By Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM
As hard as veterinary school is, life after graduation can be harder if you don't know the new rules. They have changed from the ones you had in school — maintain a certain grade-point average, attend class, do your assignments, and graduate.
Life will never be that simple again.
Once you graduate, your whole world changes. You go from a fiercely competitive environment to one where teamwork and collaboration are what count. You go from being a lowly student to the head of the pack.
Once you graduate, life becomes more complex and others' expectations of you change. Along with that white coat comes a new level of professional responsibility. There's so much more to think about that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to figure it all out.
The following 10 rules of professional behavior (and a bonus tip at the end) are offered to help you better understand your new role, gain respect and build healthy relationships as the new doctor on the team:
In addition to these 10 rules, it pays to have a curious mind. Assume nothing. Ask. If you do, you will earn the respect of others, who will see that you want to get it right. And you will keep yourself out of trouble.
Two examples follow to show you how healthy curiosity and a willingness to ask questions can benefit you:
Your patient needs a blood draw for lab tests. Do you draw the blood in the exam room? Take the patient to the treatment area? Do the draw yourself? Ask someone to do it for you? Who? Everyone seems busy. You decide to ask the technician who is preparing a dog for surgery.
The technician says that she is almost finished, and if you'll bring your patient to the back, she will draw the blood as soon as she is done. You get your patient — a large, neutered, 6-year-old Rottweiler — and bring it to the treatment area, where she quickly straddles the dog, hits the jugular and draws the blood.
She asks what tests you want run and promises to take care of it. She tells you that a copy of the results will be in your inbox first thing tomorrow morning. She checks to see if you want her to enter the lab charges on the patient's record, or if you prefer to do it yourself. She returns the patient to you so you can finish up with the client.
Aren't you glad you asked? Otherwise, you would have needed to figure out all that on your own. And if you did the blood draw yourself, you also would have offended the technicians, who would have been upset that you didn't let them do their jobs.
You've got a tricky case, and you are not sure what is wrong with your patient. You have some ideas, and you could take radiographs and run expensive tests to do rule-outs. Or you could treat the pet symptomatically for a few days and wait to see if it improves on its own.
You decide to do the X-rays and run the tests. Later, the client complains to the practice owner about the bill. She says the additional costs were never explained to her and that the new doctor didn't seem to know what she was doing. The practice owner is irritated that the client is upset and that he didn't know there was a problem until now.
Had you checked with the practice owner, who also was working that day, he could have conferred with you and helped guide your diagnosis.
He also would have advised you to prepare an estimate to go over with the client, considering the X-rays and tests would most likely cost more than $200.
He would have given you some tips on how to talk to the client about her pet and the tests. In the unlikely event that the client still complained about the bill or didn't feel confident in your abilities, the practice owner would be prepared to defend you because you had asked for his help and appropriately gotten him involved.
Life after graduation can be a lot easier if you know and follow the 10 rules and ask questions when you need help.
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