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Friday, November 27, 2015

Useful Skills For A Veterinarian

Here is an interesting question that I recently received.

what personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in this job?

Believe it or not, medical and surgical abilities are only part of success, and not always the most important skills.  I've seen great vets fail to do well in their practice because they lacked "people skills", and I've seen vets performing malpractice but had a thriving practice because clients liked them.  I'm certainly not saying that it's acceptable to have poor medical skills, and every doctor should strive to be the absolute best that they can.  But it's important for new vets and those who want to enter the profession to realize that your skill in diagnosing and treating diseases will only get you so far, and may not be the real key to having a successful practice.

So what abilities are important to success?

Communication skills! This is likely the top skill that will help every veterinarian. I've seen some vets with incredible medical and surgical skill who have rather sorry people skills and have a hard time developing clientele. Being comfortable talking to people and having a good ability to connect with them is going to be the single most useful non-medical skill. A great communicator can handle a cranky client when a case goes bad. A poor communicator will have a hard time keeping a client happy when everything goes well.  The better you are at relating to your clients, explaining situations to them, and handling their questions, the more your practice will grow.

Emotional resiliency is another useful skill. As a vet you go through some incredible highs and lows throughout a day. You lose patients you've grown attached to. You have clients get mad at you when you've done everything correctly. You get overwhelmed with the number of cases you have to see in the course of a day. You get staff that can be difficult. All of that can combine to make it really tough to maintain a positive outlook and handle the stresses of the job. Someone with a steady emotional outlook or who has good coping mechanisms is going to be more successful at getting through those challenges.  If you can't handle these stresses you'll burn out quickly and potentially have a serious breakdown.

A good head for business is also extremely helpful. Even if you don't own the clinic, having a good understanding of charges and how to keep the doors open will keep you from giving everything away and potentially sending the practice into bankruptcy. Knowing how the charges are figured and what goes into them will also help you feel less guilty when charging a client, as you know that the prices really are reasonable for the service.  You never want to overcharge or gouge a client, but at the same time you have to charge appropriately in order to keep the doors open and invest in new equipment and staff.  

Being successful as a veterinarian is far more than being a good doctor.  Thankfully it seems that veterinary schools are better preparing their students for this reality.