I should probably start by admitting that there is no such thing as a “perfect” practice.
Realistically, every job is going to have a list of pros and cons. This guide will help you to figure out the factors to consider when looking for the perfect practice for YOU.
Location, Location, Location!
Have you been eyeballing a specific practice in a location you aren’t familiar with? If so, then it might be time to do some research on that location and consider factors such as relocation (if it’s not already local to you).
I spent my first 15 months of working with an hour commute each way each day. Now, this started off great – I wasn’t stuck in traffic as my commute was on a ferry to an island… pretty idyllic, right?
Well, yes and no. I liked that I could use my commuting time to do other things like CPD, socialize with the regulars (affectionately called my “ferry friends”), and scroll through social media. But, after some time, this became tedious. I was leaving for work at 8 am and getting back home at 8 pm which didn’t leave much of a social life outside of work.
Now, I work at a practice 5 minutes from my house (or a 9-minute cycle which I’ve recently been getting into)! I can go home for lunch or go out after work. Essentially, I have more time for a social life.
The location also determines the socio-economic region that you’re working in. This can be tricky if you’re someone who would like to run every diagnostic test under the sun but you’re in an area where basic care is all that can be afforded. If referral services aren’t nearby, clients may be more accepting of you to “just give it a go.” You might find you love this because you’re able to push your skill set past your typical comfort zone!
Your Job Role
Are you a “smallies”/ companion animal vet? “Largies?” Maybe you’re mixed, or equine… or wanting to be a specialist! This one is probably extremely obvious but still incredibly important. Choose a role that you are genuinely interested in.
How Many Vets Are Already at the Practice?
If you’re applying for a job where you’ll be the second vet, keep in mind that you may be the only vet working for a lot of the time. This is particularly important for new grads who often need more support than experienced veterinarians. Having multiple vets in a practice can also be helpful when discussing tricky cases as there’s more brain power to help out!
This is something that is important to define for yourself first before you ask clinics about the type of mentorship they can offer you. Obviously, if you’re an experienced vet moving to a new clinic, this is less important than if you’re a recent graduate.
If you haven’t thought about mentorship before, it might be helpful to consider it. Having a dedicated mentor at the practice can help pave a way for how involved your mentor will be during surgeries/consults. As each person will require different types of mentorship, having an open conversation with your new clinic about this is essential. I’d even go so far as to include it in your contract!
Mental Health Considerations
Scheduled lunch breaks? Check. Good work hours. Check. Discussion about therapy sessions in your contract. Big yes! If you can, have a chat with others that work at the clinic before you sign the contract. Find out if lunch breaks are actually taken. Find out if vets are often required to stay late to finish notes. Find out what general morale is like. Remember, you’ll be spending most of your day at work, so you need to find a place that takes your (basic) human needs into consideration and enables you to care for both your physical and mental health.
Some of these points may be more important to you personally than others. My tip is to rank them to determine what makes a practice “perfect” for you and then write out a pros and cons list. And, if you start a role and quickly find it isn’t for you, have a chat with your boss. If your concerns are not addressed then, don’t feel obliged to stay at the practice. Remember, you need to put yourself first in order to offer the best care you can to all the pets out there!
Dr. Lianne Mellin
Dr. Lianne is a recent graduate veterinarian working at a companion animal clinic as a general practitioner in New Zealand. Her interests lie in soft tissue surgery, dentistry and helping owners care for their pets with a keen focus on preventative health care.
Over her years at veterinary school, Dr. Lianne worked hard to build a social media presence on both Instagram and YouTube in order to help prospective vet students, support those in the industry already and educate the public!