This Veterinarian's 7 New Year's Resolutions

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If you’re like most people, you’ll start contemplating your resolutions for next year right about now. I certainly relish this annual opportunity to turn the page and start anew — psychologically, anyway.

In fact, I’ve warmed to the concept of resolutions so well that I now list them by category, which is how I arrived at my “professional category” list below. I detail the kind of things that veterinarians like me — if we’re honest with ourselves — deem most in need of improvement.

So, in the interest of offering you as much personal insight into the real world of veterinary medicine, here’s how I plan to improve myself as a vet in 2013:

1. Read More!

It’s inevitable. The journals and papers in my must-read stack seem to proliferate by some form of asexual reproduction — keeping up with trends in veterinary medicine, while in the throes of a long workday, is simply not easy.

As a pet owner, you definitely want your vet to be keeping up with her science, which is why I spend about one Sunday a month catching up, which can be mind-numbing. So let it be resolved that I will no longer allow them to sit idly — multiplying gleefully — for more than a week.

2. Attend More Hard Science Lectures

Although I’m a very frequent conference attendee, I tend to spend all of my lecture time soaking in discussions on shelter management, politics, informatics and client communication-based information, which means that I dedicate only about one or two hours to hard science lectures.

So this year, I resolve to spend more time going to lectures on the stuff that pet owners should care about most: my fundamental veterinary skills.

3. Adopt a More Checklist-Based Approach to My Practice

Have you ever heard of The Checklist Manifesto? It’s a book written by Dr. Atul Gawande, one of my heroes in the world of medical writing. He urges us all to adopt an approach to practice that incorporates checklists into everything we do. The goal of the lowly checklist: Minimize stupid mistakes and enhance efficiency.

Although many physicians and veterinarians persist in their reluctance to practice what many simplistically interpret as “cookie-cutter medicine,” I believe in the power of the checklist to improve my skills and minimize errors. As such, I resolve to incorporate more checklists into what I do on a daily basis.

4. Pay More Attention to Telephone Detail

It’s my most serious sin as a veterinarian. If I’m not extra careful, I’ll fall readily into a pattern of lethargic callbacks. And failing to call my clients back in a timely fashion is not something that I’m proud of. I’ve gotten way better at this in recent years, but when I get behind, attention to telephone detail goes first. This year, I pledge to continue on my path of telephonic improvement.

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