As different as associates' experiences are, they generally enter practice with four concerns. Dr. Philip VanVranken, the
managing partner at Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic, a seven-doctor practice in Battle Creek, Mich., offers his insight from
30 years of experience and provides some quick mentoring. Here are his answers to four common questions.
Will I ever become confident in my knowledge?
Given time, your confidence will build. However, veterinary medicine can be very humbling. If you practice for 40 years,
you'll learn something you didn't know in your 39th year. Some cautions from my experience: Remember to treat diseases, not
symptoms. And keep in mind, your patients don't read Kirk's Current Veterinary Therapy XIII, so you can't expect everything to present itself in classical textbook form.
How many mistakes am I going to make?
My feeling is that mistakes are made when doctors, through a combination of lack of experience and failure to consult with
fellow staff members (doctors and technicians), make an inappropriate choice. If you exhaust every resource and the case doesn't
go your way, then it probably doesn't constitute a mistake. My advice: Go home and spend a few minutes each night reading
about one difficult case you saw that day. After a few years, you'll have read about almost every disease.
Will staff members respect me even though I'm a new graduate?
New graduates get staff members' respect if they conduct themselves in a manner that deserves it. To stay on team members'
good side, obey these rules:
- Be polite and courteous to staff members. (In other words, use all those courteous phrases you know, including please, thank
you, and good job.)
- Put the patient first. When you do this, I think you'll find staff members cheering you on. They know the old geezers are
resilient and can persevere through losing streaks, whereas losing streaks are much more difficult for new graduates to endure.
Will clients have confidence in me?
Clients love doctors who try hard to resolve their pets' illnesses. To show you're that kind of practitioner, you need
to communicate in person and through handouts, phone calls, and follow-ups or rechecks. Clients really respect follow-ups.
If you were thinking about a patient's case last night, tell the client. And don't be ashamed to say that you did further
research or asked a colleague. Clients have confidence in doctors who work with determination toward a positive outcome for
—By Katherine Bontrager, Associate Editor