So you have done it – you have graduated from vet school! Well done.
Those all-nighters, student crises, and coffees have finally paid off, and you are well on your way to a happy and fulfilling career.
Whilst it may feel like you have reached the end of an era, in actuality, you are on the cusp of a new beginning. This is an incredibly exciting (and maybe a bit scary) time in your life, a transition from student life to adulthood.
And with that change comes new challenges. Though unsurprising, knowing what to look out for (and how you can get ahead) can help vet graduates avoid any hiccups during their first weeks of work.
To find out our three top tips for graduate vets, read on.
Three Tips For Graduate Vets
Master Your Craft
Confidence can be a real problem for veterinary graduates.
They either have an abundance of it (which can become problematic when it isn’t founded in actual expertise). Or, perhaps more commonly, a lack thereof (which can rub off on clients and inhibit the amount of work a graduate can book).
Many graduate vets are the latter. And for vets graduating in the classes of 2020 or 2021, this is likely to be worse than before. COVID19 induced disruptions in learning have severely impacted graduate education, leading to a large proportion of vets feeling underprepared for work life1. Given this, how can graduates reassure themselves in the workplace?
One way is by honing their craft. True confidence comes with experience. Being able to gain enough expertise in one area of veterinary medicine can help boost confidence and morale in others.
Although gaining experience in one specific area can be tricky (given the number of varied cases vets get every day), there are some ways to do this:
1- First, establish what area you would like to gain experience in and set an objective. Focus on this area for a month or two, however long you feel best. Whether it is placing intravenous catheters or performing ovario-hysterectomies, it does not matter. What does matter is whether you can practice it.
2- Once you have decided what to do, find a mentor. Pick their brains, watch their work and take it all in. Then next time you practice that skill, have them observe you, giving helpful feedback on performance. The more you do this, the more you will improve.
Most graduate vets make the mistake of trying to get good at everything all at once- prioritizing nothing. Focussed mastery is an alternative to the scattergun approach that will yield better results in the medium to long term.
Nail The Basics
There are a few skills that new vets should work on.
Amongst these skills, examination room ones should come first. This area of veterinary education is often overlooked, meaning many practitioners start their careers deficient in this area.
To ace examinations, graduates should follow this foolproof formula which has three clear phases:
Phase One – Preparation & Openings
1- Ensure your exam room is prepared and clean before you begin.
2- Know who is coming to your exam room. When the client arrives, greet them with confidence, asking them a bit about how their day has been, etc.
Phase Two – Data Gathering & Evaluation
3- Take a clear and thorough history, using open-ended questions. Keep at it until the conversation is exhausted. Many vets will try and complete a physical and history simultaneously to save precious seconds- however, this may lead to mistakes. Multitasking can also make the client feel somewhat overlooked, which can negatively impact rapport.
4- Complete a thorough physical examination. If you notice a problem, make a mental note or write it down. You should ‘sign-post’ the issue during the exam but not deviate off into a full-blown explanation before you have completed the data-gathering phase. Once you have all the information you need, take a moment to review the findings and formulate a plan.
Phase Three – Communication & Close
5- Once you have this plan, clearly explain what you have found, what needs to happen, and why this action is necessary. Avoid using wishy-washy phrases such as ‘I suggest you think about.’ Such language can downplay your recommendations and dissuade clients from taking your advice. Instead, state what the likely problem is, why that is bad and what you want to do about it. Explain the outcomes of this, and give opportunity for any outstanding questions.
Although vets typically give clients a variety of options, doing so runs the risk of overwhelming or confusing them, leading to treatment choices based on cost, etc. Therefore, giving a clear and straightforward treatment recommendation is always advised.
This is not to say options do not matter. Clients who cannot, for whatever reason, follow your advice on plan A can always have plans B and C described as alternatives if need be.
6- Finally, make a booking so the ‘what happens next’ can proceed.
Other Procedures You Should Explore
It can also be beneficial to familiarise yourself with and target the following basic procedures to find your feet as quickly as possible:
-Small skin tumor removals
-Basic x-ray generation and interpretation
– Lab result interpretation
Another area that is good to become proficient in is Anesthesia. Learning how to do so safely is a massive asset for any vet.
Alongside these fundamental medical skills, new vets should begin to work on their leadership skills during the early stages of their careers. Leadership skills are not just utilized by practice managers/owners but also by vets themselves. Therefore, having the ability to lead and take charge can be highly beneficial for the overall functioning of a practice.
Dip Into Dentistry
Need a niche? Dentistry is a great area to go into.
There are several reasons why dentistry is a fantastic area to try.
One, dentistry can easily be mastered- seeing how many cases you get in practice.
Two, few treatments come with the same feel-good ‘before vs. after impact’ that dentistry has. Because of this, it can be quite a rewarding area to go into.
Three, not that many vets seem to like dentistry, so you can become a useful team player by taking it on.
When you master one skill, the confidence you gain will be infectious, permeating into other parts of your work life. This can be a well-needed boost for veterinary graduates, making them feel like an invaluable part of the practice2.
Taking on your first job can be as scary as it is exciting. But do not worry- you are certainly not alone on your veterinary journey. Just prepare to learn a lot in a short period and be open to feedback and advice from your mentors.
If you are a new vet entering the world of work, you need this. Our book ‘So You’re A Vet… Now What’ draws from Dr. Dave Nicol’s extensive experience training graduate vets. The book highlights the common pitfalls of new vets, outlining how to get ahead in a short period of time.
To check it out, click here.
If you have just graduated and are looking for guidance on working in a post-pandemic world, check out our article on How to Find Your Feet as a New Vet Grad Amid Covid-19. It should give you invaluable advice on managing the transition into work life during the new normal.
1- ‘Coronavirus creating crisis of confidence for new grads | Vet Times.’ 22 May. 2020, https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/coronavirus-creating-crisis-of-confidence-for-new-grads/. Accessed 21 Jun. 2021.
2- ‘So You’re A Vet…Now What? | drdavenicol.’
https://www.drdavenicol.com/so-youre-a-vet Accessed 22 Jun. 2021.