Technology v Experience
Technology is an ever changing world which, for a Gen X vet like me, can be both amazing and terrifying at the same time.
I’m of a generation that had the good fortune to grow up before the invention of the internet and so, apart from the odd dubious Polaroid, there are no permanent reminders of a misspent youth.
These days you can learn an incredible amount of information from a quick Google search and a Facebook troll, which is not always a good thing.
I once worked at a clinic which was hiring a new vet who was a few years younger than me and male.
A month before this poor unsuspecting young man arrived, a photo of him wearing nothing more than short shorts was up on the office notice board for all to see. The staff had dissected his six-pack before he had even walked through the door, poor love.
These days, the younger members of my team, which is basically all of them, cannot fathom a time where blood work was sent away and it took two weeks to get the results – it now takes about half an hour – nor can they remember when radiographs had to be developed in a chemical-rich box, which removed your fingerprints if you didn’t get your hands out in time.
I must admit, I always get a sense of how far we have come when we go to radiograph a horse in the stable and get pristine sharp digital images in a split second, with a horse-side diagnosis and rapid treatment plan, in a flash.
My young colleges will never understand the frustration of taking four X-rays in the field, lugging them back to the clinic and standing in the dark to push them through the developer, only to find that the setting was wrong and the images are useless.
Ultrasound technology is another incredible tool we now have. The images are so clear you can really feel like you’re looking inside the animal, without all the stress and trauma of surgery.
One of my favourite inventions for the mobile vet lifestyle, however, is Google maps. My tech-savvy nurses type an address into their phone and, hey presto!, direct me right to the door of my next client.
It’s magical. My old tattered map, which got a huge amount of use in the early days, remains abandoned in the truck door pocket never to see the light of day (unless I’m on my own with no nurse, of course).
Even the old mercury thermometers have been replaced by swanky digital ones which read a temperature in mere seconds, instead of the lengthy one minute I’m used to. I think the animals are the most grateful for this one.
However clever the technology gets though, it will always need the balance of experience. It’s the integration of the old and the new which brings out the answers we are looking for.
The technology is only as good as the person using it and their ability to draw on their experience to make the pieces of the puzzle come together. But then, I would say that wouldn’t I? I’m the old one.
• Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda