Sarah Blau, a member of the Class of 2017 at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is sharing some of what she learns and experiences as a first-year veterinary student with readers of the CVM News Central Blog. Watch for these postings on a monthly basis.
You may think that a veterinary medicine education is all about science and animal health, and you would be mostly correct. But one often-overlooked aspect of a veterinary medicine practice gaining ground in the veterinary education curriculum is business management.
Many large and small animal vets will eventually own, buy into, or in some way help to operate a veterinary practice during their professional lives. A basic understanding of business practices is invaluable to many of us for our future careers. With this in mind, I chose to take an end-of-semester selective titled, Marketing Communication and Information Management in Veterinary Practice.
As the title suggests, this one-week selective focused on marketing and communication and in particular, how a veterinary practice presents information to its clients. The theme of the course revolved around building and maintaining a professional identity or “brand” and ways to consistently express that message. We spent some time identifying the qualities most important to us as individuals and discussing how to reflect those qualities through a practice’s public image. For example, I quickly realized that one quality I value highly is public education—it is one of the main reasons why I write this blog—so a veterinary practice that well-represents my professional identity would supply its clients with plentiful and reliable informational materials.
In fact, this selective got me thinking about what my own practice might look like and how I might best communicate with my future clients. One of the biggest challenges of any busy veterinary practice is to make sure clients gain accurate and understandable information about their pets, especially with regards to preventative medicine. Preventative medicine refers to the medical care of healthy animals so that they remain healthy, such as brushing their teeth or giving monthly heartworm preventative. Nowadays, there is so much information available online, much of it from questionable sources often promoting false claims, that it is incredibly important for veterinarians to direct clients to trustworthy sources or supply the information themselves.
I realized that the need for reliable information is not only at the clinic itself but also through its website and social media. In fact, the “brand” of a veterinary practice can be displayed through its online presence. Internet wonders like Facebook and YouTube are new tools that this generation of veterinarians can take advantage of to disseminate accurate information and to promote the best preventative care for pets. The best part of this communication technology is that as veterinary science advances and we learn more about animal diseases and treatments, new information can be made available to clients almost immediately via the web.
I strongly believe that the more informed a person is, the better decisions he or she will make, particularly with regards to caring for pets. And in times of sickness or injury, understanding the condition or disease of a beloved pet will help the owner feel more empowered to overcome medical hardships. Communicating accurate information in person, in practice, and through the Internet is therefore a high priority for me. Fortunately, this selective introduced me to new avenues for disseminating reliable information in addition to many other things to consider in the marketing management of a veterinary practice.