My definition of practice philosophy: "how I approach my clients regarding communication methods and attitude." A practice philosophy isn't something that I really considered much in veterinary school. Once I was out of school, though, I realized that every veterinarian has a practice philosophy, either consciously or subconsciously, and I could let mine evolve naturally or choose what I wanted it to be. A little bit of both happened due to the people and situations I encountered, as well as mistakes that I made. One mistake that sticks out to me when I think about this was one that I couldn't even remember making after it happened! I had to explain a diagnosis of fairly severe kidney disease to the owners of a little Shih Tzu and during the discussion of treatment, I must have mentioned the possibility of euthanasia, which greatly offended the pet's owners. I heard about it only through a letter they sent to my employer letting her know how unhappy they were with me and that they never wanted to see me again. They were particularly offended that I had brought up the possibility of euthanasia. By the time I saw the letter, I could barely remember the conversation we had and was shocked that they had taken it so badly. As far as I could recall, there was no apparent distress on their part at the time. Of course, I felt horrible for whatever pain I had caused and even worse that I had misread the situation so badly.
Miscommunications and poor communication happen in most of our careers, if not daily lives. This experience taught me that good communication doesn't happen automatically, that it takes practice to be sensitive in what I say to people and in judging their reactions and emotions well. Also, the word "euthanasia" should never just roll off my tongue, even though it is something that I deal with on a regular basis.
Through experiences like this and many other interactions with people, my practice philosophy centers on providing the best veterinary care I can for my patients while being as sensitive to the needs/wants/wishes of my clients. Two different people with pets in the same situation can choose two different courses for their pets, and both can be completely appropriate. My job is to communicate well with them, present all the options, be aware of their needs, and have compassion. This is my goal.