Why would somebody need a coach?

Written by Dr Cathy Warburton

Ah – a good question indeed. I am sure we all know people that have had fantastic careers without the need for any paid input. I was one of them. I was happy to bounce ideas off colleagues, family and friends and overall it went pretty well. But recently, I have got to wondering just how different things might have been had I met regularly with a coach. Maybe I would have had greater insight into my thoughts, feelings and actions? Maybe I would have doubted myself less? Maybe I would have maintained my dream to be a cattle vet in the country rather than becoming an ECC vet in the city? Maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through burnout? Maybe I could have been a better influence on those around me?

And I am one of the lucky ones. The veterinary industry has been good to me and I have loved almost all of my time in the veterinary industry. Others amongst us are not so lucky.
So, if you are contemplating hiring a coach, here are four reasons why it might be worth the money, the energy and the time.

1. You can’t do it all on your own. In our industry, we often think that asking for help is a sign of weakness and that we should be able to do everything on our own. Not true. We now know that we need other people to grow and better meet the day-to-day challenges of our lives. Sometimes we are too close to the action to be able to see what is obvious to an objective outsider. Your family and friends may also be too close, or too busy, or maybe they don’t have the skill set to help you. Healthy relationships strengthen us and a coach can be part of your support network.

2. Coaching is both a proactive and a reactive strategy to improve our mental health. Coaching reduces stress and increases well-being and quality of life. Coaching is helpful in thinking through how you want to be and what you want to stand for at transition times such as change of job/direction or starting your own business. It can assist to create behavioural change and incorporate new, more helpful habits into your life. This can be especially useful when considering work-life balance and relationships at work.

3. Coaching provides personalized learning. Have you ever been to a conference or read something and thought – wow, that’s fantastic – but then never quite got around to incorporating it into your life? Coaching is led by you and hence is relevant to what is going on in your life right now. The deep thinking and reflection encouraged in a coaching discussion, along with immediate application of the insights and knowledge gained, greatly aids your learning.

4. Coaching creates accountability. There is a big difference between saying we are going to do something and actually doing it (think unused gym memberships, plans to work more sustainably after holidays etc). Self-control is not always our forte. It is so easy to say I’ll do that or think that through later but never quite get around to it. Coaching provides accountability and assists you to attain your goals.

So, what is the difference between seeing a coach and a counsellor? In coaching, you and your coach are on a level playing field. You need to be whole and resourceful so that you can be guided to solve your own problems, not be told the answer or what to do. If you have clinical depression or anxiety, it would be advisable to start with a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. As you recover, adding in coaching may be beneficial.

And would you need a coach as well as a business mentor? It definitely depends! Coaches are a diverse group and emphasise different things. My style of coaching concentrates on the individual and on improving well-being and hence performance. But because well-being has a ripple effect, doing some work on yourself is also likely to have a positive influence on others, both at work and home.

Just as we can’t diagnose a disease or run a test we know nothing about, it is hard to contemplate what benefits coaching could bring. Why don’t you try it and see?
Success in the veterinary industry requires much more than clinical skills and knowledge. We need to be developing and growing as people. And this is where coaching comes into its own.

To learn more about coaching take a look at our upcoming High Achievers Online Training Program featuring Dr Cathy Warburton.

Arbutus Medical Drill Cover System

We came across this groovy practical drill cover and thought you might be interested. Here’s what the company has to say about it..

The Drill Cover System is an orthopedic surgical solution so that sterile surgery can be performed by small and large animal veterinarians.

Key features:
// 100% Sterile
// Excellent Quality
// Reusable
// Economical

The Drill Cover completely envelopes a hardware drill so that it is completely sterile for orthopedic surgery.


Can I use my own drill?

The DrillCover P is compatible with any hex shaped drill bit insert. We optimized that connection to the drill we supply as we chose it specifically based on its speed and torque which are optimal for orthopedic surgery. Testing of our hardware drill also demonstrates equal performance to orthopedic drills.

For more questions read our FAQ section by following this link: https://goo.gl/Cr4WkN

Our story

The Founders of Arbutus Medical were inspired to create a robust, precise, sterile and reusable solution to help increase the access to safe surgery globally. In low resource settings many patients were left with serious ailments after receiving surgery from either unsterile equipment, or unprecise hand drills. Our vision is to help create a future where everyone has access to safe surgery.


In keeping with this Vision, Arbutus Medical, has realized that there is an opportunity to help improve sterility in animal surgery. The DrillCover P is able to provide a complete seal against fluid transmission and allows for 100% worry free surgery. With the help of Veterinarians we hope to realize our vision of providing access to safe surgery for all.

Watch our video here:

drill video450

To learn more and/or request a demo, visit www.arbutusmedical.ca or. The Drill Cover System will also be used in the next orthopedic VetPrac workshop in February!

Kits include one drill, one linen and one chuck and the prices is 950 AUD. Order before 15 December 2016 and receive 15% of your first order. For questions and orders email elise.huisman@arbutusmedical.ca

What is my practice worth? Values and Decisions with Tony Thelander…

In this interview with Dr Tony Thelander we discover a little bit about the business of selling a business…

Hi Tony, Thanks for being apart of today’s interview. Lets start with a bit about yourself… How/When did you get into practice valuation?

After a lifetime of poking my nose into other peoples’ practices, building 2 hospitals myself and 10 years as one of the ASAVA’s Accredited Hospital inspectors, I began doing part-time consulting for Dr Jim Martin (the founder of ValuVet) in 2002.  Jim retired in 2006 and sold me the business which I then took on as full-time and still run today.

 When is it worthwhile to perform a practice valuation?

The most common call for our valuations is for succession of veterinarians who wish to retire or to bring in partners but other common calls are for Family Law reasons (divorce), practice mergers, finance approvals from banks, bench marking purposes and for corporate restructuring.

 I’ve heard people say a PV can be done by multiplying an annual profit by 3-5. Why is this inaccurate and what else needs to be considered?

What is involved with a PV?

Most valuation methodologies involve a capitalisation of a profit figure but there are as many variations on this theme as there are valuers, it seems.  In addition, there is a great deal of subjectivity in ‘Cap Rates’ and the trick as I see it, is to narrow the assumption gap by actually visiting the practice and also valuing goodwill and equipment as separate assets because they have different returns on investment.  This said, depending on what valuation methodology you adopt, Cap Rates of 3 to 5xs profit for our industry are used commonly by many valuers – I would venture 3xs in the country and 5xs in the city but these are rules of thumb and very subjective – there are so many factors that need to be considered in each situation.

What is the difference between having any accountant value your practice vs a vet or veterinary financial specialist?

Most accountants are qualified to perform financial valuations on businesses but they fall short when it comes to industry knowledge, however accounting knowledge is vital to the valuation process.  ValuVet solves this problem by having a veterinarian as a consultant to assess each practice and then engaging a highly experienced (in the industry) charted accountant in the accounting considerations – combining the best of both professions!

 What does the perfect practice look like?

No such thing!  But I have seen some really good businesses.  The most profitable practices are the ones whose owners have a vision for the practice and apply good business systems to run them.  Good businesses seem to be able to retain staff and have no trouble attracting high quality employees.  In addition, some practices (by accident or design) are well located geographically and in respect to demographics and competitors. One of the most profitable practices we have values was surrounded by 4 corporate practices.

Is buying a practice like buying a house? Should a buyer look for the ‘worst business in the best area” to find value for money?

Yes, there are some similarities between purchasing a business and purchasing a house and the secret is to find that hidden gem.  The best practices to buy are those that have the potential to grow to the next level so these may be (often) small practices that are well located and sitting in a good demographic area – they may be run as single vet practices and often by senior veterinarians who may be nearing the end of their career – often these practices are relatively poorly equipped, poorly marketed and have only a basic (undifferentiated) service offering.  Best of all, they may still operate on a card system.  Practices such as these may not be attractive to corporates but have huge potential for an energetic young veterinarian to seize the opportunities and develop the practice to its full potential.

If you want to buy a practice is it possible to find a practice or are all practices being bought by large groups now?

Most privately owned practices change hands internally by bringing in a partner when the senior veterinarian wishes to retire – in this case, the young vet is often given every assistance to join the partnership because of the need for ‘fresh blood’ and the need for succession. Approximately 80% of practice sales change hands in this fashion so the practices never get to go on the open market.  The remaining 20 % of practices sales consist of corporate purchases and a percentage of practices can end up on the open market because they have no internal successor to buy in and they do not fit the profile for corporate purchase.  There are a number of these practices currently on the market and most are reasonably priced, however often they are in less desirable locations with respect to the demographics of potential purchasers.

How important is the staff in a valuation, and how does a change of ownership effect staff retention?

When you sell a practice, you sell the staff as part of the business.  Some practices are almost entirely run by staff so inheriting the staff with the practice can be very important in this instance.

How do staff react to a practice sale?

We are all human and none of us likes change but my observation is that most staff will value their jobs sufficiently to at least give the new owner a go.  A good vendor will go in to bat for his team in a practice sale scenario. Invariably there are always one or two casualties among the old staff members who cannot cope with the change of new ownership, new processes, new computers etc.  In short, the responsibility for staff attrition lies with the new owner and his/her ability to manage staff and their expectations.

Thank you Tony!

Tony will be one of the educators at the Exit Strategies Day in Sydney on November 4th. He will be joined by APL accountants, Meridian Lawyers, Practice Sales Search and Vera Pickering to discuss how to prepare to leave practice ownership and what comes after a lifetime of pet and client services. Book Now to attend this one-day event

What is Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy?

As part of our focus on Canine Rehabilitation this Spring we are bringing you some information on new types of therapy for healing. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy is not new, but it is worth looking at for your patients. We asked the people at Pulsevet for some info…

In physics, a “shock wave” is defined as a rapid, high-energy pressure wave formed by the sudden compression of the medium through which the wave moves. Real world examples of shock waves include the sound of a gunshot, an explosion, or thunder.

It is technically ‘acoustic’ or ‘sound’ energy. Initially, this treatment was utilized in medicine to break up large, brittle kidney stones so that could then pass out of the body without surgical intervention. This procedure is known as ‘Lithotripsy’ and has been the standard of care for treating kidney stones since the 1980s.

Research has also revealed that compressive and tensile stresses placed on cells by shock waves result in the release of specific proteins which have many beneficial healing effects:

 Angiogenic growth factors which lead to increased localized blood flow

 Osteogenic growth factors which lead to increased bone growth and bone density

 Inflammatory proteins which lead to improved and more rapid tissue healing

Clinical benefits of shock wave therapy include accelerated and more complete bone, tendon, ligament, and other soft tissue healing, chronic pain management, and accelerated wound healing.

Shock wave therapy is a high energy treatment, and is frequently utilized when more conservative modalities, such as laser therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy have been unsuccessful.

Shock wave therapy is usually delivered in a series of up to 3 treatments with a 2 – 3 week gap in between treatments. These high impact treatments can be quite uncomfortable and may require sedation or anesthesia due to the intensity of the treatment.

Shock wave therapy has been utilized effectively in equine sports medicine for about 15 years, and recent and on-going research is leading to greater utilization in treating dogs and cats.

For more information, check out the educational resources available at www.pulsevet.com .

Planking pups? Welcome to the world of Canine Rehabilitation

Dr Van Dyke is an accomplished surgeon. But, she is cutting less these days. Why is that? Dr Van Dyke is revolutionising the way we examine and treat our patients, both in the acute injury phase and over the longer term through the burgeoning field of Canine Rehabilitation. By dipping your toe into the field of canine rehabilitation, you too can offer your patients so much more than just rest and NSAIDs. We are certain that you will learn from her advice and experience and are excited to share our interview with Dr Van Dyke from the Canine Rehabilitation Institute with you today.

How do you define canine rehabilitation?

Canine rehabilitation is defined by the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians (www.rehabvets.org) as the treatment of injury or illness to decrease pain and restore function. I personally define it as the application of the art and science of human physical therapy applied to our canine patients. 

What are the core modalities involved? 

Manual therapy and manual diagnostic techniques are really the core skills that allow the physio to diagnose and treat soft tissue impairments often missed by the practicing veterinarian (or human orthopedic surgeon for that matter!).

Do you have a favourite?

Joint mobilizations, addressing the arthorkinematics of each joint, are my favorite as they clearly show the attention that the physio pays to the minute details of anatomy while problem solving for the patient. 

How did you come to be involved in this field?

I did surgery for a number of years and had several clients who were physios. When I would discharge my patients to these owners, I would give them the standard ‘post-operative care’ instructions. The physios would often ask me why vets didn’t use other techniques. So, I started to query them on what they would do if this were a child recovering from the same surgery. This lead to my changing my post-operative guidelines, then to changing my actual surgical approaches, then to adding pre-hab for my planned surgeries. I learned more each year, and started to attend human physio CPD courses so that I could become more skilled. Finally, I realized that my colleagues should learn the same, so I gathered the best possible faculty to help me to provide a great training program.

What do you love about your role?

I love seeing my colleagues: veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and physics, light up when they gain a new skill and can demonstrate it to our faculty. Recognizing that they can now help patients who in the past might be treated with just NSAID’s and rest, that they can offer their clients better options! This is a wonderful moment to witness and we get to witness it month after month after month!

How has the field changed over time?

Canine rehabilitation is a relatively new field globally. Equine rehabilitation started in the 1960’s, but canine was slow to follow. The primary growth of the field started ~2000. We have watched a change from the early days when the veterinary market was told that the key to success was in buying equipment, especially lasers and underwater treadmill. As more physios have become involved with veterinary rehabilitation, the emphasis has moved more toward manual therapy, realizing that the physical modalities, such as laser and e-stim, can still be quite beneficial, but not until a proper physiotherapeutic diagnosis has been reached and a valid treatment plan put into place. Increasingly in the U.S. and Europe we see the move toward collaboration between veterinary and physiotherapy professionals…working together to maximize the benefits for our patients.

What are some common misconceptions about canine rehabilitation out there in the profession?

Many practice owners believe that if they purchase equipment and advertise rehabilitation services, they can put a veterinary nurse in charge of this service and be successful. Unfortunately, 90% of the benefit of rehabilitation comes from a proper soft tissue impairment assessment, something that only a trained vet or physio can (and should) do. Once the proper assessment is completed, the same trained vet or physio must create a plan of care. This is when the vet nurse, trained in canine rehabilitation, is brought in to do the time-consuming hands-on work with the patients, freeing up the vet and the physio to see more patients.

Vets are often taught, ‘a chance to cut is a chance to cure’. Do you agree?

No! My training and experience in canine rehabilitation convinced me that we could provide much better care for our patients by thoughtfully addressing their problems, especially their soft tissue (joint capsule, muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia) concerns. By pinpointing the actual issues confronting the patient, arriving at a diagnosis that addresses all of the issues (not just the bone and joint), and creating a problem-solving approach to the plan of care, we can reduce much of our surgical pathology and result in stronger, healthier, happier patients (and clients).

In light of this, as a highly trained and skilled surgeon, who also pioneers the canine rehabilitation field, do you find that you are now ‘cutting’ less? If so, why is that?  

We can offer far better diagnostics, come up with more comprehensive diagnoses, address the specific impairments, and often offer less aggressive surgical techniques. By then doing post-operative rehabilitation, we can have patients who are stronger and more capable of returning to peak performance. This results in far greater client satisfaction, which is good for the practice’s bottom line.

What do vets need to learn that we haven’t been taught?

We need to help our veterinary professionals see the importance of reviewing soft tissue anatomy, especially muscle origins, insertions and actions. So often, these get ignored, focusing instead on what we can see clearly on radiographs. So many lamenesses are the result of soft tissue impairments that are difficult or impossible to see on radiographs. By having a well-trained set of hands that can better palpate these patients, the veterinarian can tease out the source of the lameness and treat the specific problem rather than resorting to rest and NSAID’s.

What should be doing for patients that are on NSAIDs indefinitely?

NSAID’s are not the ‘bad guys’ unless used indiscriminately. We have many rehabilitation patients who continue to use NSAID’s, however, we can generally reduce the dose and frequency of delivery by using rehabilitation techniques to address both pain and weakness that leads to pain.

What about before and after surgical intervention?

The use of ‘Pre-Hab’ before surgery is commonplace in human orthopedic practice, and we are increasingly using this for our veterinary patients. This allows us to better control swelling, pain, and weakness prior to the procedure and creates a less fearful situation for the post-operative canine patient as they are now familiar with the rehabilitation setting and equipment. Patients actually look forward to visiting with their therapists as they know offer cookies for doing the right thing!

What advice would you have for vets who are interested in working in the field of canine rehabilitation?

There are many opportunities for veterinary professionals to become trained in canine rehabilitation. VetPrac offers courses provided by the Canine Rehabilitation Institute from the U.S. These courses include some distance learning (online video presentations) as well as classroom sessions in which students are given ample opportunity to practice new skills on live volunteer dogs. Class sizes are limited so that each student has sufficient time with multiple instructors to gain all of the requisite skills. The textbook, Canine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation (Zink and Van Dyke, eds.) is available through Wiley Publishers. Many national and international conferences include lecture and lab tracks on canine sports medicine and rehabilitation. No excuses! ☺

For more information about VetPrac’s collaboration with Dr Van Dyke and the Canine Rehabilitation Institute, click here.


Introducing OrthoPets

OrthoPets started in 2003 as a hobby in the garage of our founder, Martin Kaufmann. OrthoPets now works on an average of 175 patients per month from all over the world. To date, we have worked on over 12,000 pets from 35 different countries! Being the founders and leaders in V-OP (Veterinary Orthotics & Prosthetics) industry, we choose to not only set the bar for patient care through our innovative biomechanical solutions, but we continue to push the bar higher to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.

One of the most common injuries we support with the use of our carpal orthosis solution is carpal hyperextension. Typically, these cases present to OrthoPets as acute injury of the palmar fibrocartilage from jumping injuries. However, we do receive cases that are chronic in origin or compensatory if the contralateral limb has been amputated. In these cases, the origin and history of injury may dictate the therapeutic goals of the device.

The therapeutic goals will not only dictate the design of the device but also wearing schedule and future use. In all carpal hyperextension cases, the devices are fabricated to prevent the carpus from being able to extend, therefore providing a comfortable and stable environment for the affected ligament structures. If a “curative outcome” is being pursued, the device in conjunction with pain management and rehabilitation can create an optimal environment for the body to start the healing process without disruption.

It is common for splints to be applied in practice to support carpal hyperextension. Although the goal to support the limb in a non-extended position may be the same, the use of a custom orthosis has many benefits that a splint cannot provide. The use of an orthosis allows OrthoPets and the prescribing veterinarian to utilize our dynamic support system call “arthrodesis on demand.” This means the orthosis can allow unaffected joints free range of motion while locking out or restricting motions acting on the affected joint. A static cast does not give you the ability to gain a mechanical advantage without immobilizing unaffected anatomical joints.

For instance, when OrthoPets is presented with a carpal hyperextension injury, we can allow the carpus to retain carpal flexion while creating an artificial carpal hyperextension stop. Through this advanced biomechanical support system, the orthosis allows a healthy range of motion for the carpus joint and blocks the abnormal range of motion. OrthoPets can also allow the paw to articulate in a normal weight bearing standing position. A traditional cast retains the paw in an abnormal, palmerflexed position. This causes an extreme limb length addition and also alters the ground reaction force vector. In addition, an orthosis can be removed to allow air flow to the limb and any skin concerns can be noticed and addressed immediately rather than at cast removal.

All materials used at OrthoPets are the same medical grade materials used in the human field of orthotics and prosthetics. These medical grade materials are used with specific intentions and are the best available material in the industry. Our plastics are light weight and durable. The foams we use to line the devices are “closed cell” and therefore waterproof, allowing our patients to not only enjoy water play but also continue to be supported during hydrotherapy if needed. Our foam has color changing properties that allows for the identification any areas of repeated pressure or friction. This creates an easy visual method for owners and veterinarians to quickly identify areas of skin concern before it becomes an actual sore. Our foam is also designed to conform to each individual patient’s topographical shape ensuring their device fits intimately and with increased comfort.

Take a look at our upcoming Introduction To Canine Rehabilitation Workshop here.

Dr Richmond Loh…he’s no fish out of water!

It’s hard to explain how impressive this week’s featured veterinarian is. Generous beyond explanation, talented and accomplished like you wouldn’t believe. He’s a pioneer in the world of aquatic medicine, and seriously, such a nice person. This week, we caught up with Dr Richmond Loh, but you may know him as The Fish Vet. 

How did you become The Fish Vet? 

I was and remain passionate about fish. When I was young, I wanted to study marine biology. However, there was so much competition in this field and I really wanted to study medicine as well,  so I ended up combining my two passions and viola…The Fish Vet was born. Upon graduation, I went straight into fish pathology, which no-one was really doing at the time (15 years ago). I was based at Mt Pleasant Laboratories, Tasmania as there is a large aquaculture industry there. Early in my career, I decided to sit my Australian & New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZCVS) Membership exams in both ‘Aquatic Animal Health’ and ‘Pathobiology’ concurrently (ED NOTE: who does that, right?! Amazing) and was the youngest Member to successfully pass the Aquatic stream. 

Do you have a favourite aquatic species to work with?

Not really. I am unique among fish vets as I work with both ornamental fish and in aquaculture. Because I am also trained in pathology, it really helps to gel these two fields together. On any day, I could work with pet koi and also in a public aquaria with sharks or in an educational institution that keeps fish for research. I could be treating an individual fish one minute and then helping a commercial operation diagnose and treat entire populations the next.

What have you found challenging about running your own business?

I am based in Perth and have large client base in Melbourne, which used to involve a lot of travel on a monthly basis. However, this was really difficult with a young family. I even used to try and get over there and back in 24 hours (red eye overnight Friday, and return to Perth Saturday night).  Now I am lucky to have representatives in a few locations on the east coast, which reduces the amount of travel for me. My team are incredibly talented and experienced in their fields and it’s great that they can be on the ground with our clients on the east coast. 

I also encounter the challenge of helping people understand what a fish vet is, and does – you know, that I am a ‘real vet’ and can perform acts of veterinary science. I’ve somewhat succumbed to being also known as “The Fish Doctor”.

How has fish medicine changed since you started? 

When I started, there was really no such thing as a fish vet. If a pet fish got sick, oftentimes it got flushed down the toilet. Nowadays, most fish vets are members of the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association. This means that there is much more sharing of information and standardisation of practices in aquatic medicine. We are now advancing veterinary medicine, rather than wasting time reinventing the wheel. WAVMA is very active in training vets and providing continuing education on a monthly basis. I spend a lot of late nights and early mornings helping with preparation for webinars that are streamed through WAVMA around the world, but it’s a labour of love, and so valuable for the profession. 

What about your greatest successes?

I was elected WAVMA president in 2012. This is a real source of pride for me as it was a big deal to have an Australian leading the profession worldwide, when we have such a small population (especially of fish vets!). I am also happy to be able to help fellow veterinarians worldwide with their aquatic endeavours.

Tell us about your decision to write a textbook. Was writing something you had always had an interest in? 

Initially, I started putting material together as part of my studies for memberships. I realised then how useful if was to have all this practical information in the one place. I started giving it away to vets and veterinary nurses as reference material to save them working out what is fact from fiction on the Internet. But eventually, the momentum grew and the decision was made to make it commercially available. The first is called ‘Fish Vetting Essentials’ and contains everything a GP vet would need in private or zoo practice. It is sometimes also called the ‘Red Book’ (because it’s red :)). More recently, I produced the ‘Black Book’ (aka ‘Fish Vetting Medicines – Formulary of Fish Treatments’). This is a formulary for aquatics. It includes information about drugs, doses and indications for use. I have also produced an instructional DVD (‘Fish Vetting Techniques and Practical Tips’) covering everything a vet would need to do with a fish; how to treat a pond, injections, weighing right through to lab testing, necropsies and sample collection. It can also be used as a client teaching tool, especially for the aquaculture industry.

Please also tell us about your new pathology service

When it comes to reading histology slides, it’s not just what’s on the slide that gives the diagnosis. The sampling technique, history and the correct positioning of organs in right orientation on the slide, that makes a difference. As a team of pure aquatic practitioners, we are able to work together to help our clients work through problems from start to finish. We offer more than just a diagnosis.

You sound very busy! How do you get it all done? 

I have a very supportive wife who indulges my passion and a family of supporters. I didn’t get here on my own. I have had a lot of colleagues help me, so I am trying to pay it forward – I want to support the fraternity and in turn, have the fraternity be supportive of fish veterinarians.

Can you please share your 3 top tips for a GP vet who might get asked a fish question?

– don’t refer the client to the pet shop

– treat the fish like a ‘normal’ pet and collect a thorough medical history and do as much of an examination as possible

– give me a call! I also offer free youtube videos about fish procedures or you can join WAVMA – it’s like VIN for fish vets!

What advice would you have for vets who are interested in working with fish as a career?

If you get offered a job, take it. You can do the continuing education later. Experience is hard to come by. Take the job, learn on the job and do the continuing education while you work. And of course, join WAVMA.

Helping your ‘Best Mates’; isn’t that what its all about?

Seriously…how amazing is our veterinary community?! It is filled with people who give, and care, and strive to do better. Dr Jason Rapke and his wonderful team at Glen Iris Veterinary Clinic are going above and beyond everyday. They have created the incredible charity, ‘Best Mates’. ‘Best Mates’ offers free veterinary treatment and emergency pet boarding for people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness and who are struggling in life. We caught up with founder, Dr Jason Rapke, to learn more about him and the charity that is changing the lives of people and pets in Melbourne.

What are your interests inside the clinic?

My interests inside the clinic are reasonably broad but certainly abdominal ultrasound, echocardiography, minimally invasive surgery (laparascopic surgery) as well as general surgery would be areas of interest. I also enjoy the challenge of being an effective leader to the staff I work with.

What do you love about your clinical role?

It’s a job that is mentally stimulating, can be very emotionally rewarding and in which, there are endless opportunities to develop skills and knowledge. 

You are also kicking goals outside the clinic. What inspired you to start the incredibly worthwhile organisation, ‘Best Mates’?

We were doing a lot of work developing our clinic culture and one of the important things that came out of those discussions is that we wanted to give back to our community. Around the same time I had noticed a number of dogs on the streets of Melbourne living with people who appeared homeless. I made some enquires and the Salvation Army Crisis Centre and Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda. Both organisations were keen for a program to be launched that could help the animals of people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. The rest, as they say, is history. 

How long has the ‘Best Mates’ program been running?

Best Mates has been up and running for almost 12 months now. We run a ‘pet clinic’ on the first Sunday of every month in St Kilda and also take referrals for emergency cat boarding and other more urgent or complex veterinary procedures that need to be done at a vet clinic. 

How has your operation developed since starting out?

The clinic now operates far more efficiently than it did at the start (when we just turned up and just hoped we’d be able to help those who came to see us). We now have a dedicated team of volunteers and systems in place to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. Our focus is very much on the alleviation of pain and suffering and preventative health care. 

What have been your greatest challenges in starting, operating and maintaining your charity?

Fundraising! The effort required to do the veterinary work at the charity pales in comparison to the amount of administrative and fundraising work required to keep it going. 

What about your greatest successes?

Our greatest success has been building trust with the community of clients and patients who we help. 

What do you hope to achieve in the future with this program?

The program will hopefully continue to grow and over time, I hope that we can expand the service to help more people in more ways. 

What help do you need to make this happen?

We currently have a crowd funding campaign through Give Now and we of course would be extremely grateful to anyone who can donate to support the charity. Other things that vets and nurses can do to help would be to fundraise on our behalf; donate near expired medications (especially vaccinations, worming treatment and antibiotics and pain relief); and volunteer to help on the day of the pet clinics or through taking on pro-bono work at their clinic (for example, performing a certain number of free de-sexings per year on behalf of the charity). 

What advice would you have for vets who are interested in working with, or are faced with, guardians and pets in crisis?

I think most vets grow very astute about how to manage these circumstances over time, as dealing with clients who have cost constraints is something we face on a day-to-day basis. My advice would be always listen and show respect at the beginning. Trust must be earned and once it is, everything is easier after that point. Many people who are facing difficult times are particularly sensitive to the needs of their pets and become very stressed at the thought of not being able to give them the necessary treatment. Under difficult circumstances, I think it’s particularly important to describe any options available to an owner from the perspective of ‘how will each of these options effect the animals quality of life’. 

Congratulations on your success thus far, and all our best wishes for continued success and expansion in the future! If you would like to donate to ‘Best Mates’, please click here. Follow the charity on Facebook here.

A life less ordinary…meet the wonderful Dr Cathy Warburton

There are some members of our veterinary community who are a just an inspiration and a joy to be around. Dr Cathy Warburton is one of our favourites and has an insight that improves the lives of everyone she meets. Dr Warburton is a very experienced veterinarian and manager, and now veterinary wellness consultant and coach. We are honoured to feature her on the blog today.

What inspired you to change your career trajectory?

I have always been interested in the way people think – I spent a number of years of my youth reading about serial killers and trying to understand why they made the decisions they did! When managing and training people in an emergency and critical care (ECC) setting, I saw the importance of developing systems and processes which supported people to do great work. I was always struck by the fact that there are big differences between people in terms of their resilience and well-being. So, when I had the opportunity to do some formal study in this area – I leapt at it. I thought that you could teach people resilience and well-being and now I know that to be true. It is time to put thought into action.

What were the greatest challenges you encountered when working with members of the veterinary community when you were in the clinic environment?

As a generality, I love the type of people that are attracted to work in the industry. Anybody who has worked in ECC will understand that the greatest challenge is reliably having people ready, willing and able to do shift work and provide high quality care to both the pet and the client. Working in a referral environment is great as you get to interact with so many people in the industry.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered when working with members of the veterinary community now that you are outside of the clinic environment? Are they different? Do you feel that you are different now?

Interestingly, after a life-time of reactive, fire-brigade medicine, I now want to be really pro-active and establish good habits in our veterinarians and veterinary nurses – right from the get-go. I haven’t had time yet to come up against significant challenges but I would like the focus to be on early education and intervention rather than waiting until people are suicidal and then trying to intervene.

What have you found most fulfilling in your new role?

That one is easy – it is definitely witnessing peoples’ aha moments – the moments when thoughts, beliefs and assumptions are challenged and new ways of doing things are considered.

What do you hope to achieve in the future with this type of program?

I want to see more veterinary professionals leading a happy and meaningful life. The flow-on effect will be better outcomes for the animals we service.

What do you feel vets generally do well when it comes to well-being?

We generate a lot of satisfaction from helping animals and people and this is great for our well-being. We tend to big achievers and this also contributes to our well-being. We are well-read and smart – we have read a lot of the stuff that tells us what we need to do for our well-being. Actually doing it… well that can be a different matter, especially when we start feeling pressured.

Where do you feel we need some help when it comes to improving our well-being?

Regular sleep, exercise, healthy food and maintaining personal relationships all help us when we are feeling stress. Don’t drop them! Sometimes we put so much emphasis on standing on our own two feet and being independent, that we don’t ask for help when we need it. A problem shared is a problem halved.

What advice would you have for vets who are in crisis, or suspect a colleague is having a difficult time?

If it’s you – go back to basics. There are simple things that you can do to make you feel better. A nice way to remember them is the acronym CLING – cling on to your mental health. This stands for Connect, Learn, (get) Into action, Notice and Give. (There is a nice visual you can print out on my web-site – www.makeheadway.com.au) If these are not enough, seek professional help. This is a sign of strength not weakness. If it is someone you know – spend time with them, talk with them and ask them if they are OK? Suggest they seek professional help.

Could you please share your top tip for winding down at the end of a busy day at work?

I tend to end up with a brain full of to-do lists. Writing these down helps to get the list out of my brain and therefore my thoughts. Then I like a nice activity that takes all my attention so I stop thinking about work and start thinking about home – sometimes it’s a nice pot of freshly-brewed tea with my husband and sometimes it’s taking my dog to the park across the road and chatting to other pet-owners or watching the birds (being chased by the dog). Lying on the ground and listening to Pachelbels’ Canon is another favourite.

Ready to change your life for the better?

Dr. Warburton is an inspiration to us at VetPrac and we hope that her wisdom will inspire you as well. If you are ready to change your life and reach your potential, VetPrac will be offering the chance to work with Dr Warburton in October. Due to popular demand, her amazing 6-week, online ‘High Achievers Program’ will be offered again in October. Class size is limited to 10 participants and registrations open on August 10. Visit www.vetprac.com for more information.