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Gradtrack- Supporting your new grad as a team

"I want to be able to support my new grad in both clinical, professional development areas and with wellbeing”  

Following our interactive webinar on supporting your new grad as a team, we've pulled together insights from our Gradtrack coaches and the VDS Training community to create ten top takeaways for developing new graduates in an array of practice settings.  

So, why have you employed a new graduate or want to employ a new grad? Is it to expand a practice, invigorate a practice with new ideas, or can you not recruit an experienced vet? We are often approached by practices who want to support a new graduate but are worried about having the time to do it properly. Our Gradtrack programme can help relieve some of the pressures of supporting a new grad and provide structured CPD for them and you as their boss!  

What are the Challenges Faced by New Grad Employers and Their Team?

 “They don’t know what they don’t know yet! Both of you finding out what this entails seems a bit of a hit and miss journey sometimes, usually with a few near misses along the way”

These challenges commonly fall into two categories- time and expertise. Let’s explore why we experience these challenges so frequently? 

Time. As busy senior veterinary professionals time is a precious resource and the unpredictability of time allocated to supporting a new grad can add a challenging dimension to your day.  

Expertise. Do you know how to best support a new grad? Sometime well-meaning conversations can go awry, leaving us with a tendency to ignore timely conversations and allow things to grumble on. The avoidance of key issues and conversations is often because of concerns about how the graduate might feel if we broach something.  

So, how can we help? Here are our top ten tips for supporting your new grads as a team 

1 The Proactive Pursuit of 4 Outcomes

Have you heard of the colourful philosophy? The proactive pursuit of the following four outcomes helps both graduates and us understand the breadth of areas that need to be developed in the team. It's not all about the clinical stuff!

  1. Clinical resolution- to prevent and resolve disease 
  2. Contribution to client satisfaction- clients agreeing that we deliver the right solutions, and at a fair price 
  3. Financial resolution- billing, re-booking, and getting things paid for 
  4. Colleague satisfaction- helping graduates and staff to reduce their stress through minimising uncertainty and urgency across practice scenarios 

To help support this philosophy it is useful to think about the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are required by your new grad (and the whole team!).  

For instance, for skills in client satisfaction, we might be looking for new graduates to use fewer, better words in conversation to aid communication and time management in consults or calls. Watch the webinar back to hear more from Brain Faulkner on this.  We can use this colourful philosophy chart to aid shared responsibility for the development of new members of the team. However, this can only be realised successfully if you commit to the following: 

2 Get Graduate Buy In

Set your expectations for them in skills, client satisfaction, financial resolution and team work. Write your expectations down. Are they tangible, factual and realistic? Check these with your graduate. Speak with your new grads and see what their goals are for their first three months, six months and a year. Ask them questions- don’t just tell them what you want. Check in again at three, four, and six months to determine whether you are on track as a team. What is next on the development desires for both parties? 

Don’t forget that learning practice processes also takes time. A new graduate is a two-year investment, right? 

3 Timely Advice and Feedback

We hear a lot that bosses are planning on talking to their new grad about something and may have left it weeks to have the conversation! The emotion will have passed, and the graduate will be confused and new things will have happened since. Providing reassurance and feedback doesn’t have to wait until a big appraisal. Do you capture moments throughout the day to check in with your new grad? These moments can be a quick call, a chat over a cuppa or a discussion before the next group of consults or calls. Check in to find out what’s working, or what’s not working for them that day. 

What about if your graduate is on the road? Do you foster the opportunity for your new graduate to phone an experienced member of the team pre and post calls? Do they have any opportunity to go over their plan of action and receive timely feedback when out on call? Have you discussed expectations, so everyone is clear on who and when to phone? These are all factors which need to be considered. 

One solution could be a WhatsApp group- this is a great way to boost team moral, have some fun and learn from one another too! 

4 Creating Consistency

Stress= uncertainty x urgency. How are you supporting this equation?  

As bosses we need to be constantly reassuring or re-directing our new grads. The more we can contain that uncertainty and manage time, the more we will do to decrease the pressure of urgency. This benefits everyone in the team, not just the newest members! 

Have you tried creating more consistency for your new graduate in mixed practice? A morning of consults and then an afternoon on farm may mean your graduate is always rushing and worrying about the next session. Having set days for small animal and farm work could be a useful way forward. 

5 Share the Load

Remember, a new graduate’s development doesn’t just rest on the shoulders of the partners or clinical leads. Think about how you can ensure you share the responsibility. Think about who else in the practice has both the skills and the time to be the supportive coach and mentor.  

If your team are ambulatory, perhaps your new graduate could shadow every member of your vet team for a couple of weeks? This allows relationships and rapport to be built between members. It would be pretty daunting for the new graduate if the only interaction they have with other vets in the practice is in their initial interview, or if they have to ask them for help later! 

Empower your nurses! These team members are vital for your new graduate support system. Invest in the development of your nurse’s non-clinical skills to help them become proficient coaches and mentors. 

6 Get the Clients on Board

Do you tell your clients that you have a new graduate and you are excited to have them on board? Introduce your new graduate to the clients as they shadow you. These clients have a role to support the new graduate too. By introducing them to clients without any surrounding clinical stress, relationships can be built before the fear of their first emergency with them! 

If the clients know you have a new graduate, you can manage their expectations, such as taking a quick call to support them. Equally, remind them they might have to call the partners or team while they are with them too- 2 vets for the price of one! Never a bad thing.  

7 Protected Time to Talk

Pop 20 minutes in the diary every week for undisturbed time with your new grad. Make sure this is not just over lunch but is a designated time in both of your diaries. Get an hour one-on-one ring fenced once a month too. Look at your practice and find a time that works for the team. This may be first thing before consults starts, or in the afternoon. This will take thought and effort but if you don’t make adjustments you will not be able to provide the support you want for your new grad. This is part of our job. Short term choices for long term gain. 

8 Be Verbal and don't Leave the New Graduate Guessing

Use actions and specific examples in your feedback and reflective discussions. It is no good saying you are a good vet, keep going. What makes them a good?  

Some examples might include: 

“I liked your tissue handling in that last operation, your left-handed instrument handling is really coming along” 


“The way you dealt with the owner and her anxious dog was really effective at minimising wind up in both of them. Where did you learn that technique?”  

By being specific you minimise your graduate wondering if they are doing ok or not. Second guessing can lead to a drop in confidence for new graduates.  

9 Client Complaints? They're Part of the Process

Do you find yourself protecting your graduate against complaints? Be open and honest, we all get them. The trick is finding the time to allow the graduate to digest the information. What is the graduate and team going to learn from it? Does the complaint have any basis in fact, or is it emotionally driven? How can you help to enhance their client communication and customer service? Share your experiences too. 

10 Be Interested and Have Fun!

We spend the majority of our life at work so let’s make the most of it. New graduates can provide a breath of fresh air to a team. Be interested in them, what do they love? Do they like mountain biking? Can you hook them up with a new route or suggest a team social based on their interests. 

Join our Gradtrack, coaching and mentoring in practice day on 10th and 11th of April 2019 and discuss your challenges and plans with experienced equine and farm vets, and coaches Carolyne Crowe and Paul Horwood, as well as the superb small animal clinician and coach Brian Faulkner from SPVS. 

About VDS Training
VDS Training are passionate about developing all members of the veterinary team, to help you overcome the personal and professional challenges you face on a daily basis, and to build practical skills and techniques to make a real difference to you and your life.