Be a veterinary practice builder, not a practice filler

October 22, 2019
Tannetje' Crocker, DVM

Vetted, Vetted July 2020, Volume 115, Issue 7

Congratulations, associate veterinarian! Youve been hired to fill a position. Now, ask yourself: Who do you want to be? Filling a slot or filling your practice with new ideas and enthusiasm?

Creating building blocks for a practice can lead to major payoffs for the veterinary team in the long run. (whyframeshot/stock.adobe.com)You got the job … now what? As a new associate veterinarian at a practice, you have two choices. First, if you were hired to replace someone, you can simply fill that spot and maintain the status quo as a practice-filler. Or you can be a practice-builder.

How do you make the leap from filler to builder? By finding your niche, engaging the community and developing an online presence, you could be the injection of energy, inspiration and medicine you, your hospital and your team need.    

1. Find your niche

Entering a new veterinary practice means you're the fresh pair of eyes. Perform a needs assessment during your first few months as an associate and look for the niche you can carve out for yourself. Try out one or more of these ideas:

Use a new diagnostic tool. For example, I did additional training to start offering in-house ultrasound; I perform the ultrasounds and a board-certified radiologist reads them.

Offer a new treatment modality. Laser therapy and holistic therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic are common ones to consider.

Study more to be the practice expert on a matter involving a specific patient group-for example, orthopedic processes for sporting or active breeds, hospice or in-home care for elderly pets, behavior training or breed-specific diseases and/or surgeries (think brachycephalic dogs).

Organize a new event at the hospital. I created and organized an open house around the holidays. We ran a tour of the hospital, drug company reps offered giveaways, and we let people take pet pictures with Santa. Many clients commented they'd never seen the entire hospital and were so excited about the Santa pictures.

Become the “new client” veterinarian. Develop a spiel about how you and your hospital are uniquely caring. Call back all new clients the next day for a quick check in. You'd be amazed how many clients appreciate hearing from the actual veterinarian themselves. 

2: Build community

Now, look outward to opportunities available in the community. Play to your strengths as you look for ways to become better known in the area. While I enjoy educating the public and feel comfortable speaking to large groups, you may not. There are still many ways to build community as a veterinarian:

Attend local horse shows, dog park openings and pet-focused community events.

Find opportunities to interact with the owners of feed stores and pet stores. Ask to leave your cards on their bulletin boards.

Join the city council animal advisory board or offer your services to consult on animal issues.

Support the local school system and engage with any pre-vet or agriculture programs.

Offer reduced surgery prices for a local animal shelter. This is especially welcome if their building doesn't have its own surgery suite. 

Speak at community events and/or join your city's Chamber of Commerce.

Participate in career days at local schools. Every kid wants to hear from an animal doctor.

Welcome high school students interested in shadowing or getting volunteer hours at your hospital. 

Need some words?

Hungry for some words on clinical topics to go with your cool photos on Instagram, Facebook and more? Head on over here.

3. Go online

Practice-builders take to their keyboards and smartphones to increase their reach as veterinarians. These days the search for knowledge is continuous-taking place at all hours in online forums and on social media platforms. Building an online presence is an important tool to reach new clients and promote yourself (and your hospital). Here are ways you can engage on the internet: 

Help develop or improve the veterinary hospital's Facebook and Instagram pages.

Make client education videos based on client requests and input.

Educate yourself on ways to generate “actionable” social media posts. (I'm a fan of Snout School on Instagram for tips and tricks.)

Write articles on hot topics in veterinary medicine.(Editor's note: Submit them to, say, dvm360.com for dvm360 magazine for the profession, Vetted for clinical and business information or the entire team with Firstline.

Get your logo and put it on everything. Branding is important for subconscious recognition. Need help making a logo for you or your practice? Canva.com is a great place to experiment to get started.

Start a podcast. (Editor's note: Here are a few veterinary and pet-owner-facing ones out there.)

Produce a personal website. No, not your own rambling blog about life, but a pet-owner facing website to educate and interact with the public. Whiskercloud is my website creator of choice. Check out mine at drcrockerpetvet.com.

Start a YouTube channel. Update it regularly with instructive videos for clients and informational ones for other veterinary professionals. 

As a new veterinarian, you're passionate about your job, and it's time to share that enthusiasm in the exam room, in the neighborhood and online. Think about your strengths. Maybe you're a great writer and you explain things best in blogs, essays and posts? Maybe artistic creativity is your secret superpower? Look inside yourself and see what lights your fire, then use those gifts to find the opportunities. The extra energy you put into these outside endeavors will pay off and mold you into a practice-builder.

Dr. Tannetje' Crocker worked as a solo equine ambulatory practitioner for three years before transitioning to small animal medicine. She currently practices in Grapevine, Texas at Northwest Animal Hospital and the Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas. In her free time, Dr. Crocker can be found with her family and friends riding horses and enjoying the outdoors. Contact her on Instagram @dr.tannetje.crocker.

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