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Your First Day On The Job

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Rory Cowlam MRCVS career zone, Veterinary Surgeon

How am I going to remember medications?

 

What if I don’t know what’s wrong with this dog?

 

What if my colleagues think I’m rubbish?

 

What if I make a mistake?

 

These are just some of the questions flying through your head on your first day at work.

 

I will always remember the slightly nauseated feeling I walked around with for my first week or so at work, the second guessing yourself at every turn and convincing yourself you overdosed Princess Priscilla the Chihuahua on metacam.

 

For now, all I can say is try and relax. It will get easier trust me. Looking back on it, I think it was a good thing that I was triple checking doses and reading datasheets. All this stopped me making mistakes, as much as my boss didn’t like me taking 30 minutes for a consult. Just try and find that balance. At the end of the day, it’s you who has to go home at night and feel like you did a good job.

 

If that doesn’t help at all (fair enough, it’s still stressful), here are some of my tips for getting through those first few weeks:

 

  • Leave your formulary outside the consult room so you can make an excuse to leave and frantically look doses up.

 

This saved me from looking incompetent more than once or twice. Just being able to say to the client “Oh, I seem to have run out of metacam, let me just pop out and get some” or “Someone has forgotten to bring my thermometer back, I’ll be back in 2 minutes” gives you a minute or two to look things up while also saving you stumbling through the formulary like a wally.

 

  • If you don’t know what is wrong with the dog, get a second opinion.

 

I remember in my first week, I admitted a little Westie into our hospital because I thought it had neck pain. One of my senior colleagues looked at it and said I was being over cautious. But really… would you rather be over cautious or send a painful dog home?

 

Oh, AND the dog was fine but the owner was very grateful that I had taken the time out of my bosses day to get him to double check for me.

 

  • Your colleagues' respect will come with time.

 

Work hard, pull your weight, offer to help, and they will respect you.

 

Sit in the break room, play on the computer and text all day, and they will not.

 

Simples.

 

  • Be honest and write excellent notes.

 

So you made that inevitable first mistake? It was going to happen at some point. The best way to handle this is to be honest and ask your colleagues for help. If you think you’re going to end up in a situation with a difficult client, the RCVS are always very helpful on the end of the phone and can give you advice with regards to how you can conduct yourself with said client. However, the be all and end all of these types of situations is – make thorough and concise notes. If your notes outline what happened, why it happened and how you fixed it, then there are no questions if it gets reviewed.

 

Remember you’ve trained hard for this, believe in what you’re doing. And don’t burnout.

 

Even vets and doctors make mistakes, just do your utmost to fix it.

 

You are human after all.

 

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