3 things every introvert should know in veterinary practice


In an exclusive interview with dvm360, Quiet author Susan Cain lends advice to make client interaction easier on veterinarians.

Does the thought of interacting with veterinary clients every day for the rest of your career sometimes make you want to crawl into a hole and never come out? If so, you are definitely not alone.

“So much of veterinary medicine is actually client care, which I love but is also exhausting,” says Dr. Shawn Finch, an associate at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital in Omaha, Neb. “Talking with people, especially people I don’t know or don’t know well, doesn’t come easily to me.”

This is why Dr. Finch—a self-professed introvert—was so moved by Susan Cain’s New York Times bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Publishing Group, 2012).

Cain says that introversion is a trait to be celebrated and in an exclusive interview with dvm360, she reveals three things to remember the next time introverted veterinarians or team members feel overwhelmed in practice.

1. You don’t have to be the life of the party. Cain says to take every conversation one pet owner at a time—after all, one-on-one interactions are often easier for introverts manage. If you’re still feeling anxiety, remember why you became a veterinarian.

“You love the animal and the client loves the animal,” Cain says. “Connect with the client over that shared love of the animal.”

She suggests keeping a stockpile of questions handy. That way when you feel awkward or uncomfortable during an appointment, you can just refer to the list and ask clients things like, “How long have you had your pet?” and “When did you become a dog lover?” Just be sure to keep the tone conversional—you don’t want to turn the interaction into an interrogation, Cain says. Also, it’s important to focus on the real reason clients are visiting your practice.

“When most people bring their pets to the veterinarian, they don’t want cocktail party conversation. They want you to understand their pets’ problems and answer their questions,” Cain says. “So don’t think of it as a performance or party role, but more of a role of counselor, reassurer and fountain of knowledge.”

2. Never feel guilty for taking alone time. Introverted veterinarians should leave room in their schedule for recharge time throughout the day, Cain says.

What should you do during that down time? Take a walk around the block, sit in your office and eat lunch, read the paper. As someone who enjoys art, Dr. Finch colors between appointments. The ideal length of the break time varies from person to person, Cain says, but no matter what, don’t feel selfish for building these rests into your schedule.

“Give as much respect to that time as the actual appointment or you’re not going to be your best self and you’re not going to be able to serve your patients in the best way,” Cain says.

3. Turn your introversion into better veterinary care. In Cain’s book, she stresses that being an introvert is a gift, not a curse and the majority of introverted veterinarians agree. According to the 2013 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Survey, 60 percent of veterinarians don’t think their introversion hurts their career. (See more data on personality types in practice and learn how to stay true to your personality here.) Below, Dr. Finch gives four examples of how her introverted personality type helps her succeed in veterinary practice.

1. I have a tendency to over-analyze, which is helpful with complex cases.

2. I enjoy reading, researching, learning—solo activities that are also good for patient care.

3. I’d rather listen than talk—this helps when it comes to connecting with clients and taking an accurate history.

4. Empathy and introversion often go together, which is helpful for our profession—especially when it comes to handling a poor diagnosis and euthanasia.

Read more of Dr. Finch’s insights on introversion in her July 2nd blog post and learn more about Cain's book here.

Not sure of your personality type, or need a refresher? Chose from four different tests—and don’t forget to quiz your team as well.

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