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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Advice For A New Vet

I received the following email from Amanda....

I am a newly graduated veterinarian (I actually had my convocation from OVC in Guelph today - so surreal) and recently stumbled across your blog.  I have gone back and read all of your entries - I love your blog!  I will be starting my first "real vet job" in mid July....I was hoping you could provide some words of wisdom in regards to making the transition from student to professional. Is there any advice you wished someone had passed onto you before your first day?  I feel as though I am going to get to the clinic and forget how to vaccinate a dog.

First I have to say congratulations, Amanda!  It's quite the accomplishment to reach this point in your education, where you can switch from learning to doing.  Enjoy this time!

It's hard to give enough advice since you still have so much to learn and experience.  But there are a few things I can pass along.

1.  Realize that you WILL make mistakes.  It's definitely a matter of "when", not "if".  You are only human, and EVERY SINGLE DOCTOR AND VET has made mistakes, likely the very same ones you're going to make.  Learn from these mistakes and never do the same one twice, but realize in most cases it's not as bad as you think and you aren't going to loose your career. 

2.  Text books are your best friends!  Make sure you have a good library of books in your clinic because you're going to be looking up a whole lot of things.  I still use my texts every day for one thing or another.  There is no way to remember every dosage or every detail of a disease, so don't feel like you're an incompetent vet if you have to check a reference on a case.  At veterinary conferences the text book companies are usually the busiest vendors, and they are marketing to existing practitioners.

3.  Keep a "cheat book" in your pocket.  I have a little inexpensive notebook where I write common drug dosages, protocols, and so on, and I still use it every day.  Noting your most common drugs and diseases in an at-hand reference really speeds you up.

4.  Don't get jealous at vets who can do a spay in 15 minutes or rattle off dosages for several dozen drugs.  They've been doing this for years or decades and have had time to remember them.  I'm one of those doctors, but my first spays were 45-60 minutes and I couldn't remember any dosages.  With time and repetition your speed will pick up.

5.  You know more and are better than you think. Just because you weren't explicitly taught a surgical procedure or disease work-up doesn't mean that you can't do it.  You were taught the basics and therefore can handle most things that were thrown at you.  There are numerous procedures that I had never done, but when the need arose I looked it up in a text (back to that again) and moved ahead to do it.  I had never actually watched a cherry eye surgery before I did my first one!  I studied the book, remembered my tissue handling, and said "Yeah, I can do this." 

6.  Your true success as a veterinarian is going to come not by your surgical or medical skills but by your people skills.  Practice and perfect your communication techniques and really work on being personal and somewhat extroverted with clients.  That will go a LONG way towards building your clientelle and business.  I've known doctors who where far smarter and more knowledgeable that me that clients didn't like because they had poor interpersonal skills.

7.  Your vet school experiences and grades really don't have much to do with your long-term success.  I graduated dead-middle of my veterinary class, and I've become very successful and well-respected by my colleagues and clients. 

So that's a quick list!  I know that a lot of my readers are veterinary students or new vets, so this can apply to you guys as well.  And here's a challenge to my readers who are experienced veterinarians!  What other nuggets of wisdom would you pass on to Amanda and other recent graduates?  Put them in the comments!

Best of luck to you, Amanda!