Setting Clear Expectations

How do you maximise the best return on your education? Both culturally AND financially…
What key leadership principles are required to successfully implement lasting change?
What changes do YOU need to make in order for your practice to reach its full potential??

Dr Gary Turnbull from Lincoln Institute, a boutique leadership company, is here with Vlog 2 to discuss how to set expectations and apply the skills you’ve learnt to your advantage. Curious about how you can succeed? Click below to watch Vlog 2! If you missed out on the first one, head here to catch up.

Education Investment Lincoln Institute

Money Talks and So Should We

“Like it or not (mostly not) talking money is the vet care team’s responsibility – from the estimate of costs of care through to the actual payment.  The discussion can vary and be fraught with guilt, awkwardness and no eye contact, to being too clinical and abrupt about the whole thing.

It’s easy to talk about set-price services, like a vaccination, and more difficult when there’s a case in hospital where the care has had to increase or change. Then you need to communicate the health information to the owner, as well as why the invoice is blowing out and they need to rejig their budget this month.

Charging for what we do doesn’t mean we don’t care, and yet it astonishes me how guilty we, as in the vet care health team, feel about it. If we don’t charge for what we do, the practice where we work won’t exist, we won’t have jobs, and the next set of patients that need us won’t have us.

I’ve worked in places where the veterinarian isn’t allowed to touch the bill – we apparently couldn’t be trusted to charge appropriately.  Nurses did the entire invoice. If you wanted something taken off the bill (and it was a service/treatment that had been provided) then you had to go to head-honcho and ask for it to be removed. With very good reasons. For the most part you learnt to talk to owners about money pretty rapidly.

Talking money should just be like another procedure really. My husband had his cruciate surgery appointment with a private orthopaedic specialist. After the doctor examined him, declared that he would fix the knee better than God had made it in the first place (eye roll: surgeons) we were sent out to see his PA. The PA gave us the handout about the surgery, the run down on the days in hospital/rehab expected, and then the costs to us, when payment was expected, and how payment could be made.  It was just another thing in the list of things we needed to know.

Rehab weekly: check, payment fortnightly: cheque!

We absolutely should be mindful of costs and our client’s expectations. After all, you and I know money doesn’t grow on trees. But if we don’t have these conversations, then we don’t know what our client’s expectations or budgets are, and cannot possibly hope to serve them the best way that we can.

Money talks, and so should we.” – Dr Sandra Ngyuen 

If you’d like to learn how to navigate difficult clinical encounters with confidence, please join us for the Navigating Difficult Clinical Encounters Training Seminar on October 15th – 17th, 2018 in Sydney with three of the most supportive, intelligent and experienced veterinarians – Dr Sandra Nguyen, Dr Cathy Warburton, and Dr Anne Fawcett. Register HERE! For more information check out the brochure.

Ilana Mendels: I was a participant at a VetPrac workshop!

Dear Colleagues,

I just had the most invigorating week!

For a change, I was the one in the learning seat at the Introduction to Canine Rehabilitation VetPrac Workshop.

Having graduated 15 years ago and been out of practice for two while moving home, having a baby and managing the business I was surprised by how much I remembered! The content of the Rehabilitation Workshop I went to was very different to how we learned at university and the way all the information was consolidated and able to be put into context for clinical practice got me excited. I actually felt like I could go back into a clinic and be useful to the employer and help their business grow as a result of my extra training.

You might be thinking, I’m just saying this, after all it’s my business – why wouldn’t I say it was good? Most people know we are usually our biggest critics! That’s true for me, for sure! But this year, VetPrac has a superb team of facilitators on board who are even better at organising than I am!!! I am so proud of the people who work with me every day building these workshops for our community. It was a pleasure to be on the receiving end of it for a change.




Also, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure of my faith in myself as a clinician. I was a little scared. Like so many of us, I have that little subconscious driver telling me I might not be good enough or have the memory or the skill to absorb and use the content on offer was whispering in my ear in the lead up to the workshop. In retrospect I can laugh, because the VetPrac workshops were actually always designed for vets like you and me. People who want to do a good job, and don’t want to do it for the first time on a patient after reading it in a book or on the web.

Take for example, the Perineal and Urogenital Surgery Workshop. This is a splendid mix of soft tissue surgery skills with a focus on the Caudal aspect of the body. In it we get to practice fine tissue dissections, muscular flaps, advanced suture techniques, work with mesh, organ surgeries, biopsies, anastomosis procedures and more! So many people have commented that these are soft tissue skills that can alleviate the struggle we face when presented with challenging cases.

If you haven’t organised your CPD for this year yet – check out the schedule HERE. This workshop ran for the first time in 2010 and has been improved on year after year to make it ever more interesting and relevant for our general practice environments. To register click HERE or to ask us more about any of our workshops please email or call us at your leisure. Don’t wait and don’t miss out!

Warm Regards,


Have You Ever Had A Colleague Trash Talk A Client?

“Have you ever worked in a setting where staff would act one way towards clients, yet bag them out as soon as they leave? Telling them one thing to their face: “you’re doing your best for Fluffy”, but turning around and telling colleagues “I can’t believe Mr Bloggs isn’t going to pursue treatment, people like that really shouldn’t have a dog.” Or worse.

You might feel like you’re taking the moral high ground, but toxic trash talking has major implications, none of which are good.

First, it creates and reinforces and us and them divide, where clients are seen as unknowing, irrational people who don’t deserve to care for animals, as opposed to the all-knowing, all-deserving veterinary team.

Second, it feels like a short-term score – by judging a client, we feel better about ourselves. But the judgement is based on a false-premise, and ultimately hurts the staff member doing it. Their interaction with clients is experienced as increasingly negative, yet interactions with clients can be the most rewarding aspect of our job.

Third, it sends a strong signal to your staff that it is acceptable to behave unprofessionally. Toxic trash talking is never limited to clients.

Finally, trash talking is a way of eschewing responsibility for cases. If Mr Bloggs isn’t doing his best for Fluffy, why did we tell him he was? If you know something Mr Bloggs doesn’t, why aren’t you sharing it with him? And what about Fluffy – can you really improve the welfare of a patient if you’re actively disrespecting the client, the person who cares for that animal 24/7 and will be in charge of implementing treatment?

Trash talking in the short term can represent a brief bonding over a common woe, but longer term it compromises our ability to help animals, and erodes our career satisfaction.” – Dr Anne Fawcett

Have you experienced an awkward encounter like this where you might like to speak up but feel you can’t? There are tools and ways of understanding colleagues, clients and your relationships to better under people and situations. If you’d like learn how to navigate these difficult clinical encounters with confidence, please join us this October 15th – 17th for the Navigating Difficult Clinical Encounters training Seminar in Sydney with three of the most supportive, intelligent and experienced veterinarians Dr Sandra Nguyen, Dr Cathy Warburton, and Dr Anne Fawcett.


Struggling with rear end encounters? Dr Peter Delisser Can Help!

Dr Peter Delisser has always been interested in using his hands to make and fix things, so it wasn’t surprising that within a few years of graduating, his interest in veterinary science quickly turned to all things surgical. He particularly likes the surgeries he can do and immediately see a difference, like urogenital surgery.

Pete is joining the VetPrac education team this year at the Perineal and Urogenital Surgery Workshop at Gatton on August 24-25th August, and we can’t wait to share his passion for urogenital surgery.

In the meantime, let’s get to know Pete a little better:

What inspired you to become a veterinarian and then go onto specialize in surgery?

I have always been interested in the ability to use my hands to make things and fix things. My initial interest in veterinary science has always been based on my interest in the surgical side of things. Ever since seeing a radius/ulnar fracture repair at a family friend’s veterinary practice and watching this dog go from non-ambulatory to ambulatory the following day, I knew I wanted a large part of my working life to be doing something similar. General practice did not provide the surgical caseload I was after, so this is why I pursued surgical specialisation.

Do you have a favourite surgery or procedure that you like to perform?

Like everyone, I like the surgeries I can do and immediately see a difference. For example, performing surgery on an incontinent dog with ectopic ureters and seeing an immediate improvement in the level of continence. Similarly, I also love a nice challenging fracture repair where the dog can quickly use its leg postoperatively, where it was non-weight bearing preoperatively.

In your own words, what is it about perineal and urogenital surgery that you find interesting and that you believe general practitioners would benefit from learning from and performing better?

The perineal region is an area with clear and important anatomy and understanding this underlying anatomy is key to achieving successful outcomes with all urogenital and perineal surgery. General practitioners should hopefully leave this course with a greater understanding of the perineal and urogenital anatomy, including neurovascular supply and functional relevance and contribution to the diseases we commonly see.

What practical surgical tips that you learned from experience would you share with general practitioners?

Be gentle. Remember Halsted’s principles. Use atraumatic forceps (Debakey’s) or stay sutures when handling urothelium.

Tell us a little about your PhD project.

I studied the response of bone cells to mechanical loading and how that response is adversely affected in bone of old animals. It was primarily a research topic aimed at characterising the deficient response to mechanical loading in elderly people, in efforts to control the incidence of osteoporosis and improve treatment options by providing better/additional therapeutic targets.

In your opinion, what makes a great workplace?

The people. You can have excellent facilities, but without people who you work well with and enjoy being around, these facilities mean little. (Having the toys is also somewhat essential for a surgeon…)

What do you like to do for fun? How do you spend your days off?

Back in the day, my days off involved outdoor pursuits (e.g. hiking and skiing) and catching up with mates at the pub. Now I have kids, most of my spare time is spent playing with them! When they’re a bit older, I hope I can convert them to the wonders of hiking and skiing.

To learn more about perineal surgery from Pete and maybe even share an ale with him at the workshop dinner (for old times’ sake) why not register HERE for the Perineal and Urogenital Workshop at Gatton on August 24-25, 2018.

Dr Peter Delisser can be contacted at
Veterinary Specialist Services – Underwood
Phone: (07) 3841 7011
Fax: (07) 3841 7022

Written by Alison Caiafa

Building Dreams… Meet Dr Cathy Warburton!

Cathy wrote about why someone would need a wellbeing coach on our blog in December 2016. Recently I caught up with Cathy and found out what she’s been doing in both work and play. I discovered that Cathy is a huge giver; she believes that personal achievements are great, but helping others whilst growing yourself is even better.

The first hint I got about Cathy’s giving nature was when I asked Cathy to list the organisations she’s been involved with, her awards and acknowledgements. Her answer says it all: “This is not what you probably are looking for here, but I am and have been an active volunteer over many years – a breast-feeding counsellor, English tutor, facilitator of secular ethics classes for primary school kids, helped out with organisations associated with my kids and currently am a volunteer humanist pastoral carer at a major Melbourne hospital and, of course, an AVA new graduate mentor.”

She finished by stating “Achievements are great – but helping others whilst growing yourself is even better 😊”

I then asked her to tell our readers about her wellbeing business Make Headway, and how it had evolved over recent years.

She answered “Make Headway is focused on advancing veterinary mental health and well-being. Happy, healthy, self-aware veterinary professionals build and evolve careers that are personally meaningful, and congruent with their strengths and interests. This is the pathway to sustainable success and fulfilment – both for the individual and the team they are part of.  Myself and Cheryl Fry are both veterinary coaches and we provide individual and small group coaching and education – facilitating greater self-knowledge and development of the non-technical competencies which support us to effectively utilize our clinical skills and knowledge – competencies such as mindset, emotional intelligence, self-care skills, resilience, confidence and interpersonal communication. The business is continuing to grow as more and more people understand the link between well-being, engagement and success”.

We then moved on to the subject of what makes a great workplace.

Cathy considers that “a great workplace always starts with great leaders. We need leaders that support, encourage, empower and connect their teams. Leaders who understand that people’s life outside work is also important. Teams whose opinions are valued, who are trusted, given responsibility and shown appreciation will provide a great service to animals and clients. Combine this with sensible long-term financial decisions and you have a recipe for success.”

I asked Cathy whether, in her opinion, veterinary students receive adequate training in non-clinical “life” skills before they graduate, and what advice she would give new graduates?

“In a word, no! But, there is a growing emphasis on these generic, non-veterinary skills in our vet degrees – and this will help to tackle the mental health problems we have in the industry. We want veterinary students to understand the importance of creating healthy patterns of thinking and living as soon as they start their degree. Leading a healthy, balanced life and growing your non-technical competencies is way more important than getting a HD in anatomy or parasitology!

For new graduates, yes – you need to be able to do stuff and know where to find the information you need – but your ability to communicate with clients and your colleagues, to look after yourself and to recover when things go awry is key. Keep growing in these areas.

And last but definitely not least, what does Cathy do for fun and how does she spend her days off?

“I love being in nature. I do a spot of eco-wildlife tour-guiding for fun.

I love dinner with my family and cuppas or bike-rides with the girls.

I love travelling.

I love sitting in bed on a weekend morning, chatting with my husband, reading the paper and drinking a cup of tea. Actually, I love tea – it has to be brewed in a pot and quite milky. A tea bag doesn’t cut it.

Doing yoga or mindfully listening to music is also guaranteed to lift my mood.

The best day off for me is going for a walk in the bush with family or friends and seeing whether I can spot a koala or work out what bird is calling. The day should end in a café or pub because I also love food (and did I mention that I love tea?). If I can string a few of these days together in a row – that is heaven”

VetPrac is fortunate to have Cathy as an educator at the Navigating Difficult Clinical Encounters Conference on October 15-17, 2018, but, as you can see from her words, Cathy has so much more to offer than just knowledge. Why not come along and experience Cathy’s giving nature first hand. You won’t regret it! Register here.

PS VetPrac staff please remember to pack a tea pot and loose tea leaves in the hospitality kit!!!

Dr Cathy Warburton can be contacted at or

Written by Alison Caiafa

Have You Ever Had A Client Ignore You?

“I recall a clinical case where two older, no-nonsense, sensible looking ladies presented a paraplegic dachshund – let’s call this dog Fritz (not an uncommon name for a male Dachy). After taking a history and doing a physical examination, I spoke to them about the severity of the presentation and that we needed to consider work-up and probably surgery if we wanted Fritz to walk again. The ladies butted in and said oh no, that is not what our doggie chiropractor, Harry, said. Harry did some work on Fritz and said we should start swimming him and it will all be fine. Do you know Harry they said? He is a fine man and a wonderful chiropractor. Everybody loves him. Fritz loves him.

I was incredulous. I was angry. I felt powerless.

Why were these ladies wasting my time? They clearly felt that I was neither a fine person nor a wonderful vet. I was just somebody to be ignored. Why did they bother bringing in Fritz if they had no intention of listening to my recommendations? And what was to become of Fritz? The ladies obviously cared for him but nothing I said made an iota of difference to their plan to take Fritz home and start swimming him.

Many years later, I still imagine poor Fritz desperately trying to keep himself above the water with the two legs that worked. I wonder what happened and I wonder if I could have handled this differently and got a better outcome for Fritz?” – Dr Cathy Warburton

Have you ever experienced a clinical encounter like this? These situations are not uncommon in the clinic and can be difficult to manage, especially when we want the best outcome for everyone. If you’d like learn how to navigate difficult clinical encounters with confidence, please join us this October 15th – 17th in Sydney with three of the most supportive, intelligent and experienced veterinarians Dr Sandra Nguyen, Dr Cathy Warburton, and Dr Anne Fawcett. Register TODAY!


Don’t worry- he’s got your back…Meet Dr. James Simcock

Growing up in high school, Dr. James Simcock didn’t know what he wanted to be. It wasn’t until a vet came to a careers night when James was in year 12 that he even considered choosing veterinary science as a profession. James states “they made it sound really appealing so I decided that I would try it. When I was at uni I changed my mind at least a dozen times with what I wanted to do. First, I wanted to be an aquaculture vet, then an equine vet, then a cattle vet. I ultimately decided on small animals. I then found myself doing an internship that developed into a residency in surgery. I think to some degree I have been in the right place at the right time. Regardless of how I got to where I am, I think I’m very lucky as I’ve found something that I love to do”.

Dr. Simcock is an owner and co-director of Southpaws Specialty Surgery for Animals in Victoria. He considers that a great workplace is the result of great staff. James believes that without his team of nurses and vets, they would not be able to do what they do. “We pride ourselves on not having any egos at the hospital. We often say that while we take what we do very seriously, we don’t take ourselves very seriously. Being a vet/vet nurse can be incredibly stressful; having a culture that allows humour and where everyone is treated equally helps to mitigate this stress and helps to bring out the best in peoples’ character.”


In addition to regular staff, Dr. Simcock’s clinic also takes on many residents and interns. When asked about advice for people looking for internships he says “I think the best tip I have is to spend time at the practice/hospital where you are hoping to get a job. Many of our interns are students/vets that have spent time at the practice. Spending time at the practice is mutually beneficial as it gives the candidate an opportunity to see what the hospital is like and to show off their skills/knowledge; it also allows the employer to see how well the candidate fits in and works within the team”.

As well as all the amazing surgery he performs, teaching is also a large part of his job. He says that he gets a lot out of seeing people learn and develop their skills and being able to implement this knowledge into their practice. James states “I love getting emails and phone calls from people that have used some of the knowledge or a technique that I have taught them and had a successful outcome with a case. I also recognise that referral is not an option in a lot of cases, for a variety of reasons. I think it is important to put back into the industry to help people develop their skills and knowledge so that the standard of veterinary medicine is elevated across the board. In doing this, outcomes are improved, patients get the best care, vets have reduced stress levels and clients are happier”.

He’s done many “nerve-wracking” surgeries but his favourite one remains the good old hemilaminectomy/ventral slot for IVDD. James states “it’s one of the most rewarding procedures. Nothing like having a dog walk again after they present with severe neurological deficits”. Dr. Simcock has published many papers on neurological, gastrointestinal, urological, and oncology surgery, and has a special interest in orthopaedic surgery as well.
For such a fun loving successful surgeon, he still manages to stay humble stating his favourite quote, “You are judged not by the magnitude of your successes but how you deal with your failures.” Also, sometimes he just really wants to get where he is going and so if he could have any super hero power in the world, it would be teleportation.

Staying motivated and focused can be a challenge in any profession, let alone trying to create a good work life balance. Having a balance between work, family and fun is really important to James. “I find myself becoming less productive professionally if I’m not able to take time to spend with my family and hobbies” he says. He has a lot of hobbies, and many of his loved ones and friends often mock him for his garage full of toys. To unwind you may find him in the water trying to catch dinner, in the water surfing a wave or just getting out for a run.

What a well-rounded guy with a ton of life experience to share!

VetPrac couldn’t be happier that Dr. James Simcock is returning to VetPrac as an educator at the Perineal and Urogenital Surgery Workshop in 2018. We look forward to seeing him soon! Register for the workshop today, or click to read more information.

James can be contacted at or (03)9553 1775

Interviewed by Alena Felkai
Edited by Alison Caiafia

We Care About Your Success – Introducing Lincoln Institute

One thing we love here at VetPrac, is watching our attendees succeed in the workplace as a result of the skills they’ve developed at one of our practical workshops. We care deeply about your triumphs and successes, and wish all the happiness upon your business, life, and well-being. That’s why we’re incredibly excited to be partnering up with Lincoln Institute, a boutique leadership development company that shares in those values.

You may have heard of them before, and if you haven’t, then you should! Lincoln Institute combines the teaching of the Australian Graduate School of Management MBA program, The Royal Military College Duntroon officer training school and many years of operational experience both in corporate and veterinary business, to provide training and education to small and medium businesses. Lincoln provides veterinary practices with a significant competitive edge through greater staff engagement, accountability and retention as well as the successful execution of sound business strategy.

Over the coming months we’ll be sharing a series of vlogs from the mind behind Lincoln Institute, Dr Gary Turnball, that focus on how you can get the best return out of your VetPrac education and use it to your advantage. Curious about how you can succeed? Watch the video here to find out more!

Lincoln Institute Vlog 1

Vet Client Relationships In The Clinic: Cost vs Care

How do we build better vet client relationships?

Did you know.. Pet owners’ expectations that animal care considerations should come before cost considerations, combined with data that suggest provision of cost information is often lacking or not discussed early during a visit, create a paradox for veterinarians when confronting the topic of costs of care. If too much emphasis is placed on costs and compensation, the veterinarian may be accused of being mercenary (ie,“in it for the money”), which may impair the veterinarian client relationship. Conversely, if too little information regarding costs and compensation is provided, clients may feel unprepared, uninformed, and vulnerable, which can result in detrimental consequences for animal care…*.

Would you like to find out more? This October 15th-17th is the Navigating Difficult Clinical Encounters Workshop. Join specialists in Ethics, Oncology and Well Being as we discuss the research and techniques which contribute to the most difficult situations we face. Options are available to attend one, two or the full three days! Register here or please check out the brochure for more information.

*Factors that influence small animal veterinarians’ opinions and actions regarding cost of care and effects of economic limitations on patient care and outcome