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7 paths to professional growth
Stagnation isn't an option. So use these strategies to paddle along the always-swelling river of new information. You'll find they make professional growth easy and exciting-and keep your passion for practice alive.
Meet with your colleagues. One of the best ways to keep on top of what's new and pertinent is to see what others are doing in their practices. Most areas hold local meetings where you can mix it up with the neighboring medical brains. Those veterinary neighbors offer all kinds of great information—and some of it can even save you time in the library.
I suggest a lunch meeting twice a month with the best of your local bunch. This approach gives you a taste of what's going on in their practices and what trends they're seeing. You'll benefit from hearing about their real-life experiences with issues that affect you locally, from new diseases to local laws. In turn, they can pick your brain, too—or at least you can buy lunch.
Get CE in the online world. The Web puts the world at your fingertips, and you'll be left behind if you don't take advantage of this great resource. Among the multitude of online tools, the king of the information mountain is the Veterinary Information Network (VIN). With a monthly subscription, you can gather news, get help from the best minds on the message boards, and look for answers to your stumper cases using the search feature.
Two more of my favorite sites: the National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov). But there are thousands that you might be interested in.
Many state and local groups maintain Web sites, too. Some recently graduated classes even use sites to stay in touch. The information revolution has arrived.
(Editors' note: Interested in exploring more of the veterinary world online? You can review lists of veterinary-specific sites by category and get veterinary-specific search results at www.vetmedsearch.com.)
Find a new perspective. Work with service dogs or volunteer for natural disaster relief. Treat yourself to a new species, and work with some creature you haven't thought about since veterinary school. In fact, do anything that will give you a new angle on veterinary medicine.
The recent surge in natural disasters has thrust us into a new role and increased demand for volunteers with various skills to perform rescue and relief work. Check with local humane societies and governments to learn how you can prepare to be on-call for natural disasters. Now more than ever, your veterinary medical training could position you to touch many areas of society.
Teach. After only a few years in practice, you'll have unique experiences that others want to hear about. If you live near a school, let them know you're available to talk to the students about their future. You may be invited to speak at informal group meetings. Often put on by the business club, these meetings get you out in the world but require little preparation or formality.
Some schools organize mentoring programs, as does the AVMA. And some students participate in internships their senior year. A one-month intern will bring you many insights into the next generation, along with contagious excitement and passion for the profession.
Bring in new blood. If you're working too hard to focus on renewing yourself, maybe it's time to hire an associate. There's nothing more invigorating than having one of these young whippersnappers hanging around your clinic. Plus, they'll free up time for you to spend on other profession-enhancing exercises.
Certainly you'd weigh many considerations before you decided to hire an associate, but a world of knowledge opens up to you when you work with a colleague every day. If you take this step, structure your clinic with professional growth in mind, so you both benefit from the mentoring relationship.
Pursue advanced training. One of the most enthusiastic doctors who ever waylaid me at a meeting had just completed a week at the NAVC Postgraduate Institute. This intensive, small-group experience rekindled the flame in his work. Other types of unusual CE are available, so rather than just attending another conference, look for something different next time.
Refresh yourself and your brain with a program in an unusual location; try a small group, single-subject program, or stay up late at night with an online course. CE should ignite your passion for medicine, so pick subjects and venues that excite you. Mixing intellectual growth with personal exploration is the perfect prescription for banishing professional lethargy.
Be someone's shadow for a day. If you're fortunate enough to have a large specialty/referral practice nearby, ask if you can shadow one of their docs for a day. The advances at the specialty level are nothing short of phenomenal, and seeing their work first-hand is guaranteed to make you run home and try something new. Or at least refer more.
Improve your surgery techniques, watch an expert do an ultrasound, or learn the newest on CRI. (If you don't know what that means, I'm obviously talking to you.) You'll be rewarded intellectually, and you'll serve your patients better. And that's the perfect definition of professional growth.
One of the joys of our profession is that it runs wide and deep, offering us amazing possibilities for growth. And luckily, our ranks are filled with interesting people who jump at the chance to share their expertise. So don't hesitate to plunge into the river of knowledge—the temperature is just fine!
Dr. Craig Woloshyn, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, stays afloat on the river of information at the Animal Medical Clinic in Spring Hill, Fla., which he owns. He also shares his advice through Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting. Please send questions or comments to email@example.com
Craig Woloshyn, dvm