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Generational divide: The age gap between two veterinarians is reflected in advice to new associates
Knowing the newest medicine didnt save me from having to learn real-life lessons when I started my veterinary career.
After spending four years in veterinary school, we associates sometimes emerge with the latest knowledge but also a classic bit of ignorance-the idea that we know everything.
Jeremy Keen, DVMMy first year was a defining experience because it demonstrated that what we need to practice good medicine is often beyond what we learned in school. All new veterinarians find themselves in countless teachable moments in their first year, but here are four lessons that can help all of us in our veterinary journey:
A seasoned DVM points out new associates' eight missteps
By Craig Woloshyn, DVM
Craig Woloshyn, DVM
After more than 30 years in veterinary medicine, I've learned to recognize the mistakes that new veterinarians are prone to make. Here are eight missteps you can avoid:
1. Working part-time. The first five years of practicing shape your career. You lose the value of higher caseload, long-term continuity, client feedback and seeing the endpoint of your therapies if you're not there most days.
2. Not appreciating your worth. Learn enough about practice finances to understand how to improve your personal production and earnings. More importantly, learn how to present the value of our profession to clients when they have doubts, as that is the basis of your business success.
3. Rushing it. Things take time. You won't be a great doctor fresh out of school. Relax, enjoy your early years and the excitement of new discovery every day. Set goals to reach in one, five and 10 years, but don't become discouraged when your situation changes. Remember, your goals are not set in stone.
4. Not knowing yourself. What do you like to do that clients want and need? What are your motor and mental skills? Most of us don't need to specialize, but neither can you be all things to all people, so learn your strengths and weaknesses.
5. Staying local. This is a big ol' country and an even bigger world. Don't let geography define your career choices. After graduation, you don't need to go home.
6. Remaining complacent. Challenge yourself to grow with experienced guidance. There are many bad or indifferent mentors/owners, and many young doctors confuse mentoring with validation. Learn the difference. Never work for someone who isn't smarter than you. Find someone you respect and want to emulate. Work there.
7. Ignoring networking. Collegiality, as us old people knew it, is gone. Try to bring it back. It's a very valuable and comforting mechanism to help you become a better doctor.
8. Relying on technology. If you can't perform a cystocentesis without a $50,000 ultrasound, hire a technician who can. For me, knowledge of physiology beats lab tests every time.
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Woloshyn has owned a clinic in Tampa Bay, Florida, since 1985.
I didn't anticipate how valuable technicians are
Your support staff can make or break you. Technicians are often better at placing IV catheters and drawing blood than new graduates and even long-time veterinarians who've delegated tasks like this. Team members have sometimes worked for decades at your new practice. They understand the ins and outs of the clinic. They know which patients prefer more or less restraint and which ones are anxious being examined on a table.
These days, experience has taught me to always ask for a technician's input on most things. We should remember that we aren't-and never will be-better at everything than our support staff.
I didn't always appreciate the experienced DVMs around me
Since most of your fellow doctors have been through everything you have and more, they are invaluable to you. Many of them can share better approaches to certain procedures or diagnostic tests. If you're lucky enough to have an experienced DVM serve as your mentor, you should listen. Seek every opportunity to work with these veterinarians on cases and surgeries, and don't be afraid to ask if you can watch their surgeries or assist.
I didn't realize the priceless value of the client relationship
Excellent communication skills may be the most important asset for a general practitioner or specialist. You can be the best clinician, but you'll struggle if you can't connect with clients. Pet owners want a veterinarian who uses everyday language-not the big medical terms and jargon we picked up in school.
At the end of each physical examination, I discuss every aspect of a pet's health from head to toe. I also try to keep the curious kids involved in the exam. Let them peek through the otoscope or ophthalmoscope or listen to the heart (ask the parent and clean the ear pieces).
I didn't know it's OK to admit ignorance
If you don't know the answer to a client's question, don't be embarrassed to admit you don't know. Be honest and say you're not sure, but you'll find out.
Dr. Jeremy Keen is an associate at North Madison Animal Hospital in Jackson, Tennessee.