How to Keep Challenging Yourself as an Experienced Veterinarian

By Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed MRCVS

With experience comes many useful things – confidence, a strong skill set, and self-reliance. However, you might also feel like you have started to tread water and could be wondering whether there is anything else you should be doing to push yourself.

In no particular order, we will explore some of the many ways you could challenge yourself as an experienced veterinarian. Hopefully, this will give you a bit of a boost and help you to enjoy your role again.

Clinical governance

One way to challenge yourself is through clinical governance. This is a broad term that describes how veterinary practices should continually question and improve their performance, striving for better outcomes. This could include running a database search on surgical cases to analyse the number of post-op complications or reviewing a critical event to see what could be improved next time.

Sometimes it can feel painful to unpick and analyse an incident or your way of working but it is an important part of challenging yourself. If you continue to do things in the way that you have always done them, then you risk complacency and you might not be moving with the latest ways of thinking. You should see clinical governance as a way of improving yourself and the practice as a whole.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD is something that all veterinarians must do as part of their careers. In the UK the current stipulation is for 35 hours per year, which can be a mixture of in-person lectures, practical courses, distance learning webinars, and personal research. CPD shouldn’t be seen as a compulsory chore, but instead viewed as an opportunity to stretch yourself.

If you struggle with surgery, then push yourself to do that practical surgery course. If you hate dealing with any ophthalmology cases, then get yourself along to a seminar on eyes. Once you’ve done the CPD, it’s important to practice what you’ve learned! If not, you risk those skills and all your new-found confidence dwindling again.

Teaching or mentoring

One way to challenge yourself is to teach others. Not only will this remind you of the reasons why you do things the way you do but may also force you to improve the way you perform so that you teach others correctly.

Some vets teach at colleges or universities part-time, continuing with their clinical job on the other days of the week. Others may just enjoy mentoring student technicians or veterinary students in practice. ‘Giving back’ in this way not only gives a sense of self-satisfaction but you might learn something from your students too!

Studying for additional qualifications

Postgraduate qualifications are now commonplace, with many veterinarians deciding to study alongside their day job. This presents challenges in terms of time management as well as your general ability to study, sit exams, and write coursework again. There are a variety of different course providers, with some being more flexible than others, which may be a consideration if you are also juggling a family as well as your career.

Having an additional qualification not only helps you learn more about your chosen subject area but should also improve your day-to-day working style and give you some additional confidence in your own abilities. Some qualifications give you the option of an advanced practitioner title, elevating you above general practitioner status. Additional qualifications could also help you to stand out when applying for future roles.

Move jobs

If you feel that you’re becoming a bit stale in your current job then moving elsewhere could help, especially if you feel underutilised in your current role. Experienced vets are in high demand at the moment, so handing your notice in is no longer a scary prospect, with plenty of other opportunities out there.

If you’ve always worked in small branch practices then why not challenge yourself to work with a larger team in a hospital setting? Or how about working night shifts doing emergency care? Whilst it might push you out of your comfort zone you could discover a whole new way of working.

Become your own boss

Taking on or setting up a veterinary practice is a huge challenge. It pushes us away from our clinical and scientific world, towards things like finance, marketing, and advertising. There are also challenges to be found in managing staff and taking on additional responsibilities.

There are different ways to approach this including taking on a partnership in an existing practice, setting up a practice with the help of a corporate, or even going it alone! Each has its advantages and disadvantages to consider. Whichever route you take, being your own boss allows you to run things the way you would like as well as hopefully benefiting from your hard work in the form of dividends in the future.

Side projects

If you feel like you’ve progressed as far as you want to in your clinical veterinary career then why not branch out? You can use your degree to do all sorts of things, or you could even choose to do something completely non-veterinary. Many people challenge themselves with side projects or personal businesses on top of their day job. Perhaps you like writing, sewing, or painting – could this hobby become a side-line? If you have to work part-time due to childcare or other commitments, then diversifying into other work such as telemedicine or article writing could help boost your income as well.

Conclusion

If you have reached a point in your career where things are starting to feel a bit mundane, then there is plenty you can do to give yourself a reboot. Challenging your mindset through self-reflection and clinical governance, tailoring your CPD to your problem areas, or even changing up your career altogether can all help to improve your ways of working. Hopefully, by keeping things fresh and moving forward in this way you will continue to be an asset to the veterinary profession for a long time to come.

Get in touch with The Vet Service today to see how we can help with your vet recruitment. We have lots of opportunities available!