Scaling Mt. Vet: Pain and progress in practice

April 29, 2016
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

Our recent survey uncovered your most pressing problemshigh peaks you struggle to summit. Here are the top problems, with some suggested advice to help.

(Illustration Getty Images)

We asked more than 350 of you, "What is the most pressing issue facing you personally as a veterinarian?" Following are the top 10 answers you gave with a few left over at the end.

Hopefully, the answers show you you're not alone in your struggles and strains working in the veterinary profession. (And we've also curated a few choice heartfelt thoughts shared with us through the Veterinary Confessionals Project too. People like you share their secrets, joys, struggles and, yes, confessions via email, snail mail and on boards at major veterinary conferences.)

But more than that, we can never resist trying to point you to small tips and bits of advice that might help, a little bit, if you're looking up that particular mountain of your own, tired and brow-beaten and worried you can't ever get over it. You can get over it, whether it means making a hard choice ... or letting go of the quest for perfection ... or remembering as often as you can that you're not as alone in your trouble as you feel.

We're glad you're in this world (as someone said to one of us recently).

Let's get started pole-vaulting those mountains, alright? 

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

For as long as Veterinary Economics magazine-and now dvm360 magazine-have been asking folks in veterinary practices what their biggest issue is, it's almost always personnel management.

Alex Espinosa fixed his train wreck of a veterinary training program. Try it.

In a survey for Benchmarks 2015: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, associates told us what they want and need in a job. Do you offer it?

Morale suffering? Here's some advice on handling bad days better with your team.

Now what about our relevant confessions?

It can be hard to have crucial conversations with bosses, coworkers and subordinates. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

That's a whole extra layer of personnel management trouble. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Oh, no! Don't panic. You can do it! (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Sounds like a great manager in the making. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

 

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

You work more because revenue is down and costs are up, but when you work more, your mood, your family and your personal life can suffer.

We already loaded a bunch of advice-and fun-into this veterinary bingo card. Start here.

Didn't help? Dang it. Maybe Dr. Mike Paul can talk you into striving for balance on the high wire.

An extra wrinkle to economy troubles is the proliferation of nonprofits playing in the same sandbox as private practices. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Many veterinarians like this one have trouble finding that elusive work-life balance everyone is talking about. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

More time needed, STAT. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Maybe a lucrative practice sale is in her future? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Healthy boundaries and contentment don't have to be a bad thing. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

One stressful day is something. A string of them, one after another, and feelings of hopelessness and desperation is another. Perhaps mindfulness can help and you'll rediscover your love for the job or figure out something else wonderful to do with your life. And if it's gotten particularly bad, we have a special list of resources here.

Is managing the business the problem-keeping clients, finding clients, social media? You are not alone. Practice consultant Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM, asked a room full of practice managers how they keep their marketing and client communication straight. (They don't do it alone-great third-party companies to the rescue too!)

Managing the business is pretty tough without a manager, like, actually managing. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Running a business is harder when personalities clash. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Is this good self-awareness or too much work? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

We're hoping you feel better soon. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Wait, not all puppy kisses, kitten cuddles and bags of money? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

Sore in the morning and the afternoon, tired of work, tired of owning? Here's some advice on selling a practice.

Practice value trouble? Here's a 5-year plan two smart practice consultants dreamed up. (Hey, if you're in trouble, maybe a practice consultant could help?)

It's cliche to say it, but changing careers -- even later in life -- is possible. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Everyone is different, with different mental strengths and physical strengths. And things change as we age. Ask around. What do the folks who care about you think? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

You're not the only one, but there are bright spots too. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

Either you can't get paid more, or you can't get your clients to pay.

For the clients, we've got some tools, tips and articles on helping them do just that.

You need more dollars? Some people get paid more with more experience, data says. Some people get paid more when they help the practice door swing more. And you can find out if it's not THEM, it's YOU right here.

Client inability or refusal to pay is a perennial problem for veterinarians who earn a living this way. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Some doctors see a handful of skeptical, noncompliant clients a year. Others are deluged with them. We're rooting for you. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

After school, the only part of the school-loan-vs.-salary equation you have control over anymore is pay. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Is a better-paying veterinarian job somewhere else in your future? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Ugh. We applaud the hard work and frugality. When that's not enough, what's next? New location? New clinic? New career? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

You're not alone. Wish it was easier to earn more! (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

When clients talk about what they learned on the internet that contradicts what you're telling them, your first instinct may be, "See that paper on the wall? Yeah. I'm a doctor. *MIC DROP*"

But don't.

Decide how you can deal with it in a healthy way: either by putting Dr. Google to use in your practice or breaking veterinary clients' Dr. Google habit.

(You really just wanna vent, right? Here. You're welcome.)

Clients are becoming more demanding and better-educated about their pets. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Take a selfie when you do for us, OK? (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

Hold onto the victories, let go of the losses. (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

When medicine turns into guesswork ... (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)

 

(Illustration Alison Fulton with images from Getty Images)

YOU CAN DO IT! (Shared through the Veterinary Confessionals Project)Don't worry-scientists have just discovered how to add a 25th hour to your 24-hour day!

Sorry. That was a lie.

Is the problem you're getting overwhelmed by other people's needs and not focused on your goals? Do this.

Is the problem you're a bit too much of a perfectionist? Do this.

Is the problem that OMG THERE ARE TOO MANY PROBLEMS AND YOU CAN'T EVEN...?

Deep breath. In, out.

OK, now go back through the gallery and pick ONE THING to tackle first. You can't climb the entire mountain range at once. One mountain at a time.

You got this.

(P.S. If you don't feel like changing habits and reworking protocols and fixing all your issues right now and just wanna see some slot machines with animals on them and think about partying in Vegas, here you go.)