Skip to main content

Are you a practice manager or veterinary team leader looking to invest in your team’s professional skills? 

In the following article, we explain the top three professional skills to invest in during 2021, as proposed by this recent Oxford Press whitepaper. We suggest how these top professional skills will help your team to excel in your veterinary practice, and exactly how you can encourage these skills to develop.

With 88% of students* believing that soft skills are necessary for their future careers, and 90% of these believing that they will need to upskill throughout their professional life, it is fair to say that new graduates expect you to be investing in professional skills. Not only this, but they expect continual professional skills training throughout their careers. 

Developing soft skills should not be a case of completing a one-off course, but a continual process, no matter how experienced your team is. With this in mind, let us get started on the top three professional skills you should be investing in during 2021.

Professional skills: integral to helping on the complex journey from A to B

Complex Problem Solving

Experts Mary Kavanagh, co-author of Preparing for the Teaching Profession and Dr Michael Kavanagh, academic adviser to the Internship Program of the Master of Teaching Degree (Primary and Secondary) at Deakin University, define complex problem solving as the ability to understand a number of possible factors causing a problem. The individual should be able to navigate the different factors in order to offer a workable solution.

Veterinarians encounter complex problems in the clinical sense almost everyday. The causes of symptoms may be multifactorial, or there could be a variety of possible diagnoses. However, when it comes to the non-clinical aspects of being a veterinarian, they are less likely to employ their natural problem solving skills.

For example, we have seen toxic blame cultures develop in veterinary teams where problems aren’t addressed immediately. Little things – like the animal not being prepped in time, miscommunication between the vet and receptionist, data being logged incorrectly or not at all – quickly build up to form complex team dysfunction.

When your team members have developed their problem solving skills – in a non-clinical sense – they will be able to resolve issues before they become complex. And potentially irreparable. 

Instead of immediately blaming the veterinary technician for not preparing the animal on time, the veterinarian may notice a recurring pattern: the technician is struggling to balance data inputting and preparing animals. Perhaps changes can be made to the system in order to tackle this? Maybe a portion of the data inputting can be delegated to the veterinary assistant?
In short, problem solving skills help us to explore the bigger picture and create systemic resolutions that will work in the long term.

The Jenga tower: a large system built of multiple moving parts

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to use logic and reasoning to question an issue, consider various outcomes of that issue, and consider the positives and negatives of each approach. 

In other words, critical thinking skills allow your team member to respond logically, not react emotionally. It’s something we emphasise throughout our Thrive course, because we know that being a veterinarian can be fast paced, high stress, and at times – unpredictable.

Those with critical thinking skills are less likely to become overwhelmed by a variety of tasks. Rather, they are able to prioritise and delegate using logic

Furthermore, considering implementing something new – such as equipment/technology, or a marketing campaign – you can rely on team members with critical thinking skills to assess the potential merits and pitfalls. 


Creativity is the ability to look at unrelated information, to ‘connect the dots’ and present a new, innovative idea from this information. It is a quality that more and more employers across all sectors are looking for in new recruits.

According to Professor Amanda Henderson, creativity ignites our passion to surpass our established patterns of knowing; provides license to explore something that has not been tested, validated or proven; and legitimates trying something new when an impasse is met. 

During a time when the veterinary job market is volatile, when new graduates burn out quickly, and when independent veterinary practices are struggling to form a strong brand identity, you should be looking to spark creativity in your team. 

The creative team member is the person who is not afraid to reel off ideas during a brainstorming session. They are the ones who will notice new opportunities – such as a boom in telehealth or a new housing development nearby – and develop a creative strategy to draw in new clients. 

Although things might feel stagnant at the moment, the creative never stands still. By investing in creative thinking, you will ensure 2021 is full of new ideas, momentum and innovation.

If you have found this article useful, and you are thinking about investing in professional skills for your team in 2021, check out our Thrive program. The Thrive program is a comprehensive, practical and engaging course, purely focussed on developing veterinarians’ non-clinical skills. To view a summary of each module, click here.

*not necessarily veterinary students

Latest posts

Leave a Reply