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Monday, December 29, 2008

Things They Don't Teach You

It's pretty much a "given" that veterinarians are well trained in medicine and surgery. We spend four years or more receiving incredibly intense and specific training in recognizing disease, interpreting lab results, understanding medications and their effects, and performing surgery. Once we graduate, we have a very good understanding about how to be a doctor. We hone those skills over years of practice, until most of us become very good at our jobs. Our clients also generally understand that we are skilled physicians and surgeons, and realize that we had a lot of training to become this way. Vets are required to attending regular continuing education seminars to maintain our license, so the learning doesn't stop at graduation. However, there are many non-medical things they never teach us, but we still have to deal with.

One of them is personnel issues. My lead tech was recently promoted to that position this past Summer, and was doing a good job. However, over the past couple of months her performance has gotten worse, and she is not good at being able to handle the rest of the staff. She criticizes bad things, but doesn't complement the good things. Our weekly supply orders have been getting messed up so that we will often run out of things before our next order arrives. And she has a very negative attitude about things that she is asked or told to do if it doesn't exactly fit with her own ideas. I was called today (on my day off) by the other doctor I work with to discuss some of these issues. This isn't the first time in my career that I've had to try and intervene with poor attitudes or performance, and will likely not be the last. At other times I have had staff that constantly bickered at each other, staff that angered clients, staff that wouldn't do their jobs properly even with considerable and repeated coaching, and just about ever other issue you could commonly think of.

Did we get any training in how to handle this in vet school? Noooooope. Sure didn't. Yet most of us have to deal with handling the staff in situations like this. I don't think any vet went to school because they dreamed of being a personnel manager or business leader. We get no training in these areas either before or during school. Once we're in our careers, we end up falling into these positions, and quickly sink or swim. I've been lucky that I have had good opportunities for training, but I've also made many mistakes. It's much harder for us to handle a situation like my head tech is causing, than it is for us to remove a spleen or cure skin mites. We also usually don't like this kind of interaction, otherwise we would have gone to school to get a career in Human Resources.

As much as I can't stand this aspect of my job, and as much as it causes me great stress, it's also one that I can't ignore. I think that veterinary schools need to be more proactive in recognizing the situations their graduates are going to be placed in, and give at least one course in managing people and businesses.

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