Made of choices



Downtown Charlotte, NC

Understanding various approaches to making career decisions as a veterinarian

Sponsored by PetSmart Veterinary Services

While attending the 2024 Fetch dvm360® Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dr. Jennifer Bruns, DVM, MPVM, explained how to chart a new course in life, like becoming a veterinary practice owner. As an exercise for the audience, she asked them to pick a candy bar. “You make those decisions based on what you know already today. So, you’ve eaten those candy bars before. Maybe you like a certain part of a company’s advertising or there’s something ingrained in you that really works,” said Bruns. If someone opted out of a candy bar because they brought a dessert already, Bruns claimed it to be an easy decision. However, that same ease doesn’t always apply to bigger life decisions.

Analyzing the Decision-Making Process

1. Frame of Reference

There may not be a frame of reference to know exactly how some decisions will work out. Not knowing can create decision overload and leave doctors staring at the various pathways before them. Do they want to continue what they’re doing right now? How do they bridge their experience to the next big thing? It is common to get stuck in this step and not look at data-driven information.

2.Value Proposition

Bruns set up for the audience a thought exercise of being in a boat with everything you have—family, pets, career, hobbies, etc. If they were then forced to start throwing things out of the boat or otherwise sink, what would they do? This approach is tough when it comes to family or kids or pets, but it forces oneself to ask what in their world aligns with their current values.

3. Five Fingers

Each finger can represent different elements of a decision. Bruns started with the pinky as a reminder of values. The ring finger makes you ask if you’re doing what you love or if you’re compromising. Being the tallest finger, the middle finger is the leader. As the pointer finger, the index finger lets you think about who can guide and provide you with the information you need. The last finger is your thumb which points back to you. “One of the greatest things about practice ownership is that it’s your business, you’re the one that owns the results. But you’re the one that also reached all of the rewards, all of your hard work,” encouraged Bruns.

Practice Ownership

According to the AVMA report on the economic state of the veterinary profession, being a practice owner drives higher levels of happiness and mental health in veterinary medicine. “Sometimes we're so worried about the work that we have to put into it that we don't realize there's a big upside,” said Bruns. Aside from financial changes and flexibility in one’s work, owning a practice increases compassion satisfaction versus fatigue or burnout. There is a greater sense of personal satisfaction in one’s work and that translates to their life and clients. When you’re an associate, you have to follow your boss even if that doesn’t align with your goals.

While becoming a practice owner means a lot of change, there are resources, like with PetSmart, to make it easier. “I do wish you all the best regardless of what your journey is and what you're thinking about,” concluded Bruns.

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