“I decide to be a solo practitioner out of necessity,” said Caitlin Daly, DVM, owner of Mid Coast Equine in Maine, which she started in 2013. “I took a job at a practice near my parents, but a toxic work environment made me leave after nine months. I was looking to provide top-notch medical care a good customer service.”
After graduating from Miami University in 2007, Daly worked as a technician at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Kentucky. In 2011, Daly received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and was recognized with the Excellence in Equine Ambulatory Award. Prior to moving to Maine, she completed an internship at Wilhite and Frees Equine Hospital near Kansas City, Missouri. In 2018, Daly became certified in Veterinary Medical Manipulation, and in 2019 she became a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist with a focus on Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. She is also a member of a Decade One business management group for equine practitioners.
Daly said she was fortunate that she had the support of her parents. “I had in my mind what I knew it would take to be successful, and I had to make smart decisions,” she said. “I got good advice from friends (when I started solo), including keep inventory light (sometimes she said she would book appointments and have medications overnighted from the distributor she would need).”
“But my parents had to co-sign for loans to get X ray and a practice vehicle,” said Daly. “I started out of the trunk of a Chevy Cobalt car, then got a Tahoe that I’m still driving. I was in practice for nine months before I got an X ray machine, but I was losing money referring clients.
“The best thing (about solo practice) is that I get to set my schedule,” said Daly. “I don’t have to ask permission to take time off. If I get a gap between appointments I can take a hike with my dogs. I can take the CE that I want
“It took a lot of time and effort, but I got to the point where I could say no,” she stated. “I have to make a priority for me.”
Her emergency calls are low because she only sees her own clients. She does “pair up” with a colleague in the area to enable them to take off when necessary.
A negative is that there is no office staff to “protect” you, said Daly. But she said solo vets need to use technologies. “My auto replies (on phone, text and emails) to on at 5 p.m. and off at 8 a.m.,” she said. “If it is an emergency, I call back.”
One of the issues Daly said is hard for solo practitioner is to respect her own boundaries. “I’m not going to text you at 6:30 p.m. to schedule an appointment.”
Daly said she might work 17 days in a row if you include emergencies, but she tries very hard to schedule appointments on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and she takes Wednesdays off.
She warned that being by yourself every day is hard and lonely. She now has a part-time tech, and she calls friends who are also solo practitioners. She suggests that solo vets try to “pair up” with another solo vet in the area. “Sometimes you need an extra set of hands,” she said.
Daly highly recommends Decade One groups for solo practitioners. “I needed that communication with other young vets. Those 15 people are my family.” She also said she needed the business education that Dr. Amy Grice created within the Decade One groups.
Daly recommended that if young veterinarians are in internships or jobs that are not good for you, leave. “So many practices are changing the paradigm for work/life balance,” she stressed. “You are worthy of having a good relationship with this industry.”
You can email Dr. Daly at [email protected]
This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.