Veteran veterinarians have much to teach younger doctors. But the opposite is true as well.
Suppose that an immune-mediated hemolytic anemia case comes in, and the doctor who still owns the Monkees' last album has one way of treating the case—after all, it's worked well for 30 years. But the doctor who did a summer internship with some monkeys a few years ago feels otherwise because of the recent literature. How do the vetted doctor and the new graduate come together to develop a comprehensive medical philosophy for the hospital?
Over the span of 30 years, a lot can change in medicine. Having been out of school for only five years, I'm already impressed with the knowledge today's graduates are walking away with. They possess unique skill sets that even the most distinguished veterinarians can't replicate. But there are many tools in place to bridge the gap between the vetted doctor and the one with the crisp diploma. Experienced doctors can take advantage of more and more CE opportunities to keep up with the latest research and technology. New graduates can participate in internships and residencies to gain hands-on experience before being thrown to the wolves.
The best answer is to develop a symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone. First of all, experienced practitioners need to mentor new doctors. It's easy to have good intentions and say that you'll teach a new graduate, but potential mentors need to put a structured plan in place to make it work. A practice taking on a new hire is probably busy and can't wait to unload some of the work on the new associate. But doctors who've done a hundred cystotomies and hospitalized 50 renal disease patients can forget how stressful that first one is. The younger doctor knows how to do these things but may have first-time jitters.
The vetted doctor needs to take time to talk through these cases or to scrub in during procedures, even if it means just holding a hemostat for an hour. The veteran's presence will considerably raise the new doctor's confidence and allow her to learn the right way to do things. In return, the new doctor will be more likely to adapt her medical practice to suit the existing philosophy.
On the flip side, the presence of a recent graduate in a practice is the ultimate continuing education course for the other doctors. This new associate has just emerged from four years of schooling, where she was heavily immersed in recent research and protocols. She has a bag full of tricks that other doctors can learn from.
Most of us in private practice don't have time to review literature with our colleagues for several hours a week, but the new graduate has been absorbing everything she can learn from that hotshot internal medicine resident at school. So pick her brain and be willing to adapt, just as she should continue to learn the practical application of her education from the vetted doctors.
You may find a new hybrid type of medicine is being practiced at your hospital—one in which doctors from different generations understand and learn from each other. That cohesiveness will result in healthier patients and happier clients—even if younger doctors don't understand the brilliance of the Monkees.
Dr. Andrew Rollo is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and an associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich.