Impostor syndrome, hidden money and paperwork from hell


Pained veterinary associates get the help they need in our first bonus-length Vets Ask Dr. Dave.

In “Vets Ask Dr. Dave,” CVC educator Dave Nicol, BVMS, Cert. Mgmt MRCVS, answers colleagues' questions on the business of veterinary medicine. As he puts it, “We're talking marketing, we're talking leadership, we're talking people-all the stuff that gets in the way of medicine.” These topics are in Dr. Dave's personal wheelhouse.

In this episode, topics range from impostor syndrome to the specter of the “paperwork monster.” Here's a breakdown:

Digging Dr. Dave in this video? You ought to see him live at CVC!

Dr. Dave Nicol is a popular CVC educator and you have two more chances to see him in person in 2017. Catch essential sessions like “Kill your ego before it kills you” and “7 elements to the perfect exam-room visit” at CVC Kansas City or CVC San Diego.

Question 1: Dr. Mary asks, "Does every veterinarian feel like a fraud, or is it just me?"

"That's impostor syndrome," says Dave. (Pro tip: Check out this CVC-inspired doodle that addresses “why many high-achieving professionals so often feel they're never good enough.”) Don't hide from the feeling-embrace it! That sensation will push you outside your comfort zone-and toward being better at your job. “If you never feel like a fraud, it's because you're not growing,” Dave says.

Jump to 1:14 to hear all about it.

Question 2: Dr. Ben says, "I'm paid on production, but the boss doesn't show me all the numbers."

Oh boy. Dr. Nicol says this associate has more to worry about than just financial transparency. (Pro tip: Make sure your contract spells out how you're compensated and how you'll know it's above board. Read more here.) Dave sees two potential problems with this scenario:

1. Veterinarians (and those in similar professions who are “vocationally interested in caring”) aren't purely driven by the prospect of making money. This already makes the production-based compensation model a nonstarter.

2. Lack of transparency is the big problem here. “You're being asked to work on the goodwill of someone who wishes to remain secretive about numbers that you really ought to see,” Dave says. “How do you know you're getting a fair shake?”

Short answer: You don't.

So listen at 3:59 as Dr. Dave gives advice on how to start this essential conversation with your employer and lays out what a veterinarian's salary could be. (CVC educator Brian Conrad, CVPM, might have another point of view for Dr. Ben: Sharing the numbers actually makes increasing profitability easier. But you should also check out this paper (PDF) and this paper (PDF) for research that show business owners may be better off focusing on culture and job design than on salary to improve employee satisfaction and business performance.)

Question 3: Dr. Bill in Oklahoma writes in with this scenario: "I can't do anything in my free time, because I spend a lot of time doing paperwork."

Dave couldn't agree more that this is a problem: “Vets doing heaps of unpaid overtime is like a serious disease in our industry.” And he has advice, but it's going to be on you to allocate time more wisely.

You'll need to be smarter about scheduling and more realistic about how much you can actually get done. (Pro tip: Want some help with time management? Let your technicians assist with notes in the exam room. They're probably up to the task-and they like it. Read more here.)

Skip forward to 9:51 for this discussion.

Would you like to get Dr. Dave's take on your veterinary business question? Reach him through all the likely channels: Use the hashtag #VetsAskDrDave on Twitter (@drdavenicol) or Facebook (, or email

Dave Nicol is a graduate of Glasgow University Veterinary School in Scotland. He initially set out with plans to become a surgeon, but almost immediately was drawn into general practice by the interaction with pet owners and the problem-solving opportunities that cropped up each day. It is his personal mission to help pets and their people live happy, healthy lives by exploring the daily challenges we face, creating solutions and helping others to grow.

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