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Veterinary Forum September 2009 (Vol 26, No 9)

Business Skills — Learn more to earn more

by Peter Weinstein

    Editor's Note: In this article, Dr. Weinstein discusses the importance of ongoing personal and professional development. By continuing this development throughout your career, you can avoid the large pitfall of professional and personal burnout and keep balance in your life. — Stephen Fisher, DVM, Column Editor

    Professional development involves both career and personal development. This processes of learning and self-development can escalate and diversify on completion of veterinary school. For years, veterinarians are focused primarily on veterinary coursework, sometimes at the expense of other aspects of their lives. After graduation, they not only need to continue learning, but also may need to devote time to finances, life balance, communication, child rearing and personal health.


    The goals of career development should be to supplement the skills that you already have, to learn about new techniques, procedures or products and to create new income centers. It is postulated that clinical knowledge doubles every 18 months. With this in mind, you need to maintain your studies just to keep up with the rapidly changing world of veterinary medicine — regardless of state board requirements.

    As you expand your knowledge, you will become more valuable to your employer, your clients, your patients, your family and yourself. Therefore, the more you learn, the more you will earn.

    To increase your value, one obvious area of focus should be continuing education (CE). It is frequently required for re-licensure, but CE also is important for professional success (see CE Resources).

    In many cases, CE conferences include wet labs that can supplement your didactic learning with hands-on experience, such as taking dental radiographs, performing neurologic exams or improving your ultrasound skills.


    The personal side of the professional development equation tends to be the least important to us, but should probably be the most important. Mental growth, spiritual growth and emotional growth all fit into this category. There are many resources that can help you refocus your energies on yourself, such as self-awareness seminars, yoga or tai chi. Regardless of how you approach personal growth, it is necessary that you find time for yourself.

    Do you spend your days off at the office, or do you set aside time for hobbies and other interests? Develop the ability to completely separate yourself from the office on the days that you are not there. Can you go on vacation without calling the hospital? It may be difficult at first, but learn to leave your work at the office during trips and vacations. Mark your calendar with "You" days when you can indulge yourself for 24 hours without any work-related interruptions.


    Reportedly, more than 60% of Americans are overweight. Even though, as a veterinarian, you spend a lot of time on your feet, skipping meals and lifting animals onto tables, you need to recognize the importance of treating your body with respect.

    Try finding 20 to 30 minutes each day to exercise — or several days a week. If it's possible, walk or bike to work.

    Your dietary needs also are important. Quick, healthy meals are available many places, so use these as an alternative to fast food when possible. Create the time to counsel yourself on your nutritional health — as much as you counsel your clients about their pet's nutritional needs.

    Having a balance of good nutrition and exercise can help you handle the stress that work creates as well as minimize the physical effects on your body.

    The stress of being a veterinarian has a huge impact on your life as well as on the lives of those around you. Relationships are not just limited to family — they include friends and colleagues too. Improving your relationships can go a long way in improving how you feel about yourself and how you approach your work.


    Achieving financial stability may mean seeking assistance from advisors, consultants, accountants or financial planners. The goal is to learn how to accrue wealth with the financial tools available to you. Just as you wouldn't ask an accountant to spay a cat, you may not be the best choice to do your own financial planning.

    Internet resources and seminars also may guide you in maximizing your investments and the money that you earn while ensuring sufficient resources for retirement.


    Personal growth and health are important, but you also should consider giving back to your community. Sharing your time with the people around you can be fulfilling and a great way to learn about others, as well as yourself. Balance in life comes from being able to focus on all the areas mentioned here while also giving back to those in need around you.

    It can be challenging to separate yourself from your business and vice versa. However, if you can learn how to improve yourself in some of these areas you may become more balanced. Never stop learning how to be a better veterinarian, but equally important, never stop learning how to be a better person.


    NEXT: Case Report — Orthopedic and Ocular Abnormality in a Labrador Puppy


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