In a couple months, I will be starting the third year of my DVM program. After one more year of didactic coursework, I will be entering clinics and practicing medicine with real, living, breathing patients. In preparation for this exciting and nerve-wracking time, I have sought advice from veterinarians, fourth year veterinary students, and veterinary assistants and technicians. I wanted to use the blog today to compile a short list of some of the best advice I’ve gotten so far. I have started to apply these tips already as an extern and have found they seem to hold true for nearly every member of the clinic.
The first and perhaps best piece of advice I’ve gotten has been to first take care of yourself. While your goal in a clinic is to provide the best patient care possible, it’s easy to forget to prioritize your own care. Making sure you eat well, sleep enough, and take time away from the clinic can all help to ensure you have the mental clarity and space for your patients and clients. This also includes deciding to be more conscious and present while in the clinic. I’ve heard it time and time again, “You are going to feel overwhelmed. You are going to feel anxious. Embrace it and push through it.” I think anyone who has ever worked in a clinic can relate. It’s easy to get caught up in feeling frustrated or emotional when you can’t give a client a solid diagnosis, handle the fractious cat, or help perform a euthanasia at the end of a long day. Although these are difficult situations, I can choose to remind myself that I am here to learn and grow. The struggles I am facing today are preparing me to be a better asset for my clinic, patients, and clients of tomorrow.
Another piece of advice I’ve received quite frequently is to always look to understand and make your teammates’ work easier. This includes everyone on the team, every veterinarian, assistant, receptionist, manager, kennel technician… everyone. It takes lots of people to run a successful veterinary practice. As a future leader of a practice, it is vital to understand the importance of each role. For example, while helping the front desk, you are simultaneously learning about how appointments are scheduled, how clients react to seeing a friendly face at the door, and how clients can stay engaged through follow-ups. There is something for you to learn from every member of the practice. Helping make their jobs a little easier is one way you can become a more valuable asset to your clinic, and a small way to repay the invaluable lessons they are providing you.
The last piece of advice is to remember the goal of your clinic. While veterinarians always have client and patients in mind, the motivations and operations of each clinic you visit and work with will not be the same. A veterinarian from a recent externship told me quite bluntly “there are going to be seemingly outdated practices you see here that you will never be taught in school. For us, these are ‘best practices’ because they allow us to reach and serve our community best.” If the goal of a clinic is to serve a high volume of clients, learn from their methods of efficiency. If your clinic emphasizes patient education, work on your “elevator pitches” for heartworm-prevention, vaccines, and preventative dentals. If your clinic loves bringing in cutting-edge technology, learn to embrace the change that will improve both your colleagues and patient’s lives. Developing skills that parallel your clinic’s goals will not only help you become a part of a cohesive team but allow you to develop a skill set you can carry into all your future positions.