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Mug etiquette

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MUGS - our profession is full of them.

No, I don’t mean the gullible EMS student who believes you when you say that white park cattle have three testicles. Nor do I mean the owner who demands that you revaccinate their dog with a vaccine that has an expiry date shorter than one year, for fear that once the vaccine is inside their precious pooch it will go out of date within nine months and hence be rendered ineffective. What I’m talking about are the drinking receptacles. We all depend on the hot, caffeinated drinks contained within them. And short of drinking straight from the teapot spout, mugs have become an essential part of any veterinary practice.

The range of mugs in a practice tearoom cupboard always impresses me. It's fun to visit a friend's practice and be given a mug that brings a sense of nostalgia. You may come face-to-face with a Marvel comic hero defeating bacteria with his powerful ray gun, and ruminate over how great it would be if we had that particular antibiotic in the uK.

Recently, I have felt that pharmaceutical companies have become less edgy in their designs. In fact, they seem to be supplying fewer mugs at all these days; focusing on usB sticks instead. Those kind reps that do leave mugs seem to possess only the Thermos- lidded variety. I can't say I'm a big fan of these. When I go out on calls with one, I always end up getting some sort of bodily fluid or muck inside the plastic sleeve; no doubt a biosecurity and public health disaster. However, these Thermos mugs are a god-send on certain farms, where the mug cleaning isn't to a high standard . . . 'I'll have it in this Mr Jones, then I can get on the road.'

This brings me to mug biosecurity in the practice itself. There appears to be two types of practice policy on mug hygiene. They either experience a batch bleaching each day or are lucky to get a cursory rinse on a Friday afternoon. In addition, there is the rule for decontamination of the one found with blue fur growing in it, after several weeks of festering under the hot air outlet at the back of the blood machine. I know a nurse who routinely gas sterilises the practice mugs along with the communal stethoscopes; a little extreme perhaps.

Putting design and biosecurity to one side, the most important aspect of the veterinary mug world is ‘mug ownership’. Woe betide the nurse that is kind enough to offer a tea to the stressed vet and it not be in HIS mug. Some of my colleagues would, on these occasions, refuse to drink it and continue consulting in a decaffeinated and dehydrated state.

EMS students are the most likely to be caught up in a mug ownership disaster. My advice to them is, if there’s a name on it, don’t use it – even if the namesake has left the practice. Take one from the back of the cupboard that is advertising a flea treatment. You wouldn’t want to lose a mark on your feedback form for infringement of mug-ownership rules. The worst case scenario is that you smash a mug while trying to be helpful and do the washing up. Best to avoid chucking all the mugs in the sink and risk smashing the partner's BSAVA Congress 2001 limited edition one.

It amazes me that some students aren't aware of the existence of these rules. At university, a wrongly assigned mug could lead to a social media unfriending. We were lucky to have a personalised pigeon hole for our mugs in the student common room. An extravagant expense you may think, but it saved many an argument before 8 am rounds.

The public are oblivious to these small dramas playing out back- of-house. They see us as well- educated lifesavers whose minds are filled with the intricacies of laboratory results, vaccination protocols and suture patterns. But for me, the priority is akin to the anticipation felt at the altar on my wedding day awaiting my bride: when will my next drink arrive and will it be in the right mug!

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