“Whirlwind” doesn’t even adequately describe my first few months of being a practice owner. Now, “F5 tornado wrapped in endless decisions and sprinkled with panic attacks” might just be in the right zip code . . .
It’s been wild and tough and crazy amounts of fun and surprising and challenging and a plethora of other adjectives. And I love it.
But you’re here for the blatantly click-bait listicle title, so here we go.
Here are six things I’ve done during my first six months of practice ownership:
1. Performed more than 150 surgeries
Now, this may not be a lot to some of you scalpel jockeys out there. But this gal did exactly four (FOUR!) surgeries in vet school. I looked hard for volunteer and extern opportunities to get hands-on surgical training, but they were just nowhere to be found.
When I started my first job, I had one surgery day a week. That day may or may not have had any surgeries booked. When I did have a procedure, the in-surgery mentoring consisted of my practice owner walking by and saying, “You done yet?” So that was helpful.
As suboptimal as that situation was, at least I got my hands a little bloody. My relief and vaccine clinic work didn’t afford me any surgery time at all.
And then I got my own place as a solo doc. Hoo boy, talk about a steep learning curve. There ain’t no such thing as case-dodging when it’s your name on the front door.
I’ve performed my first solo pyometra surgery (x2), first solo exploratory laparotomy, and first cryptorchid neuter.
Do I feel like I’m going to poop my pants sometimes? You bet.
But I keep a fresh set of scrubs in my office and I dive in anyway.
2. Fired somebody
This is exactly as much fun as it sounds. But it was really, really, really, really, really necessary.
Did I mention it was necessary??
I inherited exactly one employee with the practice. There were two, but the other one decided to leave for greener pastures the day before I took over. (She came back a couple of months later asking if we were hiring, but that’s another story . . . )
Of course, we needed another set of hands. So on my practice manager’s advice, we rehired an assistant who had been let go by the previous owner due to “personality conflicts.”
She was a nice enough kid. She really was. And is. But, the thing is, she wasn’t right for us. And what’s more, we weren’t right for her.
Her working style just did not mesh with the practice culture I was trying to build. We could have all tried for a few more months, or years, only to collectively bang our heads against the wall and generally be miserable.
In the end, I let her go after two weeks. It was hard, but I’m convinced it was the kind thing to do.
3. Established ties with two fantastic rescue groups
If I could do anything over again, I would do this about 20 more times. I completely fell into working with Love Your Feral Felines (LYFF) and Labs and More (LAM), and I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.
I adopted a few feral barn cats from LYFF, and that allowed me to meet the founder of the rescue. She mentioned they were looking for a veterinarian in Oceanside and would I like to come on board? Christine came to meet me at the hospital and I was so impressed with how she really had her shit together. She had her 501(c)(3) paperwork, she talked about how veterinarians should get compensated for their work, and that their fosters and volunteers were never to treat their veterinary partners poorly.
I could hardly believe my ears. After working in and around rescues for the past 20 years, I thought I had these guys pegged. They generally wanted something for next to nothing, and the volunteers would often treat the veterinary teams like second class citizens and personal servants.
I’m happy to report I was super wrong on this one.
4. Implemented a new software program
The practice was using Avimark, which is kind of like a really ugly version of Windows 95. And it is server-based, which means regular updates and heavy-duty equipment. So it’s aesthetically pleasing AND expensive. Hard pass.
We looked at many cloud-based alternatives (thankfully there are many out there) and we settled on EzyVet. Is it perfect? Nope. But oh man, is it ever pretty. And easy to use. And we can access it anywhere, which is one of my very most favorite things of all.
We can talk til we’re blue in the face about work-life balance and all that jazz, but the truth is that as a practice owner I benefit from being able to see patient records and financials whenever I want. I can check appointments on the fly. I can (gasp!) leave for the day to take care of a personal matter and know that I can finish my charts later. At home. In my pajamas. Wine may or may not be present . . .
5. Started a charity fund for our hospital
This, right here. It’s maybe my most favorite thing that we’ve accomplished as a business. Working with Veterinary Care Foundation, we established a 501(c)(3) that directly benefits our clients. Anyone can make a tax-deductible donation to the general fund or earmark it for a specific pet. We have had neighbors contribute to help neighbors. We’ve had our drug reps contribute to the general fund to help any clients who need assistance.
The best part is, the pets get the care they need. The next best thing is that we don’t go broke providing that care. It’s what we call in the vet biz a “win-win” situation . . .
6. Made 956,873,204 decisions
I’ve never been one of those indecisive types. Got something that needs doing? I’m your man, man. Let’s git ‘er done!
So I have been kinda stunned that, somehow, as a practice owner, I feel like I’m standing in the middle of the road in a game of Frogger. Do I go this way? Or that way? Is that decision the right one? What if it isn’t? Which type of IV catheters should I order? Is this the best suture to use for this procedure? Wait, did I turn the stove off??
I’m hoping that the decision fatigue eases up at some point as I learn more about my practice and how to run it. However, I’m not sure this is ever gonna be a job that I feel like I have down pat. And you know what? That’s okay. I’d be bored otherwise 🙂