Case studies: 3 niche practice models
Hopping on the fast track to a veterinary career doesn't have to include a stop at a private practice. If your route to career contentment doesn't involve putting in the typical 9-to-5 workday, staying in one place for long, or aspiring to ownership, you do have other options.
There's nothing wrong with working in traditional private practice. Almost 60,000 veterinarians practice in private U.S. veterinary hospitals. But maybe you want your career path to take you in another direction. Here's a glimpse into the life of veterinarians who found their calling in relief, mobile, and shelter work.
Dr. Lori Blackwell
"A lot of people think mobile veterinarians simply give vaccinations and euthanize pets," Dr. Blackwell says. "I'd be bored if that's all I did. My practice offers the same services as a traditional small animal clinic. And I enjoy being my own boss and getting out of the office, especially when spring hits in the area."
On a typical day, Dr. Blackwell performs a couple of procedures in the morning while her clinic is parked at her house; some clients drop their pets off for these procedures. Then she takes to the road to see the rest of her patients. An occasional patient will be hospitalized overnight in her mobile unit or in her home. "It's all a bit unconventional, but it works for me," she says.
When she started out, Dr. Blackwell advertised in the phone book. About four years ago, she pulled her ads and stopped taking new clients. "I'm as busy as I want to be," she says.
Many of her clients maintain a relationship with a traditional private practice, which Dr. Blackwell encourages. And if emergencies strike and she isn't available, plenty of urgent-care clinics will take her cases until she's back in the swing of things. "I have a good relationship with traditional and emergency practices," Dr. Blackwell says. "I'm very careful not to step on other practitioners' toes, and they appreciate that."
Working in this capacity is a win-win situation for Dr. Blackwell, who enjoys her freedom and whose clients love the convenience. In fact, when gas prices peaked last year, her clients noticed and many rushed to help. "I had clients rounding up charges and practically giving me tips for the extra costs incurred," she says. "I love that some clients really enjoy and appreciate what I do."