When I tell people I’m a veterinarian, the second thing out of their mouth is, “That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.” The first thing of course is, “Why does my dog ???” (I’ll let you fill in the blank). For many veterinarians, including myself, it’s that want, coupled with a love of animals that push us into the field.
Most veterinarians, however, will tell people that there’s a lot more to it than the want and love. The first semester of undergrad brings the sudden realization that using a high-end food steamer is now a major function of our everyday life. We hold a variety of jobs to help us gain valuable veterinary experience, like cleaning kennels, mopping the floor and placing the occasional I.V. catheter, hoping to get that precious referral for the vet school admission application.
Vet school brought a whole new set of challenges for us like managing time between a day full of classes, study groups and anatomy labs. The four years flew by and we were on our way to the first day of our career, stethoscope in hand, lab coat starched and pressed, ready to help Scooter stop “scooting.”
Before the first patient is seen, there is a very important part of veterinary medicine that many of us are still unaware of by our first day – and that is management! Terms like boss, mentor and leader were never talked about. Suddenly, you find yourself longing for the days of endless anatomy labs, and ophthalmology lectures.
Understanding business and managing those around you are skills I picked up as I journeyed into my career. I found the key to successfully honing those skills was utilizing my peers and employer for information. Different practices offer different resources to their veterinarians, which can include electronic record keeping systems, on-call support, and mentorship programs.
I personally benefited from a mentorship program. Now with eight years of practice under my belt, I am giving back and mentoring others. I’m confident in saying that people I have mentored benefited from my experience and perspective on good management and the best air purifier for pets, in addition to everyday medicine.
My advice to anyone starting their veterinary career is to accept the fact that they will wear many hats: doctor (including both medical and psychological); manager (including operations, human resources, financial & marketing); teacher; leader; and, most of all, compassionate human being.
The sooner new veterinarians acknowledge the need for good management and communication skills, along with smart business and medical practices, the faster they will be able to achieve career success and happiness.