by Lance Roasa, DVM, MS, JD
Balancing Mentorship and Practice is the topic for the next live interactive webinar in drip.vet’s Modern Mentorship in Successful Practice series designed exclusively for veterinary students.
This free webinar — for which you receive BCP credit — is at Noon Central Time on November 19, 2020, and is co-sponsored by the Purdue University VBMA Chapter. Here is more information on the webinar series and the series signup form.
Mentorship takes time. Practice is all consuming. How does an early career veterinarian balance solid mentorship with successful practice? How do you carve out time to learn, to grow, to try new things? Can both be done?
If the mentorship:practice ratio was a spectrum, on one end would be academic internships, where complete blocks of time are made for rounds, teaching and questions. This comes at the expense of high case load and efficiency. On the other end of the spectrum sits the nightmare scenario of being left alone in practice with no one to help and nowhere to hide.
We’ve all heard stories of new grads flipping through textbooks while in surgery and managing entire practices right out of school. Somewhere on this spectrum is the perfect balance, the correct ratio of practice and mentorship.
Here’s the awesome aspect of the first year of practice: It’s all about solidifying the knowledge you have. It’s about taking your textbook knowledge and applying it to real life cases. It’s about tying together the theory to the patient and family that are sitting in front of you. Learning science tells us that the ultimate way to learn, to really lock in knowledge, is to have real life stories to tie it to.
Our brains were hardwired for learning by story-telling eons ago. Imagine a family sitting around the campfire some 20,000 years ago: Telling someone about a poisonous snake is not nearly as effective as teaching avoidance in a real-life close call with a poisonous snake. Extrapolate this to veterinary practice: A close call with a hypovolemic blood pressure drop in surgery is much more effective than textbook knowledge of intraoperative monitoring.
What does this diversion about prehistoric campfires mean? During your early career, let your cases guide your mentorship and learning. Let the real life examples inform your mentorship discussions, and prompt your research.
However, this takes a shift in mindset from the mentee. As veterinary students we are expected to prepare for everything on a test or in rounds, from the common to the extremely rare.
Using case guided learning from real life general practice does two things:
- It guides you to learn more about common presentations and scenarios that your practice is seeing. It helps you classify what is common and regular and what is a zebra. It helps you focus on what is important, not on fringe topics.
- Case based learning helps you avoid the “fear of the unknown.” Most new graduates are terrified and will say things like, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” and, “What if a (insert rare situation) comes in?” This is where the mind shift comes in — focus on the regular, common cases, and what you do know, and reserve the unknown “what if’s” for later when they actually come in. This tactic really takes a paradigm shift and a trusting of the mentor and the process, but it does wonders for practice anxiety and feelings of insufficiency.
How does this look in real life? Using this approach allows the mentee to embrace a busy general practice and to seek out a practice that will allow her or him to see the common and regular. Here’s a huge advantage: It allows recent graduates to perform highly productive activities like wellness and common ailments, while slowly expanding their personal practice into more complex medical and surgical cases.
In real life, it means taking the one or two cases per day that were troublesome and confusing, and doing the research, reading and talking about the case.
This doesn’t have to be a reactionary approach. It means looking ahead at tomorrow’s schedule and not becoming overwhelmed, but picking out a couple of things to research and ask about. It means pressing “pause” on a case for a few minutes, stepping out of the exam room and thinking or talking or reading through the issues at hand.
Most importantly, it leverages your license to practice. The veterinary degree is really a degree in how to look stuff up, how to ask the right questions and how to hear the answers. Part of the process is how to know when and how to look something up and then how to do it efficiently. It also means understanding that successful veterinarians don’t walk around with everything in their heads. They ask and look things up dozens of times a day.
This approach is about embracing the balance between mentorship and practice and understanding that both are equally important in becoming a successful veterinarian.
The bottom line is that mentorship and practice can be balanced. Your compensation and production don’t have to suffer to get the right mentorship. For the mentee, it requires a certain mindset and a trust in the program. For the mentor, it requires a plan, a program and a path to get the mentee to successful practice. And when both mentee and mentor are balancing mentorship and practice, that’s Modern Mentorship!
When you join the series, you become eligible for our special giveaway drawings. So far, we have given away two Cardiology IV stethoscopes and more than $100 worth of scrubs. The next webinar will have another drawing for a Cardiology IV stethoscope and gift cards for scrubs.
The Modern Mentorship series prepares you for success in your first year out of veterinary school. It will help you find the mentorship that you need and want. Hundreds of veterinary students already have participated in the webinars.
To date, topics covered have included a general overview and introduction, the mentor/mentee relationship, and the characteristics of a good mentorship program. Following Balancing Mentorship and Practice on November 19, topics to be covered in the future are Should I Do an Internship?, Negotiating for Mentorship and a closing set of topics determined by you, the participants.
If you missed previous webinars, you can catch up on them at this online archive, which you may continue to access after you join the series.