Valuable lessons from the Airline industry

Valuable lessons from the Airline industry

As a veterinary student, I had to earn my living with student work. In time I became pickier and chose a job if it was: fun (almost hobby), if it was well paid or if it would give me good experiences for my future career in veterinary medicine. When I saw an ad for a stewardess, I said – why not. I always loved dynamic work and traveling.

As always, many people wanted to give me pieces of advice (which I always listen carefully but then decide with my heart) in style: »Common, a stewardess? It’s a waist of time. You’ll be a vet«. It’s true, I never really related to running around airports in high heels and skirts or as my friend described me »You’re just pretending to be a stewardess«. But it turned out to be one of the best experiences I got as a student and lessons will stay with me lifelong. Here are  few that we could implement into veterinary world:


Never argue with a client alone. Most of the travelers on airplanes were not problematic, but there were times when emotions run high (mostly because of flight delays). We had intensive training on how to handle these situations. Pilots had to stay locked in the cockpit, so we were left alone in handling these situations. A kind but authoritative voice, they thought us. But we learned a few tricks. We always stepped together – people are always less aggressive towards two people in front of them than towards one. We listened, listened, listened, never contradicted, always replying »I understand your concerns …« and just explained the situation. We often called a colleague to explain the situation to him/her as well. When people describe their problem for the third time, they usually calm down. These lessons helped me so often when dealing with clients as a veterinarian because at our work emotions run high every day.


Checklists. Checklists. Checklists.

Work on airplanes is based on the checklist. You have a checklist for everything. From meetings before a flight (briefing), checking the emergency equipment on an airplane, checklists for many possible emergency situations … If you wake me up in the middle of the night I can still say words from the Emergency checklist in five different languages without active thinking »Attention, emergency, heads down!«. Most critical parts of flights were take-offs and landings. By checklist, at that time we had to sit in silence, be focused on our surrounding and repeat in our minds commands for evacuation. If something would happen you’d simply repeat aloud the last words from your mind. And we had a lot of training (yes, it was fun jumping on toboggan out of Airbus). It was all about repetition. Every day the same. We had checklists deep in our minds, but we were still holding a paper in our hands and repeated checklists every day. Just in case one day you’re not feeling so well, or something disturbs you, and you might forget something. We could avoid many complications if we implemented checklists in our surgical theaters. 


Errare humanum est

On airplanes, everything was doubled. Symmetry in a cockpit, duplicated crew, double emergency equipment and it was routine that we checked every important step after each other (no offenses, it was on the checklist). These procedures were implemented in the airline industry based on past experiences. Every incident that happens in the airline industry doesn’t go under the carpet. Everything is analysed and new procedures are implemented so the same mistakes wouldn’t happen again. And most mistakes happen because of human error. It’s unavoidable. We are all people and (if we want to admit it or not) we all make mistakes. If we’d be more open about our mistakes in veterinary medicine, we’d all learn from them and perform better medicine for our patients.


To sum up, if we’d implement some procedures from the airline industry to clinical work in veterinary medicine, we could all perform better medicine, and a lot of pressure that is now put on individual veterinarian could be lowered just by implementing the system.