You CAN Teach an Old Vet New Tricks

May 20, 2013 | By Dr. Jessica Vogelsang via Pet360

by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

It’s that time of year: Graduation time, time for Pomp and Circumstance and “CongraDs!". Of course, there will be newly minted vet school graduates to be unleashed upon the public. So don’t be surprised if you head into the veterinarian’s office over the summer and see a fresh new face grinning at you over a shiny stethoscope and a pristine white lab coat.

Be kind to him or (more likely, statistically speaking) her. I was one once too, and although it feels like yesterday it was a lot longer ago than that, long enough to be able to have a little bit of perspective, even though I hate to admit it because it makes me feel old. If you find yourself facing what to your mind cannot possibly be someone old enough to have graduated high school, never mind vet school, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Things You Shouldn’t Say to What Appears to Be a New Grad:

1.“What are you, 12?” (Other variations include: I Have Shoes Older than You, Does Your Mom Know You’re Here, and the to-the-point How Old Are You, Exactly?)

New graduate know they are new. They have to prove themselves to the technicians, the person who hired them, the older veterinarians, and to you. They’re old enough to have finished at least eight years of college, at the very least. There are nicer ways to ask if someone is a recent graduate.

Alternative: “When did you start here?” This gives them an opening to tell you whether or not they just graduated. If you’re still unsure and really want to know, ask the technician. They’ll tell you.

2. “I don’t want to see you. Get Dr. Old Guy.”

Everyone understands that clients have certain preferences for particular doctors, and that continuity is an important component of patient care. If it’s that vital to you, though, please ask the front desk when you make the appointment or check in. If you’ve made it all the way to the doctor entering the room, at least give them a chance before dismissing them to their face. He or she might surprise you.

Alternative: Let the doctor complete the exam. If there’s something about their recommendation you’re not sure about, ask them to give your regular vet an update after the appointment. The old standard “Hey, is Dr. Old Guy here today? I just wanted to say hi if he is available” works too.

Here’s the thing about new graduates: they have a lot to learn, yes. They may not be as proficient at palpating subtle patellar luxations or the specific yelp you can elicit in dogs with certain types of disc disease. Those things take some time.

On the other hand, they have a lot to teach as well. When I graduated, ultrasound was a referral-only sort of thing and I was part of the first graduating class to have it as part of our curriculum. No one else in my practice had any idea how to use the machine. I was the Senior Veterinary Ultrasonographer one week out.

New grads know the latest on vaccine recommendations, and are probably a lot more open as a group to alternative recommendations such as vaccine titers and acupuncture, which weren’t even mentioned in courses ten years ago. They’re also much more likely to be web savvy and comfortable with emails, clinic Facebook pages, and all the sorts of social media things people are starting to expect in a modern veterinary clinic. See? New isn’t all bad.

No one says you have to like the new guy, or that you have to let them practice a never before attempted knee surgery on your dog without your consent. But at least give them an encouraging smile and your promise to give them a chance to impress you- after all, ten years from now they’re going to be Dr. Old Guy and trust me, they will remember who was nice and who was a stinker when it’s time to call in a favor.

This article originally appeared on

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