Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Useful veterinary books: The Pocket Book of Practising Tips for Vets

The authors of The Pocket Book of Tips for Practising Vets at their book launch.
Everyone says that veterinary practice is an art more than a science - and most lectures, textbooks and information sources tend to deal formally with the science. 

That can contribute to the shock one feels when one graduates. There one was, doing a professional degree, feeling somewhat in control...now one is effectively a first-year apprentice. Experienced practitioners know some really useful things, often because they have gleaned them from the school of hard knocks.

But those things - those clinical pearls - can be life saving. Its nice not to have to personally go through the death-defying (or not) experience that those who went before us did to achieve this knowledge.

The Pocket Book of Tips for Practising Vets is a beautiful collaboration between a team of GP vets who got together and brainstormed some of these clinical pearls.

When I interviewed them for The Veterinarian Magazine they told me that the idea had come from a continuing professional development presentation by Alan Jeans, who decided to talk about "the ten most useful tips I’ve learned to make practice easier." 

Everyone realised they had their own and so added them...pooling over 200 years of veterinary experience (between 6 vets - not one ancient vet!). They asked for more tips through the veterinary times then had a book on their hands - which the Veterinary Benevolent Fund printed.

Its a beautiful example of a collaboration that I think we need more of.

Its a nice, thin very readable volume. No one person will find every tip useful, but there were plenty that I found helpful. Chapters are divided according to general tips, tips specifically for new graduates, on-call tips, surgical tips, technology tips, small animal tips, farm animal tips, equine tips, working with small animal client-tips and working with farmer tips.

“I reckon most experienced vets will read ten tips they want to try out, and will probably end up using five of them – that’s good value at two pounds a tip,” Jeans told The Veterinarian Magazine. “Obviously there is a lot more in there for new graduates.”

I asked him to pick a favourite, but that was a tough call.

“For sheer usefulness in a potential panic situation, number 69 stands out – hope I never have to use it,” he said.

(Tip number 69 provides a plan of attack in the case of an ovarian pedicle bleed during a bitch spey).

I liked tip 2: “Recognise a ‘no win’ situation. Avoid giving yourself grief when the initial prognosis is grave (nature rules us, not vice versa). In these situations recognise your professional role of offering guidance, comfort and ‘hand holding’”. And number 46: When arranging to meet a client out of hours, always agree a definite time; some people have very odd ideas about what ‘come straight down to the surgery’ means. It can be very stressful waiting at the surgery for a long time, particularly if you have other calls coming in." Oh yes.

When the book was launched the BVA ran a competition for the best tip. The winner, provided by Phil Kenward, was “do not allow the owner’s diagnosis of his problem to worry or influence you before you examine the animal yourself.”

How many times do owners demand a diagnosis over the phone, when in fact their description leads us to form a completely different opinion than the one we do when we perform a physical examination?

I am hoping very much that a second edition is on the cards.

If you do buy the book (£10 from the VetLife website) you are supporting a very worthy cause: the VBF provides information and support for veterinarians struggling with mental health issues, professional stress and debt. Along with the VetLife website, the VBF provides a 24 hour helpline, a health support program and financial support to veterinary surgeons and their families in times of need. 


Jeans A, Cousin A, Macdonald N, Macfarlane J, Rowe N and Williamson K (2012) The Pocket Book of Tips for Practising Vets. Veterinary Benevolent Fund.