The things all working vets need to know
Remember there is always more than one way to do just about everything in veterinary science. Even routine procedures like speys have as many different techniques as there are vets. The most successful work environments are always ones where there is a sense of collegial respect between vets.
Open discussion trumps the soloist
Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable discussing cases they are dealing with. Despite what we get taught, pattern recognition is often the quickest way to a diagnosis and by pooling everyone’s experiences often you will find someone has dealt with something similar. Always ask for clarification if you don't understand a colleagues’ thought process.
It’s much more fun working with mates than colleagues
Bonding with your colleagues is important, even if it's just picking up the occasional coffee or iced bun for afternoon tea. Even better if you get along well enough to have a meal or a drink after work. You don't have to be best buddies with all your work mates but it definitely helps if you’re friends!
Vet nurses are the key
Vet nurses are a very important part of the team and can be life saving when you are a new graduate. Make a big effort to always respect their role. Remember they are often the first and last point of contact for clients and it is great to know they have your back.
It can be intimidating for a new graduate to make suggestions to their more senior colleagues. Most vets are (hopefully) really open to hearing new ideas so don't be scared to speak up but choose the right moment. An example of an opener might be; "I have been thinking about that cat we have in hospital and remember reading something that might be helpful....".
Make your estimates clear for everyone
Make estimates for cases you see and leave clear notes to say what costs you have discussed with the client. Most complaints come from money related issues and often there has been a lack of clarity between colleagues as well as between clients and vets. This is especially important in bigger hospitals.
Don’t be THAT VET
NEVER bad mouth another vet in front of clients even if it sounds like they did something outrageous. This includes vets who work at competing practices even if you suspect they may have done something less than great. You may not know the full story. Respecting each other at a minimum, and even better having a good relationship with neighbouring clinics, is mutually beneficial. We are all vets together so let’s support each other.
No one likes a show off
Don't be a know-it-all (even if you do!). Humility is everything in veterinary science and one thing I have learnt over the years is you can never hope to know even a fraction of what there is, and even when you do know it is amazing how our patients haven't read the text book.
There is such a thing as “Case Handover Etiquette”
Don't book some horrendous procedure for another vet to do on your day off without first having the manners to call and discuss it with them. As a part timer at some clinics, I dislike coming into work to find that the watermelon sized lump removal from the 5 kg terrier or the full mouth extraction from the 18 year old cat, is in hospital awaiting my arrival. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a challenge but with difficult or unusual cases, I much prefer seeing both the patient and the owner prior to the surgery myself so I can discuss my approach, risk of complications and other important information. I think it is always best when handing over tougher cases to speak directly to your colleagues. Often clinical notes alone do not give the full picture.
No vet is an island
Don't let this job get you down. It’s a difficult profession, especially when you first start out. Talk to your colleagues both in your clinic and outside for support. No one quite understands like a fellow vet. Sharing the difficult times and admitting when you are in too deep helps bond vets together and makes for a stronger team.
Don’t be greedy
Do not take all the interesting cases. It is very obvious when one vet takes all the surgery cases or all the exciting medical cases. Everyone needs a chance to learn.
Don’t forget to write up your cases properly.
There is nothing worse than looking unprofessional in front of a client because you don’t know what is going on and you cannot answer their questions about what has been done previously. Write clear notes so your colleagues can easily take off where you ended with an ongoing case. This might seem obvious, but leave gaps between your notes. It’s hard to read a big block of text. I also like to leave a clear plan at the end of the consult and love it when the previous vet has done likewise. This could be something short which just states where I think we might head next if things are not working.
Dr Natasha Bilous BVSc (Hons)
Two by Two Veterinary Hospital
Natasha graduated from the University of Sydney in 1999. Since then, she has practiced in Sydney, Hong Kong and the UK. She has also worked for a horse and donkey charity in Morocco offering free veterinary care for working animals. Most recently Natasha has started a new practice, Two by Two Veterinary Hospital on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, with her husband Peter Lee, also a vet. She enjoys general practice with interests in both geriatrics and paediatrics.