I signed a contract with Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) in Tampa, Florida! I will be participating in Early Entry Track (EET), which is their six-month training program in emergency veterinary medicine. As a first-time applicant, there were many things that I took into account when applying for a job. So, I thought I would summarize what was important to me during my job search in the hopes that it will help someone out there. At the same time, I want to highlight key attributes of VEG that made my decision clear to join this incredible company.
Here are my top 5 things that I focused on when deciding where to work as a new grad veterinarian:
As veterinary students, we all know how important mentorship is to our success once we enter the workplace as new grad veterinarians. However, we have all heard the horror stories from our peers about jobs that promise mentorship but fail to uphold their promise. As I started my job search, I made mentorship the main pillar in my decision process and actively communicated this to my job prospects. I knew that veterinary school could not teach me everything I needed to know in four years. I also knew that I did not want to do an internship and residency. These two thought processes are what initially led me to VEG.
There are many fabulous veterinary clinics and hospitals that offer stellar mentorship to their new hires, but VEG stood out to me for their structured mentorship program that is EET. During EET, you are supported during your first six months of practice and have an emergency veterinarian to help guide you in the beginning stages of your career. This is hugely beneficial when just starting out as many of us have the knowledge base but lack the confidence to work efficiently and effectively as an emergency veterinarian. EET provides many opportunities, including hands-on endoscopy and surgical training, weekly journal club, daily case rounds, and much more. The greatest benefit of mentorship is to support you during challenging cases, times of insecurity, and arguably most important of all, during times of failure. This structured mentorship program helped make my decision to join VEG even easier, but there were other things I looked for during my job search that attributed to my choice.
2) Quality of Veterinary Experience
What kind of veterinarian do you want to be? Do you want to do emergency veterinary medicine? What about general practice? Mixed animal practice? Narrowing in on your interests is the best first step when starting the job hunt. If you want to perform surgery, then make sure to find a practice that will foster that interest. The same goes for all areas of interest, from endoscopy to acupuncture. It is important that your future practice either have someone who is trained in those specialties, or that they are willing to invest in your continuing education in these areas and your growth as a doctor.
Once I decided upon emergency medicine, I knew that I wanted to learn how to do life-saving surgical procedures under the guidance of a highly-trained mentor. During EET, you are on call for 5-6 nights per month for any surgical case that comes into the hospital. When you are called in, you perform the surgery under the supervision and guidance of the veterinarian working that evening. This really appealed to me because as EETs, we are given numerous opportunities to hone our surgical skills with a full team of support. The VEG training hospitals are BUSY, and from my conversations with current EETs, I am certain that my surgical confidence will grow exponentially during my six months of training.
3) WORK ENVIRONMENT
When you approach a job application, it is essential to have candid conversations with veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and support staff. Ask yourself: “How happy are the employees in your future practice? What do they have to say about their jobs?”
To me, my work environment is key to my overall mental health. I am not a fan of gossip, and I made this clear during my interview process.
VEG has a manifesto in which they highlight their values as a company. One part of the manifesto discusses what to do when you hear negative talk in a clinic and feel uncomfortable. First, let me say that gossip is human-nature and can be tough to avoid, especially in stressful work conditions. To account for this, VEG sends stuffed animal armadillos to all of their practices. When you hear this negative talk, you can say “armadillo” and pass the person a stuffed armadillo. I absolutely LOVED this concept, mostly because this company directly addressed an issue that I found in so many veterinary practices. I took it upon myself to find as many stuffed armadillos as I could during my externship with VEG in Tampa.
As I began to meet more VEG employees, it surprised me to find that all of them expressed immense job satisfaction and overall happiness. People loved to talk about VEG, their support of their employees, and the culture they had created in each hospital. Honestly, I found this so refreshing. I knew that even on my worst days as a doctor, the VEG community would support me.
Benefits are super important. It is essential that our job contracts detail company benefits that match our needs as we transition into our careers. As veterinary students, we often don’t think about things like retirement while in school. However, a retirement plan is a key benefit that I looked for while searching for a job. Aside from this, I focused on benefits such as health insurance, Continuing Education, maternity leave (at VEG they even offer paid paternity leave), and access to veterinary resources (e.g., Plumb’s).
I would also like to lump a non-compete clause into this category because this is something that catches many new grad veterinarians off guard. Be cognizant of the non-compete you sign. Is the radius from the hospital in sky miles? If you left the company, would you be forced to leave the city you are in to find work?
Always remember that you can negotiate your benefits and non-compete. If the contract doesn’t match your needs, then have a discussion with your future employer about contract revisions.
My contract with VEG matched my needs. Honestly, the benefits of working for this company are some of the best I have ever heard. They truly care about their employees, and this could not be more evident than in the benefits they provide their employees.
Before even starting your job search, write down the salary you are willing to accept. Hang the number on your wall so that you can see it every day. During contract negotiations, ask for that number. Obviously, there are limitations to this and it depends on what type of veterinary medicine you will practice. You deserve to make money for all of the time and effort you devoted to becoming a veterinarian. Do not be afraid you ask for what you want. You are worth it.
To dive into the different salary options for veterinarians would take an entirely different blog post. If you have questions, please ask for advice from the veterinary community.
As an EET at VEG, we all earn a guaranteed salary of $100k during our first year (six months of training + six months as an associate veterinarian). This is HUGE as the majority of veterinary internships historically pay around $30-40k per year. This salary makes it next to impossible to pay down student loans. *However, internships often are instrumental in a new grad’s professional growth, so I will never talk badly about them. I love all of my intern friends and respect their choices whole-heartedly.* That said, I am grateful that VEG offers the opportunity to receive similar structural guidance as an internship but during a shorter duration of time. Added bonus – we actually get paid like doctors while doing it.
This is not an exhaustive list of everything I looked for during my job search. However, these five things stood out to me as the most important when I made my decision. Each person and job opportunity is unique. At the end of the day, make the best decision for yourself and your professional growth. Visualize your life in five years and ask yourself if this job will help you get there. Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with VEG next year. This company checked all of my boxes, and their support during my clinical year has been a huge blessing. If you are interested in finding out more about VEG and EET, don’t hesitate to reach out.