Podcast #19

baby bear cub exploring
As a ‘baby vet’ you will need to explore and learn. Embrace it and enjoy it like a bear cub exploring a new stream!
As a new graduate you may feel overwhelmed, ‘out of your league’, or downright terrified. These are some tricks and tips, in no particular order, that can help you navigate as you are getting your feet wet!
Forget something, a watch/stethoscope/thermometer, out of the room so that if you need to go look something up you have an excuse to leave the room. When it takes you time to come back, simply say “sorry, I got caught in the treatment room with a sick little critter.”

By having something that you have forgotten you can save face when you have to look something up, and buy yourself some time. This is a trick that I still use today, with 6+ years of experience.
As much as we may not feel worthy, or feel silly being called ‘doctor’, accept it and USE IT. Have your nurses and reception always introduce you as ‘Doctor ___’ . Have a well-fitted lab coat, embroidered with your name Dr. ___, or a name-tag. Also, have a different type of uniform than your nurses. Ensure you are set apart. You want both your staff, and your appearance, to introduce you as the doctor!

By having an introduction, and a name-tag/‘costume’ separating you as the doctor, you are not belittling your nurses, you are simply giving an outward visual representation of your role. This will automatically have the clients view you in the doctor role, and therefore make it slightly easier for you to command their respect. As new grads, and most commonly young females, just by appearance alone you will assumed to not be the vet. This visual cue to the clients will help you. As you get wiser (**cough, cough** older looking), this will be less necessary.

If you would like to be a little less formal use your first name instead of last, “Dr. Ann” is more approachable than “Dr. Herbst”, however it still displays the title and position.
bubble frozen with frost
Blaming a ‘frozen’ or broken computer can buy you some time.
Most clinics are moving to having computers in the exam rooms, and this can leave you feeling like you have to have all the answers, and prep meds/estimates/etc all in the blink of an eye, and in front of the client.

If you need to make an estimate, or prepare medications for a condition, but you aren’t sure on the details or need to look up doses or which medications are best, the ‘frozen computer’ trick works well.

Hit some keys, move the mouse, hit the space bar, and look exasperated and say, ‘oh these computers, just let me go to a working computer to get this ready for you.’ You will get your space/books/help you need, and the clients will be none the wiser.
Most new graduates have a huge dilemma about not ‘over-selling’ and want to be ethical in their practice. This is wonderful and great, however new grads often feel that ‘doing needed diagnostics’ is ‘overselling’ and equate this to being unethical. This stems from Imposter Syndrome (Subscribe for future blogs on Imposter Syndrome and Selling in Veterinary Medicine).

Be true to yourself, and just honestly recommend needed medical care as you were taught in school. Not only will clients feel your genuinity and respect your honesty, but you will have no ethical problem ‘selling’.
As a new grad, you know more than you think! Trust your knowledge, trust your education, and trust those ‘little red flags’ that go off that make you feel you should check something! If you feel you should run a test, DO IT. Yes, it may come back normal, that’s why the tests exist, but if you are worried about a disease, recommend testing for it. You would be amazed how often diseases that are treatable are missed for years just because vets didn’t want to ‘over-sell’ or ‘test un-necessarily’.
spiralling fractal
Even if it’s your first day, you want to make your clients feel, just like a fractal, you have been doing this forever.
Since you are a new graduate, and therefore are young, and will look young, you will often get the ‘How long have you been doing this for?’ or ‘Is this your first time?’, or other variations. The best response is ‘Oh, it feels like forever.’ You aren’t lying, but you are giving the clients the confidence that you know what you are doing. If the situation calls for it, yes, but honest and say it is your first time. (ex. A difficult surgery that should be referred but the owners won’t).

Another response when owners ask if you have experience/success with a particular procedure or surgery is ‘I haven’t had a bad outcome yet!’ - This works even if you have only done that procedure once before! 

Having a routine and systematic approach that you follow for every case/consult will not only allow you to be thorough and give you a frame-work for your consults to help you display (and therefore feel) confidence, but it is one of the best ways for doctors, especially new graduates, to avoid making mistakes.
a hare with very big ears in a field.
Letting owners tell their tale and listening to their whole story helps you get the details you need, and less interruptions later!
Start each ‘sick animal’ consult with ‘When was fluffy last 100%?’ and then have the owners tell their tail. Ask details as needed, but let the owners tell their whole full tale. This not only will give you time to process, but it will decrease the likelihood of you jumping to a diagnosis with only half of the story.

Also, one of the most important things to clients is to be HEARD. If you try to start talking and telling them what is wrong (even if you know), they will not listen to you until they have told their story. If you let clients tell their story, they will not feel they still have important information to give you, and therefore are more likely to listen to your recommendations. 

Rushing and trying to jump to a diagnosis is another major cause of medical mistakes. Ensure you follow your systematic approach to each case, and do a complete exam on each case and review of the history. This will not only help you establish a large bank of ‘normals’, but will help you be thorough and complete and a better vet!

Also, clients that feel their consult has been ‘rushed’ are more likely to be dissatisfied and pursue legal action. You don’t need to take all day with owners, but try not to make them feel their consult is rushed!
We cannot stress this enough. You are valuable, you went through a difficult degree, you put in the hours, you learned immense amounts of information, and now you are a KICK ASS VET! Feel it, own it, and it will come out to clients when you speak. Value yourself and owners will value and respect you!

Need a little help valuing yourself? Having a bit of trouble fitting into clinical practice? KICK ASS Consulting can help you out!
Written by Dr. Ann Herbst BSc, DVM

Published November 24th, 2019

Advocate for yourself, you are the only one that will!

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