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New grads - How are you making decisions?

Many of you will have started working in your first job, in very strange circumstances. Not only do you have to make decisions about patient care, you need to decide on how to work, what PPE to wear and how to interact with other people.

Thinking back over the past few weeks, how have you got on?

I remember my first job - a long time ago now. Being faced with an owner and having to make the decision about treatment isn't easy. Having to decond guess what the boss expected me to say was even worse. When there are lots of options, how do you decide what to do?

You might have a practice protocol, or colleagues who are able to chat to you about cases. But at some point, you have to make a decision and see what happens. Veterinary medicine is not an exact science and you will continuously review what happens with an individual case, and what that means for future cases.

I was reading another book Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions. It suggests 5 steps in the decision making process:

  • Problem

  • Objectives

  • Alternatives

  • Consequences

  • Tradeoffs

In additon to, taking into consideration uncertainty and risk tolerance.

Applying this to vet practice would give us:

  • What's wrong with the animal?

  • What do we want to do? Make the animal better? I'm guessing yes.

  • What alternative treatments are available? Or what would happen if you didn't treat the animal?

  • What are the possible outcomes? Get better, get worse, side effects, cost?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action?

Then look at the knowledge base (from your time at vet school) or published evidence about the certianty or uncertainty that a course of action will have the dsired outcome. Risk tolerance could apply to both you as the vet and the owner. How certain do you need to be that an approach will work?

This may seem like a lot to cram into a consultation. But I'm sure these questions are already in your head. While you have the stethoscope in your ears, you can think about some of these and what you're going to say to the owner.

Starting out in your first job is hard work. It will get easier. Talk to your colleagues and never be afraid to ask for help. We were all new grads once.




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