A Day in the Life of a Mixed Animal Veterinarian
January 8, 2021
Hello and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to explore the world of mixed animal practice with me! My name is Dr. Robyn Thompson. I am a mixed animal practitioner and owning partner of the Walkerton Hanover Veterinary Clinic and Hanover Veterinary Hospital from the class of OVC 2012.
My journey to veterinary medicine started at a pretty young age watching the veterinarians who attended the animals on my parents’ small dairy farm, which included of course dairy cows as well as beef cows and calves, horses, and sheep. This close working relationship between patient, client and veterinarian was one I found very appealing; it led me to spending time in this local mixed animal practice through public school via the Veterinary 4-H club, high school co-op and employment as a kennel student. Throughout my post-secondary and veterinary school years, I worked in varying scopes of practice, including general equine ambulatory practice, racetrack practice caring for Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, as well as a large mixed animal practice with a strong dairy herd health management focus. These experiences fostered my understanding and love for the veterinary profession—especially rural mixed animal practice. The deep connection to the clients and community as a whole in rural mixed practice was something I found very compelling. However, it did and still does come with its challenges, including providing emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; emergency clinics for rural mixed animal practices are still a dream we are unlikely to see come to a reality anytime soon!
Our practice is made up of two separate offices which allows us to tailor the client experience, equipment and staff to the needs of the companion animal clientele at the Hanover Veterinary Hospital or the large animal clientele at the Walkerton Hanover Veterinary Clinic. This allows our veterinarians and staff to plan their day for either large or small animal appointments to maintain efficiency and good client service.
When on the road for large animal and mobile small animal calls, a regular day in our clinic starts at 8am with a brief review of the day’s schedule and associated records (medical records, DairyComp files and dairy herd information, or DHI, records). Then, all important assessment and restocking of the truck for the day’s expected (and unexpected) calls is completed to ensure we are ready to efficiently address the needs of our patients and clients that day. Often, we will see dairy and beef herds, horses, sheep and goats, llamas and alpacas, cats and dogs as well as the odd pig, chicken or duck all within one day’s worth of calls. This variety is on one hand constantly refreshing and interesting but also sometimes challenging, especially when it comes to more complicated cases. Having digital resources close at hand (thanks to my smart phone and all the wonderful apps available—Plumbs, CVP, the list goes on!) and colleagues with specific expertise just a phone call away, helps mixed animal practitioners like myself in these challenging situations to ensure our patients and clients are taken care of the best way possible. So, as you can imagine, the phone charger is also a critical piece of equipment on the vet truck to keep connected with the clinic and as a resource!
When in the small animal clinic, the day typically has a bit more structure (but emergencies do happen anytime of day so don’t get too comfortable!) with soft tissue and dental surgeries occurring in the morning to allow for extra recovery time, and appointments in the afternoon for both routine annual exams as well as sick patients. We have comprehensive lab and imaging equipment to allow medical workups to be completed in clinic for our patients. This allows us to provide high quality medicine even in our more rural part of Ontario and save our clients travel time to larger practices in urban centres, unless major referral procedures are required. We are very lucky to have an amazing team of technicians and receptionists to assist us each and every day as well!
I have a few pieces of advice for those interested in the veterinary profession and especially mixed animal practice. Firstly, get ready to be flexible and don’t get too attached to your schedule as it will likely change a few times before the day is done! Secondly, take the time to volunteer or work not only in a variety of roles in veterinary practices, but also on farms or in government or research to get a good understanding of the agricultural industries you want to be a part of. It is so critical to engage in these industries and know their challenges to empathize with your clients and help in the problem-solving process. The markets and consumer interests are constantly changing, and we can benefit our clients by supporting them to achieve success and progress. Thirdly, keep your mind open to learning from everyone around you. There are so many learning opportunities that can easily be taken for granted so take a minute, look around and seize them! Don’t be afraid to ask other veterinarians questions and learn from their successes and their mistakes (don’t worry—we all make them and you will too!). Veterinary medicine is very good at reminding you to be humble; the important thing is that we are constantly learning and improving.
I hope these words are helpful (and maybe a little entertaining) to those of you thinking about entering the veterinary profession! I wish you all good luck in your coming adventures and endeavours and look forward to calling you colleagues in the future!