Why do veterinarians need a mentoring program?

Why would a veterinarian, a professional who has had years of schooling and maybe even a few years of practice under their belt need a mentor? Think about it. We have had a teacher, coach, parent, mentor of some sort our entire lives, and then, poof, they’re gone. Perhaps we are then looked at as the mentor, the coach, the parent, the boss. I only knew life with a coach and then as my career unfolded I had none. It only makes sense to have one in my life.
When I graduated vet school I entered a small animal practice with two locations, one doctor at one and two at the other. I practiced 90% of my time at the 2-doctor location. That doctor was only 1 year my senior as far as practice experience went but was supposed to be my mentor. As it turned out she wasn’t a good fit for the practice and was terminated two months after my joining the team. Thus…I was left with little guidance or mentorship to speak of. My boss was across town and available by phone if I initiated the call. As much as I adore the man, he lived by a different practice philosophy than I as well as his outlook on health, family and personal care were not conducive to work life balance. The arrangement did foster a learn by fire environment for me and for that I think I became a better doctor. However, it wasn’t the environment I wanted to foster when we recently brought on a new grad. Instead I wanted to practice in the same building with her. I made it known from the get go that I was here for her as much or as little advice and “hand holding” she wanted. I also let her know that I thoroughly enjoyed and was elated to have someone to bounce my thoughts and ideas off and realized I had just as much to learn from the new grad as she had to learn from this older dog.

I also wanted the opportunity to guide her on what I found to be the more important stuff, to live a life with balance and joy. I worked myself to the bone as a new grad, never taking vacation and working through too many lunches and losing all sight of self-care and personal life. Once children entered my life I really lost myself. I want my doctors as well as other staff to learn by my example. It means making them take their lunch break and leaving the building. Schedule some time off and don’t let well-earned PTO and vacation days go to waste. It means having an open-door policy and although I may not have all the answers to all their woes I can be a sounding board, while setting healthy boundaries.

Waiting for someone to invest their time in your professional and personal development is a sure-fire way to fail in this endeavor. You must initiate the relationship and guidance you seek. Your mentor will likely not be in your practice. In the wonderful world of technology, you can search for the perfect fit for you just about anywhere. I have found that a mentor has given me the tools to get my life back and thus flourish in my profession.
• A mentor at any level or place in the profession is recommended
• Our bosses may not be the best example for mentorship
• Find a mentor that walks the walk and jives with your personality
• Don’t wait for a mentor to take you under their wings, seek one out early in your career