How To Find Time
As a solo practitioner, it was difficult for Mandy Willis, DVM, at Middle Tennessee Vet Service in Morrison, TN, to find the time to step away from her practice. Yet, she knew the producers in her area needed help developing their nutrition programs. Plus, it was an area that could help grow her business.
As a recipient of a Dr. Wren Continuing Education Award, Dr. Willis used the financial help as incentive to get started. In fact, she completed three pre-conference seminars on nutrition and herd health consulting during this year’s AABP conference.
“I’ve been out of school for several years,” Dr. Willis says. “I had a hard time trying to sit down and do it, even though I didn’t necessarily have enough education in nutrition—especially for some of my dairy clients. I was frequently called to treat animals for which there was no direct remedy and most of the time it would point back to the nutrition program, whether it was the program itself or the delivery. I knew the problem; I just didn’t have enough specialized training to advise them. And, as a solo practitioner who just started a business, it’s hard to find the time and money to get that extra education.”
Growing up in rural Kentucky, Dr. Willis felt a pull to practice large animal medicine. Her current practice area has been her home for seven years and is where her husband’s family has farmed for generations. She has a variety of large animal clients with about 80 percent in beef and dairy cattle, small ruminants (sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas) and swine. About 20 percent of her time is spent with horses.
Getting involved with nutritional and herd health consulting is a service she feels producers in her area need to survive. Her next step is finding time to put her newfound knowledge into practice.
“From this point on, it’s going to be me getting out there and doing it,” Dr. Willis says. “Coming home and implementing it into your practice is the hardest part. Another thing about going to the conference is all the experienced practitioners I met whom I’ve contacted several times since the meeting. Beyond the education itself, they have been a great aid in helping me put this into practice.”
Seth Hartter, DVM, Mediapolis Veterinary Clinic in Mediapolis, IA, relies on his local Iowa Veterinary Medical Association to help him fit in his necessary CE credit hours. In fact, it’s been helpful to get up-to-speed on companion animal topics after he switched practices last year.
Dr. Hartter attended an ultrasound training course for cattle after he received an AgriLabs Dr. Wren Continuing Education Award in 2012. Since then, he’s moved to an area with fewer cattle and more companion animal clients.
While his ultrasound training comes in handy occasionally, Dr. Hartter appreciated having a mix of CE courses available from AABP and state organizations. He’s added in some online training to allow more time with his family but misses the interaction in-person courses can provide.
“Sometimes you don’t think of things in online sessions other than just what’s coming across in a PowerPoint slide,” Dr. Hartter says. “Some CE credits are online where people can ask questions but often that type is held during daytime hours. At this point, I can’t easily set aside the time for an hour in the middle of the day.”
Understanding the time crunch today’s veterinarians are under, and the need to learn skills to enhance their practices, the Animal Care Training Program offers online training focused on business skills. Developed through a grant from the National Food Animal Veterinary Institute, it was created through collaboration between the K-State Beef Cattle Institute and K-State College of Business. The training program provides practitioners online tutorials for a total of 25 hours of available CE credit.
The convenience of online courses was important, notes Dan Thomson, Ph.D., DVM, director of the Beef Cattle Institute and Jones Professor of production medicine and epidemiology at Kansas State University.
“Based on my experience as a consulting veterinarian, I was spending so much time on the road. I’d do some CE in my downtime in hotels,” Dr. Thomson says. “Then, when we look at what we’ve done with beef quality assurance, we’ve had 11,000 receive certificates earned online.”
Five courses and 25 video modules offered online through the Beef Cattle Institute website address topics such as budgeting, recruiting and hiring new employees; improving client satisfaction; personal financial management; and sales forecasting.
Online courses will never replace face-to-face interaction during conferences. However, new tools must be developed to address the veterinarian’s need to expand services to a consolidating number of clients as the number of cattle herds shrink.
“A big part of the best CE is the hallway talk. There is that aspect online will never replace,” Dr. Thomson says. “With declining cow herds, I’m looking for CE that offers the captive number of clients more services. I’m going to look at diagnostics, animal welfare and food safety. To get active in those areas, CE is becoming more important.”
New technology offers the opportunity for different types of learners to obtain information in their preferred method, says Dan Grooms, DVM, Ph.D., president of AABP and professor at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“One of the primary missions of AABP is to provide continuing education to help veterinarians develop new tools and stay at the cutting edge of healthcare for their clients’ cattle,” Dr. Grooms says. “Historically we’ve done that through an annual meeting, and, as our organization developed, we continue to develop more ways getting information to our members.”
The organization now records all sessions at its meetings and makes the recordings available online. AABP members can view the sessions for free, or the time can count towards CE credits for licensure renewal with a short quiz and small fee.
“We know the value of the meetings go beyond just the CE. It’s the networking and talking to colleagues about things they are doing,” Dr. Grooms says. “Having worked in extension for 15 years, I fully appreciate that people get information in different ways. We are trying to address that in AABP through in-person meetings as well as online offerings.”