Sunday, October 16, 2011

691. Switching from a government vet to a small animal vet

On Thu, Oct 6, 2011> wrote:

Dear Dr Sing,

I chanced upon your blog when I was looking up some vet related blogs. I read that you completed your bond with the PPD, then started up toapayoh vet clinic. Was it difficult to transition from a government vet to a small animal vet? How do you keep the knowledge learnt for small animals fresh in your mind as being a PPD government vet requires a completely different set of skills? Would be great if you could provide me with some advice on this issue. I've been pondering on career pathways recently and I need guidance.



Thank you for your email. In reply to your questions:

1. It is not difficult to change to small animal practice from regulatory practice for me as I had a mentor (an experienced senior vet) whom I spent time in the evenings (closing my practice) learning from him, assisting him, working as locum and doing house-calls.

2. Lots of reading on small animal vet journals. In 1982, when I started Toa Payoh Vets, there was no such thing as the world wide web. So, lots of reading vet articles and journals and subscription to the British and American vet journals. The PPD had a small vet library at 40 Kampong Java Road, now the K.K. Hospital.

3. For your situation, be an employee in one of the 46 vet practices in Singapore for at least two years. Choose a busy one, otherwise you would have not sufficient variety of cases. Work the night shifts and really attend to each emergency as if it was your own pet instead of being a "lazy" vet, letting the vet technicians do the hands-on blood collection, urine collection and X-rays.

Give practically free services to the dog breeders and animal activists. So much small animal veterinary work to do nowadays. Read up and discuss with mentors. Review cases done and see if there are better and more efficient and cost-effective ways to handling the case.

Add value to your employer. For example, I note that some young employee vets use more than necessary (increasing expenses to the practice and reducing the bottom-line) the sutures and materials used in surgery and treatment. This may not endear yourself to the Principal of the practice as it shows you don't care about the bottom-line. In private practice, the costs are high and you need to be aware of the economics of practice, other than the salary and benefits you are getting.

In conclusion, venturing to a new field requires a new mindset to work the long hours to achieve competence and success. Small animal private practice hours are longer and will not be similar to the regular hours of civil service as most clients are free during weekends and public holidays when the civil service vet is having time off.

Passion is required if you wish to excel. Competition is great nowadays as I expect more than 50 small animal practices to be set up in the next 5 years if you intend to open your own practice. Know the economics of practice. Add value to your employer or principal. Continuing education. Network. Be proactive in vet matters.

Phone me if you need more advice as writing advices are not as good as one-to-one talk.


Dear Dr Sing,
Thanks so much for your reply. It has motivated me to work alot harder, and that nothing is impossible. Your advice has given me the direction I was missing before as I did not know who else to ask. Thank you once again.


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