Goodbye, hello and how to be better

Staff update

I’m delighted to report that we’ve found a replacement for Laura – Ross Devereux White will be joining us from next week. Ross has an excellent pedigree; he’s taught veterinary nursing at Warwickshire College, has an Advanced Diploma in Veterinary Nursing (Surgical), and as well as being the president of the British Veterinary Nursing Association he’s co-authored veterinary textbooks. More on him soon…

Emma has now gone off on maternity leave (good luck for the 19th Emma!), and we’re now being ably supported in the surgery again by Will Oldham, and our resident tiger specialist Tola Smith. As always, if you want to see a particular vet then please ask the receptionist. Case continuity is important and we’ll always try our best to arrange the same vet to see your pet for an ongoing condition.

Self Improvement

One of the challenges of being in practice is staying on top of current medical and surgical understanding. The number of species and sheer variety of problems makes this a demanding task; the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons requires that every vet completes at least 35 hours of continuous professional development per year, but this really is an absolute minimum. I’ve found an approach used by the unbelievably successful Olympic cycling team can help to turn every task in the surgery into a learning opportunity.

When you learn a new skill, like learning to drive a car, it can be broken into 4 stages:

1. Unconscious incompetence: you’re no good at it, but you don’t know how bad you really are- think of the first time you sat behind the wheel!

2. Conscious incompetence: you’re still no good at it, but now you know there’s a lot to learn- especially as you bunny hop down the road as you struggle to master clutch control!

3. Conscious competence: you can perform the task but it still requires conscious thought. The weeks and months after you pass your driving test no doubt saw you struggling to manage roundabouts, motorways and parallel parking; your autopilot still hasn’t kicked in.

4. Unconscious competence: you’re now so good at the task you can do it without thinking. After a few years behind the wheel you can assess road conditions, steer, change gear and talk to a passenger all at once- your subconscious manages all the fiddly things like clutch control and indicating appropriately.

The key to becoming expert is to add a fifth stage:

5. Conscious unconscious competence: You develop a back seat driver that observes you going through the task on autopilot, and it critically assesses how you performed. Could you have indicated a little earlier, did you really manage that junction as safely as you could have? This conscious perception of a refined skill can feedback criticism and praise. If we listen carefully we can try to improve how we perform this task by small degrees every time we carry it out.

Small incremental improvements add up over time, and distinguish the truly expert from the merely skilled.