Monday, July 15, 2013

Advice for new graduate veterinarians

mentors new grads
Still green: that's me, circa 2004, assisting Dr Max Zuber perform a lung lobectomy in a cat. Good mentors can support you through the intern and new grad process.

Being a vet, I won't deny, can be the best job in the world. But being a new graduate can be challenging. I remember one day when I, freshly minted, was struggling to intubate a dog with an overlong soft palate. We'd been taught how to intubate normal dogs. We'd been taught gold standard anaesthetic protocols. But it turns out the things you need to know - like how to deal with anatomical variation and alternatives to intubation - are things we are often not taught, at least not directly.

I felt like a failure. I felt out of my depth. I questioned my career choice. The dog was fine. I was sole charge so had no one to ask. I called a colleague from a neighbouring practice, a lovely woman I'd never met before, and asked if she could come and help. She drove over, gave me a hug and said "I would not want to relive my first six months out of graduation if you paid me a million dollars".

The dog was intubated uneventfully, the surgery was routine, and this wonderful fairy godvet who appeared hadn't made me feel embarassed or ashamed. I intubate animals daily, even those with overlong soft palates, large wounds, defects or lesions...but we all have to learn new skills and the bottom end of that learning curve can be confronting.

So my advice is to build a support team you can call on - whether over the phone advice, a boss who can scrub in on that spey, friends you can confide in, a sympathetic dog (have you ever met an UNsympathetic dog?).

Jenny Moffett, from Ross University, told me about a site for new graduate veterinarians. is a site supported by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon's charitable trust and is a portal for advice on a range of topics including practical skills, clinical knowledge, being on call, making mistakes, clients, patients dying, personal life, and what else is there if clinical practice just isn't for you. 

Its great that someone has started to put these resources together in such an accessible site.