Dr. Carl Darby assists Dr. Jennifer DiRenzo on a spay and mastectomy. Newly out of veterinary school, DiRenzo started working for Darby in August. Her boss touts her as a sterling example of the benefits of hiring recent graduates. Photo courtesy of Seneca Falls Veterinary Hospital.
Bringing in a brand-new graduate can be risky for practice owners in the market for an associate. Newly minted veterinarians often are perceived as slow, lacking in client-communication know-how and having poor technical skills.
But a clinic owner who accepts that stereotype as universal truth may miss out on making a great hire, judging from the accounts of employers who recently shared their experiences on a message board
of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), an online community for the profession.
“I hired my new grad two months ago,” wrote Dr. Carl Darby of Seneca Falls, N.Y. “From day one she has been enthusiastic, energetic, dedicated and a pleasure to work with. She has taken on some complex cases (diabetic ketoacidosis, pancreatitis dog, cholangiohepatitis cat, foreign bodies etc.) and handled them extremely well.”
His excitement is echoed by many others.
“My new grad is awesome. We differ on a few things, but she is amazing,” chimed in Dr. Brent Pattberg of Memphis, Tenn. “MUCH SMARTER THAN ME!!!!”
Darby and Pattberg encourage fellow clinic owners to bring young blood on board. A number of veterinarians agreed, mentioning how smart, confident and financially productive some of their new graduates have been.
New graduates don't always work out, due to any of a number of reasons: They may have inadequate technical skills, lack confidence or simply are not a good match for a particular clinic. Veterinarians have shared such scenarios on another VIN message board
Nonetheless, many new graduates thrive and quickly bring significant income to their practice. In the five years Darby has owned a clinic, he said, he has hired three new graduates and been happy with each one.
“All my new grads have hit the ground running and have been paying their way from day one,” he said.
Darby hired Dr. Jennifer DiRenzo in August. Within two months, he was publicly singing her praises. Darby believes she keeps him on his toes by asking complex questions. When DiRenzo needs to learn something, she researches the topic and then talks to her mentor about it.
What DiRenzo learns from Darby is just part of the magic. Darby, in turn, finds he learns from DiRenzo about the latest trends in veterinary medicine.
For example: “She was taught a different approach to managing diabetic animals than I was used to, and it worked very well,” Darby said. “She talked about some of the newer ideas that I'd read about but didn't have a great understanding of. (Because they're) coming right out of school, I find new grads have a great understanding of the latest concepts.”
Pattberg echoes the sentiment. His new graduate, Dr. Abbey Gregory, diagnosed cytauxzoonosis her first week. A tick-borne, typically fatal protozoal disease in cats, cytauxzoonosis occurs in a limited geographic area — the southeastern and south-central United States — and even there, is not common.
“I’ve never confirmed one in 20 years,” Pattberg said. “This is where some of those differences (between us) come in. I look for the most common things, and she wanted to look for the weird things first. It didn’t help the cat, but we did have a diagnosis.”
DiRenzo graduated from Purdue University in mid-May and had three interviews before school ended. All told, she interviewed for seven jobs and received the one offer from Darby. She expresses as much satisfaction with her new boss and co-workers as her boss does about her.
“The whole staff is supportive of having a new grad. It makes my transition easier,” DiRenzo said. “Dr. Darby is amazing. I've never felt that I can't talk to him about anything ...
“Obviously the cases I've seen are limited, if I’ve seen them at all,” she went on, “but I'll say ‘Here's what my notes from school say.’ I come up with my plan of what I would do and run it by him, and that's where he learns about my approach to treatment. We talk a lot about cases, and I'll say 'This is what I looked up, this is what I remember; what would you do differently?' Sometimes I want to do something one way but his experience gives a better way to do it. Sometimes you have to adapt things from school to real life.”
Successful employment is a two-way street, of course. In her interview, DiRenzo had questions for Darby just as he had for her. Afterward, she was satisfied that the clinic's equipment was up-to-date, that she and Darby were compatible and their ethics were similar. She was pleased that he has four certified technicians for two veterinarians and that the clinic offers what she perceives as a high standard of care.
Pattberg’s experience hiring a new graduate — and his first associate ever — was different from Darby’s because he’d known Gregory for years. She volunteered at his clinic when she was a high school senior and then worked at his clinic through college. He knew her as a smart person with a strong work ethic.
Pattberg refers to Gregory as brilliant and notes that she was accepted into the early entrance program at Mississippi State University. She was 24 when she graduated from veterinary school in April.
“She always knew the offer was on the table, all through vet school, but there was no pressure for her to come here,” Pattberg said. “I was perfectly content being by myself. For me, the changes were not so much about having a new grad but about hiring an associate and letting go of everything I had to control before.”
Gregory saw that some of her classmates had a difficult time finding a job and was grateful she didn’t have to worry. “That was a stress that I didn't have to deal with that a lot of classmates did,” she said.
After practicing alone for almost 20 years, Pattberg can see 30 to 40 patients in a day. He understands that new graduates wouldn't be able to do that.
“Everything they see is something new, so it takes awhile to build up,” Pattberg said. “When she goes in, (patients) get a more thorough workup than I give. As I see it, it's a benefit. I'm not upset about it or worried by it. Most of our differences come from (the fact that) while in school, you do what needs to be done diagnostically regardless of costs. In the real world, cost is the major contributing factor as to what we are allowed to do. So we are learning to balance each other out.”
Gregory takes Pattberg’s advice but knows he leaves most decisions about treatment of her patients to her discretion.
While Darby acknowledges that not all practices are a good fit for inexperienced veterinarians, he wants to remind other clinic owners that hiring new graduates can be mutually rewarding.
“Even if they've had a bad experience, it's a shame to tar the whole batch of new grads. You could hire an experienced vet who is incompetent and lazy,” Darby said. “... If (clinic) owners have the perception that new grads don't have a good knowledge base, I want to change that.”
VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.