Translate This Blog

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Importance Of Mentors

When I was growing up I had a great mentor in veterinary medicine, Dr. John Strasser.  He took a chance and hired me as a 14 year-old slightly bratty kid. I'm not sure what he saw in me, but he was a good judge of character and knew there was potential in me.  I worked for him off and on for 13 years, until I finished vet school.  Many of the best lessons I learned about being a vet came from him, even though I haven't worked for him in 14 years and haven't seen him in about 5 years.  Though not the sole factor, he was a large part of developing me into the veterinarian I am today.

That kind of mentorship is very important to newly graduated veterinarians, and something we don't always get.  Though my first employer as a doctor was a great guy and gave me great opportunities, he wasn't the best in training and developing my medical or business skills.  A few weeks after I started working as a newly graduated vet, he took a week's vacation and left me alone in the clinic.  I did fine, but that could have easily been a bad situation for many young doctors.

To me one of the most important things an experienced vet can do is to help develop new colleagues.  There are many things we know and have learned that can really help out newer graduates.  Sharing our mistakes can help keep others from making the same ones.  We also can help build confidence and show them all of the little tricks and tips we pick up over the years.  Frankly, I feel that mentoring is an important responsibility that too many vets don't understand.  Admittedly, not everyone is cut out to be a mentor.  But those who are should embrace the opportunity.

I would also encourage any new vets or anyone approaching graduation seek a job with a practice that has an active mentorship program.  Smaller practices may not have formalized this much, but at least one doctor in the clinic needs to be willing to take the new graduate under their wing and not just throw them into the fray.  Larger practices may have a more developed program with specific goals, timetables, and so on that help to gradually ease the new doctor into their role and skills.

Carefully developing new veterinarians takes a lot of time, effort and resources, but is well worth it.  A good mentor can positively affect someone for a lifetime.