidney, oh my!

Then when, HORROR, we call their male pet a female, or vice-versa, they get all upset!

These names should be banned from the veterinary world!

Worse: they may call a female cat Tom, or a male dog Queenie, and think nothing of it! It’s a conspiracy!

So how can we avoid falling into the trap?

Different colleagues do different things - which are better than doing nothing. Some will call all patients Mr. or Ms., as in “Mr. Queenie” or “Ms. Tom,” to avoid getting in trouble. Others, which have paper medical records, will only use pink sheets for females and blue paper for males.

Another option, with digital records, is to set up alerts for known at-risk names or touchy clients. In other words, if Sam has a stroke every time you call her pet Murphy a she, create a pop-up window to keep everybody in the hospital on guard.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound”

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.