5 ideas to revitalize your practice

Stuck in a rut? Here are 5 simple ideas that will help revitalize you and your practice.

Integrative veterinarians are a diverse bunch. We see multiple species and offer modalities that range from ancient to cutting edge. We are not immune, however, to feeling stuck in a “practice rut” at certain points. Do you feel like you are no longer learning or being challenged? Have patient outcomes plateaued? Do you feel like you’re operating on autopilot? You’re certainly not alone, and there are a few things to keep in mind as you work toward giving your practice the revitalization it needs to thrive.

Practice does not always make perfect

It’s a common assumption that the longer one is in practice, the more proficient one becomes. However, some studies actually reveal the opposite: time in practice is inversely proportional to outcome. Why this paradox? If we dig a little deeper, some usable information emerges that can help us give our clinic – and our minds – a boost.

1. It’s really hard to stay current

The importance of being up to date with scientific and technological advancements and their use is critical. Interestingly, hospitalists with higher caseloads had better outcomes irrespective of their time in practice. Researchers explain that this is less about patient numbers and more about maintaining ongoing experience recognizing and treating acute illnesses using current best practices. For my practice, I do a literature review every month on my primary focus areas including herb-drug interactions and contraindications. As feeling isolated is also a risk factor for practice stagnation and dissatisfaction, consider joining an online forum or network, take CE’s that you enjoy, or subscribe to email lists that send current research. All are potential ways to lighten the load of doing everything yourself and interact with colleagues in a supportive manner. Create an online file of articles you find helpful and invite others to view and contribute.

2. Cross train with new modalities and teachers

Training with diverse teachers is an important part of my own practice. I have learned amazingly helpful skills from training courses for non-veterinary practitioners. It complements my own education and provides me with new tools I can utilize with my patients. We all tend to have our favorite teachers and styles, and approaches used by those trained elsewhere can lend a fresh perspective. If you’d like to work more with supplements or herbs, look into suppliers that drop ship or have patient fulfillment services if stocking inventory is limited by space or budget.

3. Improved patient outcomes are directly related to time in practice in specialties that require manual dexterity

Acupuncturists not only have significantly improved tactile and fine motor skills over time due to increases in key brain areas, but also have better emotion regulation. The longer the time in practice, the better the abilities. I’m right handed, but have to acupuncture left handed at times for patient comfort. I’ve found the more I practice switching hands, the easier it is. Look for work activities or hobbies to continue cultivating these gifts.

4. It may be your patient population

More seasoned or specialist care providers often see more complex cases with an overall poorer prognosis. When I first began my practice, a typical client was one unfamiliar with the modalities I used but unwilling to euthanize their critically ill companion (“You are my last hope and if you can’t help, I have to euthanize the dog that saved my daughter’s life”). No pressure, right? There is no quick solution here – but looking at what types of patients comprise your practice load and evaluating if you still find them rewarding is a start. What might your ideal practice demographic look like?

5. Heal thyself

We are often the last group to utilize ourselves what we champion in our practices. If visiting a care provider isn’t feasible at this time, studies show sitting quietly for 15 minutes a day can be transformative for lowering stress, reducing anxiety, and improving memory. Take lameness exams outside or simply take 5 minutes to walk a dog.

Alarmingly, veterinarians are at significantly higher risk of suicide than the general population due to complex occupational stressors, depression, and burnout. The nonprofit organization Not One More Vet provides multiple avenues of assistance including an online support group, and the AVMA has a list of mental well-being resources for veterinarians. It’s imperative that we continue to prioritize our health and support one another. In fact, it’s a matter of life or death.

Be well, friends.

Previous articleIntegrated approaches to canine cancer: Mitigation of treatment side effects
Next articleMorris Animal Foundation — Golden Retriever Lifetime Study
Dr. Cheryl Cross is a veteran of both academic and private practice integrative veterinary medicine. While working as an Anatomic Pathologist investigating marine mammal and wildlife disease, a tremendous response as an acupuncture patient began her journey into training and practicing complementary modalities. Her small animal specialty practice incorporates acupuncture, LASER therapy, medical massage and myofascial work, Chinese and Western botanical medicine, and physical rehabilitation. Her veterinary training background includes IVAS, the Chi Institute, Colorado State, CIVT, and the Canine Rehabilitation Institute. She was the first veterinarian to be trained and certified in Japanese style palpation-based acupuncture through Harvard Medical School’s Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Program and has studied dry needling and biomedical acupuncture with Dr. Yun-Tao Ma. In 2011, she co-founded the Integrative Medicine Service at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and provided student education and clinical service until 2015. Her specialty practice in Knoxville TN aims to provide down-to-earth and evidence-informed care that honors the roots of traditional medicine.