Whenever I become frustrated while learning and improving upon particular skillsets or techniques, especially when my progress isn’t meeting my expectations, I think of a specific phrase to provide perspective. Every vet was a new vet at some point. The only way to get 10 years of experience, is to spend the 10 years gaining experience. It goes without saying that no vet was born with a doctorate straight out of the woom. Any expert, instructor, teacher, trainer, mentor etc…was at some point, a beginner themselves.
While sometimes I feel TOO aware of where my inherient new grad weaknesses are, itwwould not be safe for me to assume my boss and more seasoned colleagues are just as aware. There have been times when I have had appointments put on my scheudle that I had absolutely no or an insecure amount) aof experience performing or even interpretting. For this reason, the seasoned and invested colleagues of the practice are worth their weight in gold.
I’ve been an associate at my first “serious” multi-doctor practice for a little under a year. Soon, my one year employment contract will be over and I am already looking ahead to negotiating the contract for the second year. To be hoenst, I was in sucha pinch to find a new job after leaving my first private practice job, I did absolutely no contract negotating. I will say this is “new vet” lesson #1. Coming in as the new vet does not mean you “Take what you can get” and certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll have to tough it out with a “pay your dues” themed contract. To any “new vet,” my first recommendation is to negoatiate and not just settle for the minimum.
The lessons learned over the past year are countless, but I put together a list of the more prominent lessons, surprises, realizations and adversity I faced in this first year, in the context of a new graduate and new hire. Every practice is different, and maybe some of my list is unique to my practice…but worth sharing regardless
Desire to “prove” yourself is natural. But proving your worth does not mean you have an inherent labor or favor debt to other associates.
Case-pushing and dodging. You’ll get the bottom of the barrel for cases and clients. There were clients and patients that other vets refused to see once I was around. Clients that wer rude, inappropriate, didn’t pay their bills, used other vet practices interchangeably and sometimes even notorious patients (mean, dangerous, feral). Whatever cases other doctors wished they did not have on their schedule, would end up on mine.
Opposite of case-pushing, is case-nabbing. These tend to be new clients that would contribute to a strong clientel of an already established vet. On multiple occasions I had new clients who were put on my schedule for gastroscopies (or other advanced diagnostics/treatments) but several days later suddenly appeared on a different doctor’s schedule…for no reason, with no discussion.
New grad and new vet double wammy. I have lost count of the number of times I arrived at an appointment and the first thing clients commented on was my age. Most commonly something along the lines of “Aren’t you a little young to be a doctor?” or “You must be the assistant. When does the doctor arrive?” There are also the demeaning references based on the gender and age included calling me girl, missy, little lady, youngin, gal, or refusing to address me as doctor.
Skepticism. Yeah, you may be absolutely right on your diagnosis and treatment recommendations…but for it to be legit, you’ll need the backing of another associate that you’re doing the right thing
The interpersonal dynamics of the practice alone have been difficult. The biggest difficulties have been when staff refuses to show the same amount of respect to the new doctor (especially if they are outgoing, kind and amiable) as they do the senior vets that are hard on staff.
Favors. That can become a slippery slope when the staff finds out the new vet will not be so protective of their time and feel too guilty about charging for services. I did a dental for a staff member who had one horse, and I did not charge for my time. Another vet in our practice would’ve charged 300 compared to my 75. Word got around and suddenly I was at the beckoning call of every staff member who owned a horse. This is a great way to fill your schedule and prevent you from getting actual cleints. This is also another way to end up getting called for emergencies for staff animals when you aren’t even on call that night!
Establish your professional and personal boundaries. A favor is simply that, and no one is entitled to favors.
You’ll do things different. You’ll get called out on it by non-vets. I had an assistant argue with me about passing a NG tube up the wrong nostril. I always pass on the left so I can see the tube go through the esophagus for visual confirmation. Apparently all the other doctors tube on the right. The assistant telling me I was doing it different, and not like all the other vets, seeded an unnecesary amount of anxienty and fear in the client…while also undermining my professional knwoeledge and abilities.
Don’t take it personally when you meet a colleague’s client, establish a great rapport, save their horse from a critical emergency….then see months later that they insist on sticking with your colleague for upcoming dentals, vaccines etc. Don’t assume that this is because you did something wrong. Don’t underestimate the bonds between your colleagues and their clients.
The learning curve is steep but you don’t have to do it alone.
After graduating from vet school in 2015 and completing a year long equine internship, I entered private practice as an equine ambulatory veterinarian. Like most people in the veterinary field, I have respect and compassion towards all species, with a passion for horses. My work-life balance includes roadtripping, hiking, succulents, aquariums and is made complete by my wonderful pets.
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