Reading: It's a key to veterinary success


Reading is power.

Reading is power.

It offers a source of energy because it acts as strong stimulus or food for the brain.

Think about it. Becoming a successful clinician, manager and mentor requires creative thinking. When reading, we are stimulated by good ideas with thought-provoking subjects.

There are many ways to learn, yet when we consider our professional day and merge it with a personal life, we find that that best day-to-day stimulation still is good old-fashioned reading.

The challenge, however, is to make time to read. The volume of items to read, and distractions to prevent the activity make the challenges all the more difficult.

Too many words?

Consider the volume of periodicals, drug detailers, infomercials and detailers that can arrive in our mailboxes every day. And that is just print. Consider the volume of reading materials on the Internet. It's a killer. This medium takes up a lot of time, and the yield is poor relative to the time invested.

To make the best use of your reading time, identify your interests, personally and professionally, and then create a reading list, which considers the balance of life's priorities.

Schedule time

Study hall has returned. If you can, set up an hourly study hall without telephone, computer or interruptions. It works, and the reading will get accomplished. Put it in the appointment book and put out a "do not disturb" sign.

When setting a reading budget, a general rule would be: Read one hour per day to stay current and three hours per day to improve your depth of knowledge.

Personal reading

As the world has become more complex, amply illustrated by the lightning-fast communications of the Internet, the development of our self makes it easier to cope.

A lifetime of education can be found in the following books. Take them one at a time:

"Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart" (Livingston); "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" (John-Rogers/ McWilliams); "Who Moved My Cheese?" (Johnson, Krapfl); "Do What You Love, The Money will Follow" (Sinetar); "Awareness" (DeMello); "People of the Lie" (Peck); and the three classics, "Passages" (Sheehy); "Games People Play" (Berne); and "How To Stop Worrying and Start Living" (Carnegie).


This is one of the most difficult challenges: Read a textbook cover to cover.

The paradigm of clinical medicine has broken into many specialty and interest fragments in canine, feline, avian, surgery, equine and the wide variety of food animal disciplines.

Pick one and make it the most important text to your practice niche area; then commit to reading it cover to cover.

Ettinger is on my list for small animal practice. I might try the new "Five Minute Equine Consult" (Mader) for reptiles, and Harrison for birds.

Five pages a day is all it takes, but it takes discipline. Sometimes you have to plow through the more difficult pages, but you can do it!

A daily reference

We are presented with a case that needs to be looked up each day, maybe even each hour. Even the mundane ear and skin cases need a refresher, because what's forgotten isn't easily recalled.

And while many texts are available for quick references, I like Rhea Morgan's "Textbook of Small Animal Practice" for two reasons. It is pretty comprehensive and, most important, it provides a differential list.

Thus, assuming we can get close to a diagnosis, the differential list helps us fine-tune the diagnostics selection.


Essential to the emerging quality practice niche areas are the drugs we use. Drug interaction issues from dosing problems are a huge cause of human deaths each year.

Consider a quick review of doses, indications and anticipated side affects of NSAIDS, enalapril and insulin before sending an old patient out the door with these drugs.

It is safe to say each drug that is used in a practice should be looked up at least twice each year, even for those individuals with photographic memories.

As Einstein said: "I never commit to memory that which I can look up."


The most important part of an article is the introduction, because it summarizes the article's salient issues. Read each introduction carefully. Then read the abstract, and then move on to the next article.

Veterinary and human medical journals are an essential method of communication to the profession. One of veterinary medicine's best kept secrets is the New England Journal of Medicine, even with its recent editorial stumble.

There are three special areas presented, review articles, current topics and weekly clinicopathological studies.

The review articles on various systems and disease processes are wonderful basic information. The articles on osteoarthritis and diazepam are two excellent examples. The key messages on current topics are excellent reminders for us to consider for our family's own health and the connection to animal health. But, the must-read section in this journal is the Clinicopathology section. This article is written in a chronology format with patient signalment, signs and treatments all leading to the question ... which diagnostic test was performed? This test gives the answer to the patient's situation. For veterinarians in clinical situations, each article teaches us how to use, when to request, and the strengths of modern diagnostics, including hematology, blood gases and ultrasound.

Read for fun

Having fun is a fuel for life and your career. You can work dawn to dusk, and many of us are driven by the love of the profession and the job we perform helping creatures and families.

Yet, burnout can take its toll.

I remember seeing one veterinarian tearing tickets in a movie theater after suffering from burnout.

For my fun, I just love my horses. I read everything — dressage, western, Equus, hunter, distance and, of course, the veterinary stuff.

I am sure that without the fun of my avocation, I would have long since retired.

The world around us

We live in an ever-changing world, and some world events affect us.

Most Americans get their data from television, which is a bad source of information if we truly want to understand the issues facing the world. I encourage you to read the following:

  • Kiplinger's Weekly Washington Newsletter

  • The Wall Street Journal

  • One local newspaper.

The Internet

Be wary of this time cannibal. Limit yourself to15 minutes per day, and stick to it.

If you spend an hour a day on the Internet, over the course of a year, you could have read Ettinger's Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine cover to cover.

So what should you do with 15 minutes on the Internet?

Medscape is my personal favorite; it provides a comprehensive search of current happenings within the human medical sector. There are clinical lessons and messages for veterinarians.

Go to to see what the weather is doing.

Visit AOL or some generic information source.

Access VIN or NOAH. AVMA members have free access to NOAH. Go to the discussion groups, read or mingle.

Final Message: It's simple. Be disciplined and pick up something to read every day.

Dr. Riegger, dipl. ABVP, is the chief medical officer at Northwest Animal Clinic Hospital and Specialty Practice. Contact him at,, telephone and fax (505) 898-0407. Find him on AVMA's NOAH as the practice management moderator. Order his books "Management for Results" and "More Management for Results" by calling (505) 898-1491.

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