The Business of Practice: Mentoring New Vets
Mentoring new veterinarians correctly can mean the difference in that person staying in equine practice or leaving.

If you are lucky enough to hire a young veterinarian, how do you ensure you are mentoring that new vet in such a way that she or he wants to stay in equine practice?

In this podcast we talk to Cara Wright, DVM, MS, about mentoring new vets. She was a founding member of the Sustainability in Equine Practice seminars. Wright also is a facilitator in the Decade One and Starting Gate programs for equine veterinarians and vet students.

Wright said mentoring is a “big” topic, and one that is individualized to each practice and doctor for how it works.

“If you are going to hire a newer grad and provide mentoring, what does that mean to the practice and the doctor?” asked Wright. “Communication is important to each party to avoid disappointment.”

How Do You Mentor a New Vet?

Mentoring can mean different things to different people, said Wright. Some young vets want a mentor they can call on whenever they have questions. “Maybe they want to call an experienced vet on the way to a [farm] call,” said Wright.

Another might want training on X-rays they took for a repository and want to go over them with someone experienced, she said.

Wright said practice management is also a part of mentoring.

“It’s a mismatch in expectations” that causes a lot of issues with young veterinarians and practices, Wright explained.

Tips on Mentoring New Vets

The practice and the new vet need to decide what “mentoring” means to them. Wright said the basics of mentoring including helping the young vet build a skill set and confidence so they can be fully engaged as a practicing veterinarian.

For example, the young veterinarian might think she or he isn’t proficient in castrations. You as the mentor have watched the young vet and have confidence they can handle the procedure without issue.

Have monthly check-ins and talk about what they want to learn, suggested Wright. “See how they are feeling,” she added. “Especially if you think they are great and they don’t.”

Figure out how to address that disparity, she advised.

“As a mentor be honest,” said Wright. “Talk about when things are ‘tricky’ and about mistakes you have made. Tell the [young] doctor it is okay to ask for help.

Create a Schedule

Wright suggested taking the AAEP’s list of core compentencies and create a chart that gives structure to a young veterinarian. Determine what skillsets you and the practitioner want to address and give a timeline to get there. “Have a schedule of check-ins to talk about achievements and what is falling by the wayside,” advised Wright.

She reminded mentors to not forget about “soft” skills. That might include speaking professionally with a farrier about a case.

“The AAEP Internship Committee is working hard” on these skills, said Wright. “We might be able to adapt that” in the future.

Onboarding

“This can be tricky,” advised Wright. “Especially with new graduates.

“As a doctor, you are a leader [in the practice], but you don’t know where the centrifuge is or how bloodwork is sent off,” said Wright. “Make sure to refer to them as ‘Doctor’ in front of clients, especially on first introductions.

“A vet should not be mistaken for a tech,” she said. “Be clear about job descriptions.”

Most of all, “Ensure them they don’t feel abandoned,” said Wright. “A lot of times they know how [to do something], they just need support. And model work/life balance.

Editor’s note: Wright recommends that mentoring veterinarians and veterinarians entering practice check out MentorVet.net. “They do have equine mentors,” said Wright.

About Dr. Cara Wright

Cara Wright, DVM, MS, is a 2009 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to veterinary school, she completed a Master’s degree at Louisiana State University, where she studied the reproductive characteristics of high body condition mares. She completed an equine internship in Ocala, Florida, then worked at a range of equine private practices across the country while running a successful equine veterinary relief business. She is a founding member of the Sustainability in Equine Practice Seminars, which focus on improving the well-being and productivity of equine veterinarians, as well as a facilitator in the Decade One and Starting Gate programs for equine vets and students. Outside of work, she trains for and competes in triathlons. https://www.sepseminars.com/

Wright joined the Professional Services Team at Merck Animal Health in 2022. Her clinical practice experience ranges from small to multi-doctor ambulatory and hospital-based equine practice. She has served as adjunct faculty at the University of Florida for students on clinical rotations, as well as taught sessions at the Options for Animals chiropractic school in the UK location. While living overseas, she ran a successful equine veterinary relief practice. This allowed her to work in various practice settings in the U.S. and Australia. Outside of Merck Animal Health, Wright sees chiropractic cases and emergency calls for a local practice. Cara is active in both the AAEP as well as a founding member of the Sustainability in Equine Practice Seminars and a Decade One facilitator. Things that bring her joy outside of work include triathlons, coaching swimming, snacks and wiener dogs.

Disclaimer from sponsor: 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 medical providers with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes 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 the article are the sole opinions of the author. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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