vet school

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Graduating Veterinary School

4 min read
FYI: This article is part of the veterinary culture manifesto — a set of guiding principles to create better culture in vet med.
Read & sign the veterinary culture manifesto here.

As a new veterinarian, I have realized I have been challenged in several ways in the past couple of months. One of my co-workers asked me what some things you wish you knew before veterinarian graduation.

I learned a lot in vet school, survived my clinical year, and took the NAVLE twice. The transition from vet student to practitioner was smooth, however, there were some days I felt not very confident, and I had to research/study between appointments or the day before to be ready.

Today I wanted to share some pearls of wisdom that I learned from the things I knew before going into practice. 

5 Things Vet Students Should Know Before Graduating

1. Client communication is one of the most challenging parts of being a doctor. 

Being able to communicate assertively and clearly was harder for me. I didn’t know how to easily explain the reasons for doing specific diagnostic tests or treatments. I realized it is not always what you say; instead, it is how you speak and make them feel. 

I went from using science terminology to straightforward and easy-to-understand language. I learned to present my treatment plan in order of priority and always add some recommendations to go home.  

2. Nutrition and behavior cases are very common. 

Discussing nutrition topics with clients was challenging. Some clients were upset when I let them know their pets were obese, and I showed them their body scores. I always recommend cutting off on treats and table scraps, provided them with a free measuring cup, and calculated the diet requirements in cups.

 Separation anxiety cases in both cats and dogs are the most common behavior cases I have. Many owners wanted immediate treatment and I learned to explain that it takes a few weeks for medications to be effective. 

3. Adaptability is a required skill as a new veterinary graduate.

I did not realize how important it is to be able to adapt to new environments, new people, and new challenges at work. 

During the first few months, I had to adjust to many new transitions, including new co-workers, managers, and clients. I worked with a lot of relief technicians and clients who taught me being adaptable is part of becoming a veterinarian.

4. Delegating is an essential skill & helps reduce workload for new veterinarians. 

I had some misconceptions about delegating tasks to vet techs or receptionists. 

Sometimes, I feel afraid to delegate tasks to my team. I thought it would take longer to explain the tasks than complete them. I also did not want to add more work to other employees. Learning to delegate has saved me time and taught me to work as a team player, not individually.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion or advice on cases. 

Asking for another opinion did not hurt anyone and made me more confident in my treatment and diagnostic choices. In the beginning, I was shy to ask for help, but if I wanted to do my best, I knew I needed all the resources to provide the best quality care.

Some Final Tips

Being a recent graduate can be challenging and rewarding. So, remember to focus on client communication because even though you’re a doctor for animals, you and the pet owner need to work together to help the pet. Like some children, furry kiddos may come in with nutrition and behavior issues; remember to be prepared.

Finally, be adaptable. It will take you far in this profession and make things better. Don’t forget delegating because a good leader knows when to trust and who, so get to know your team. 

When in doubt, always ask — just because you’re the doctor doesn’t mean you have to know everything. The knowledge will come, and practice makes perfect. ❤️

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