Thursday, August 15, 2013

1082. Managing the young vet assistant

tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS

Date:   16 August, 2013  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, turtles & rabbits
Digital evidence: Complete removal of a large skin tumour   
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Date:   16 August, 2013 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

Thursday, August 15, 2013

1082. Managing the young vet assistant

Aug 15, 2013

I asked my assistant Niang to sit down to have a discussion about work today, in the consultation room. There was no clients and it was time to discuss about his work performance. I sat down on one side of the consultation table and asked him to sit opposite me.

He said he preferred standing. The younger generation seems to have a different mindset nowadays as instructions seem to be ignored. This is not to their own interest as this means they need to be monitored closely and checked. This is the way they behave.
"Take a chair and sit down as it is going to be a long meeting," I said patiently to him.
He got a chair from the waiting room and sat down.

"When you wake up every morning, you should think of 3 things," I said. "No. 1. Do you have good health?"
"Yes," he replied.
"No. 2. Is your family in Yangon OK? Healthy and not poor?" I asked.
"Do you have a job when millions of people are unemployed?" I asked. "The unemployed cannot send money home to support their families? Do you send money home to your parents?"

"There are better veterinary employers than me," I said. "Possibly 1% of the employers where the workplace has many employees. Each vet assistant does one type of job like kennel work or lab work and nothing else. 5-day work per week and many other benefits. You will be able to work in such companies later when you have the experience. How long have you been working here?"

"6 months."

"The good employers want experienced vet assistants. 2 years of experience will be better. However, you don't have it now. One day, you will open your own vet practice in Yangon. Here, you can learn much more the different ways the younger vets work and behave and all aspects of management. In a large company, you don't learn all aspects because there are different employees specialising in each area.

"But you must be interested in learning new things, like the use of computers. I know you did not use computers during your undergraduate days in your Yesin university in Myanmar as you did not have computers. Here, you have computers to learn how to use Excel and Word, but you want to be interested to want to learn more about computerisation. Otherwise, after two years of work in Singapore, you still don't know about computerisation when you open your own practice. It is better to be your own boss but since you don't know much, how are you going to teach your employees? Toa Payoh Vets is the place to pick up useful veterinary and management knowledge.

"You are a good-looking vet. If you open your practice in Yangon, many clients will come to you for your good looks. But a good-looking vet cannot last long if he cannot diagnose and treat the pet properly. Here, you learn a lot only if you are humble enough to want to learn.

"It is just like a handsome actor. A handsome actor looks good but if he cannot act, he will not last long
In other places, nobody will want to teach you. Most of the younger vets will not want to teach you because they may not know much nor have the time and patience.

:Here I am teaching you how to operate a small practice with a few staff. You will start as a small practice in Yangon when you go home later.  If you are humble, you will learn a lot about the problems and solutions in operating a small practice. Only if you are humble enough. Otherwise, why should an older vet like me spend his time to teach you? It will be easier to find another person and retire you. You are not my son and you can find another employer. However, you are inexperienced and will face similar work performance problems in a new employer as you don't have sufficient experience and many Singaporean pet owners cannot understand your English presently. The new employer may just sack you rather than waste time talking to you.

He nodded his head silently.

"For example, you saw me doing abdomin0-centesis in a dog with a similar large abdomen as you had seen another vet doing it," I stated. "How long did I take to do it?"

"Twenty minutes," he estimated.

"Did I use anaesthesia and take nearly an hour to do it?"
"No," he said.
"The dog was very sick and anaesthesia may kill it. In any case, you could see that he did not need anaesthesia as he was not moving. However, the vet you assisted felt that anaesthesia must be used."

"The veterinary practice is like any business," I said. "There are many expenses as you now know by doing the book-keeping of drug purchases which can amount to as much as $10,000 per month. Rentals keep going up over the years. Staff salaries increase. Costs have to be kept low to prevent losses and closing down.

"If a vet takes one hour to do an abdominal-centesis as compared to 20 minutes for a similar case, there is a lot of isoflurane gas and oxygen used as well as time spent. Isoflurane is very expensive. Time is needed by the vet assistant and the vet to do other jobs. You saw how I did it and you saw how another vet drained the abdominal exudate. You learnt much as I also taught you how I did it. There are many cases you have not seen. For example, do you know how to do a pregnancy diagnosis in a dog?"

"No," he replied.
"Pregnancy diagnosis in a cow?" I asked. "Since I guessed you were taught more about cattle in your vet studies in Myanmar than dogs and cats."
"No," he replied.
"You will learn much more at Toa Payoh Vets if you work for two years," I said. "There are many interesting cases. But only if you bother to read up and learn."

Sometimes I related to him cases that had been done.

For example, I asked him what he would do if he found a chicken thigh bone got stuck with half the bone inside the stomach and half inside the gullet when he opened up the dog's stomach as a vet in Myanmar. That was a real case. "I don't know," he said. The gullet would be hidden inside the diaphragm cranially inside the chest and therefore inaccessible. "Veterinary surgery is full of surprises like this. I just pull the bone down into the stomach and took it out," I said to him.

Real life case studies and regular chats on work performance are necessary in training new vet assistants and the younger vets. If they are humble, it is much easier for them to work as a team. Many young employees are focused on what they can benefit out of their employers. For such employees, it is best to ask them to look for another employer as they waste resources and time, causing losses to the practice.     
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