There are many ways of mentoring — from intensive one-on-one training regimens to more casual remote mentoring relationships. You and your associate can design a relationship that suits both of you. For associates who are newer grads, a few days of shadowing will give a comfortable introduction to your practice’s style of communication.
During the first few days with a new associate, I generally introduce my new colleague to my clients, giving a ten second intro; basically “selling” the new associate’s awesomeness to the client. Then I perform the exam, make the recommendations as per usual. Once the pet is in the treatment area, I’ll invite the shadowing associate to perform their own exam and make recommendations. We generally chat about each of the cases, sharing ideas for diagnostics and treatments. My goal during the shadowing period is to get the team comfortable working together. As soon as the new associated feels ready to go solo, we’ll start booking them appointments. I try to schedule juvenile exams and easier cases for my new colleague during the first month or so. I schedule longer appointment times to begin with, then decrease them as my new colleague becomes more efficient.
With more experienced DVMs I still provide longer appointment times initially. I’ll always schedule the new doctor with my most experienced technician for the first few weeks. My tech team knows the clients well, and will help the doctor create estimates that make sense with our hospital’s style of medicine.
I prefer to start new grads with longer appointments and only do anesthetic procedures on days we are together. We’ll adjust that over time. My practice uses intensive scheduling – 30 minute appointments with 15-min add ins. This means our first appointment starts at 9am and runs to 9:30 am, our second appointment starts at 9:15 am and runs till 9:45 am. I don’t expect newer grads (even with internship training) to “go there” for quite awhile. Of course, this is my style as the culture of our practice is pretty information-intensive. We like to educate clients and develop the best bond we can. Some doctors have great success while being less chatty than I am, and there is nothing wrong with that! Every hospital, and every doctor, will develop the practice style best suited to their communication style and comfort level. Clients will settle in with the culture of practice that best suits their needs as well.
New associates need to be comfortable with the kinds of sedation your hospital offers; either you or an experienced support team member may need to provide support during sedated procedures for the first few months. For the first few weeks, I’ll invite the new associate to scrub in with me on surgeries. I’ll usually do the first ovarian pedicle on the first OVH, then invite them to do the next. During these experiences, I’ll be sure to discuss good surgery habits.
Conversation during surgery lets my new team member relax and chat about comfortable topics while they work through their first surgeries in our facility. The topics also remind all of us — support staff as well as veterinarians– to recognize high-quality performance is a habit which benefits from being practiced.
Explaining I use self-focusing techniques whenever the blood squirts into the air allows less experienced doctors to accept they will experience some scary things in surgery and medicine, and that they will be able to face those challenges when they arise. When my body is tense, my mind is tense. I try to keep my body comfortable so I can make good decisions
What focusing and calming techniques do you use when cases get tricky? One of the best things we can give our new associates is confidence. Sometimes that means the confidence to boldly go forward alone with diagnostics and procedures, and sometimes that means they’ll boldly go forward and call for help!
We’ve all probably had an experience or two where we’d have appreciated an in-person mentor. Work with your new colleague to plan ahead for the procedures where they might need some support. Some are obvious, such as GDVs, bad HBC’s, DKAs…the classically tricky or scary stuff. However, I’ve also learned I need to sit with my newer grads many, many times through abdominal ultrasound. Sometimes they don’t see key changes, and since they don’t see it, they miss it. It’s a tricky toy, ultrasound is. Dental rads and surgical flap extractions may seem simple to you, but they also takemental and dexterous finesse. As you observe each others’ strengths and growth opportunities, set out a plan to support each other.