Hopefully you have accepted a position that recognizes the gap between education and practice.
You have selected your perfect job and have a contract that allows you some degree of financial security. Your first day of work starts tomorrow, and you are armed with the latest in medical knowledge and the finest technical skills of anyone in your class. You even won the prize for best student surgeon.
But before you start, try to answer some of these questions:
Have you ever stood alone in an examination room with a client and a sick pet, or in a barn with a farmer and a sick cow, and had to examine, make a diagnosis and treat that animal? At this point, you might not know what drugs and equipment are available to you, and a technician might tell you the next client will be there in 15 minutes.
Have you ever stood in an operating room with a technician you don't know and been confronted with a spay that turned out to be a pyometra? Your new employer has gone to play golf.
Have you ever had to see 30 patients in one day in order to meet your production quota?
Has the owner of the patient you are treating ever been convinced that you don't know what you are doing and insisted on seeing an older doctor?
Have you ever accepted a position with a solo practitioner who is badly in need of a vacation? As soon as you arrive, he or she decides to leave for two weeks, but the non-licensed technician who has been there for a long time will know what to do if you need help. Your first patient is a 15-year-old unsprayed toy Poodle that has anorexia, vomiting polyuria and polydysia. Are you ready?
These are a few of the scenarios you could face on your first day, and if your answer to most of these questions is "no," you better hope you have chosen a practice that is willing to help you through these trials in the form of a mentoring program.
The gap of inexperience between education and practice for new graduates manifests itself several ways. Some of these examples as noted by practice owners who have hired new associates are:
If your only actual clinical experience with patients has been in the college setting, you have not been well prepared for what you are about to encounter. If you have worked as a technician before veterinary school or completed an externship in a private clinical setting, you probably are better prepared. A major difference between teaching hospitals and private hospitals is the latter has an absolute need to be successful financially and show a profit, whereas the college clinic does not. This means that the culture of a college clinic and the doctors who were your teachers is different then private practice.
Hopefully you have accepted a position that recognizes the gap between education and practice, and the owners know it is to their advantage to provide you with the mentoring that will narrow and ultimately eliminate this gap completely and in as little time possible. How this will be done depends on the philosophy of the owners, number of veterinarians and technicians on staff and how much experience you brought with you.
The most important part of this equation is whether or not the owner recognizes that you are not going to be able to perform your first day at the level they might expect. Practice owners who have not employed new graduates before are most apt to fall into this trap. This is the reason that one of your new intern questions was to find out if your employer had hired new graduates in the past. Your new employer should recognize that the more help you receive in the beginning, the sooner you will meet their expectations.
The second most important part of the program is recognizing that you need this mentoring.
Many practice owners will not allow this much time to be spent on a mentoring program. They will feel that they can't afford to pay you and not get production from you. This will cause friction between you and your new employer. Many new associates will not need this much time. However, a planned program to narrow this gap starts with an understanding that the new associate will progress quicker and more successfully if time and effort are spent on mentoring. As the new associate, you should feel privileged that time and effort was spent on you to develop your skills and knowledge, preparing you to be a productive member of the staff.
An important part of any mentoring program is the evaluation. You should want this evaluation; you should request it if it is not forthcoming; you should not be apprehensive of the evaluation and possible criticism coming from it, and you should learn from it. During your mentoring period, you should have been receiving advice and feedback on your performance on a daily or even hourly basis. However, your first official performance evaluation will most likely come at the end of the six-month mentoring period. The veterinarian who has been the most closely associated with you throughout the mentoring period should perform the evaluation. The evaluation should be done in a quiet, private setting. Ideally you will have been given a self-evaluation form to fill out prior to the meeting. If your evaluator has the same form, you will begin by comparing them and then discussing what each of you determines are your strengths and weaknesses. Some of performance areas that should be considered by you and your evaluator are:
If you have self-evaluated prior to the formal evaluation, then you have identified most of the same areas of strength and concerns pointed out by the evaluator.
An effective evaluator recommends how to make corrections. This will be the learning experience for you. An effective evaluation should emphasize strengths as well as weaknesses. Accept the criticism that comes with the praise. You should have an opportunity to discuss your experience with the practice and developmental areas that positively or negatively effect your performance. If a personality conflict exists between you and another employee, point that out to the evaluator.
Performance evaluations should become a routine part of your employment with the next coming at the end of your contract term six to 12 months later. Each subsequent evaluation will start by assessing the prior and determining what has improved.
An evaluation held at the end of a contract term may be used to determine future employment, salary and benefit changes.