How To Train Your Vets

The time is coming when the brand new vets are graduating; emerging from the protective (but probably quite beer stained) chrysalis of university and into the real world of work.

They will be keen, they will be energetic and, most important of all, they will be malleable.  Their heads are full of the latest research and cutting edge treatments but can they answer the phone?  Will they tidy up after themselves?  Do they know how to make a decent cup of tea?

This is the stage when their real veterinary education begins and it is up to you to give it, ensuring they are moulded into biddable, obedient members of the practice team.

Also, it is never too late!  They are tougher nuts to crack but even hagged, older, cynical veterinaries can be turned into model colleagues with enough force effort.

Reporting results

Vets love to run tests on their patients. What they enjoy less is reporting the results.  However, it won’t be them taking the irate phone calls about Fluffy’s bloods, so now is the time to train them to not only take, but also to tell.

You probably already have some sort of system; maybe a filing tray for each vet, a book they are supposed to check, or even a column on the computer diary that they stare at all day.  Often though, these mean nothing and you will still be met with complete denial of any knowledge that the results are back or possibly that they know but are ‘too busy’ or ‘about to leave’.

Don’t give in to excuses!  If they don’t learn now they never will!  Tactics can include post-it notes on the computer screen, or even on their forehead, withdrawal of nursing assistance (a bartering system can be helpful; one reported result in exchange for a ‘nurse look’ for a piece of equipment).  Hiding their car keys or locking the practice door and refusing to let them leave are also effective, as I can personally vouch.

Making the tea

Any reasonably switched on vet should realise that making the occasional round of teas will garner an enormous amount of team goodwill.  Indeed a new keen bean may be more than happy to refuel the troops.  However, this doesn’t mean they will actually be any good at it.  A decent brew is an art and learning the vagaries of the practice employees preferences is vital.

So, don’t hold back with (constructive) critisism.  I once caught an RVN upending a whole cup into the sink because it wasn’t strong enough for her!  Crushing, but I never got it wrong again!

tea politics

Mug politics can be terrifying!


***My top tip; if you are in any doubt, always serve the tea in generic drug company mug.  Mug politics are a terrifying thing and serving one persons drink in another’s beloved souvenir mug could easily be the end of a friendship forever.***

Using the last one on the shelf but not telling anyone

This is a trait some poorly trained vets never grow out of but it MUST be nipped in the bud.  Usually the pilfering is picked up when the shelves are checked for the order but more obscure drugs or the stuff in the safe or the fridge can easily be missed, and you know who will be the first to complain if you’ve run out!

This can be a difficult habit to break but, again from painful personal experience, I can vouch for the ‘public humiliation’ technique.  Wait until a tea break and then loudly and firmly tackle the miscreant.  Refuse to share the biscuits with them as well, that will really hammer the message home.

Tidying up after themselves

Sometimes it can seem like vets have been trained to simply make a mess and then walk away.  The amount of detritus some leave in their wake, and their consulting room, can be astonishing, not to mention their over-flowing in-trays of ‘vital’ notes and magazines .

I have been on the receiving end of two particularly effective strategies for this;

The first is a simple ‘scorched earth’ policy; everything that has been gathering dust on the coffee table/consulting room corner/pigeon hole is dumped.  Some vets have a touching attachment to years old unopened journals and it is up to you to break their dependency.

The second is the ‘well, you look after it then’ technique, where you gather up all their dregs and dump them in their handbag.

Mopping and hoovering

A twice or even thrice daily task in every veterinary practice but how often do you see a vet doing it?  Only the most browbeaten highly trained usually.

You can try appealing to their better nature, offering bribes (“we’ll tell you where the chocolate is hidden!”), or even out-and-out force but, often, even with the most determine efforts, this can be a loosing battle.  Besides, vets are rubbish at cleaning anything anyway, you’d only have to do it again! 😉 😉

The first year in practice is incredibly stressful for our fresh-out-of-the-box vets and they will need the support and love of the whole clinic to get them through it.  However, this doesn’t mean they should be cut any slack on their ‘team member’ skills.  A little tough love, some positive reinforcement and a reward based system, stuck to consistently  by the whole practice family will result in a well balanced, well behaved and properly socialised veterinarian for life!

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