Finding Your Place: 5 Tips For Fitting in With Practice Culture

It’s never easy being the new kid, especially when you’re also a brand new veterinarian. But knowing how to fit in and find your place in practice culture—without too many awkward moments!—can be advantageous to your early career.

More than popular—why fitting in matters

If the words “fitting in” gives you cringe-worthy flashbacks to those awkward middle school or high school days, you’ll be relieved to learn that assimilating into practice culture isn’t about being popular or the best at everything (thank goodness!). Instead, it’s about becoming a team player, a respected peer, and a trusted associate. 

Fitting in means enjoying stand-out benefits such as:

  • Better teamwork — Cohesive teams who are comfortable working together are more efficient, supportive, and rewarding to work with.
  • More learning and growth opportunities — When you’re motivated to learn and open to new ideas, techniques, and topics you’re more likely to be offered new opportunities.
  • Enhanced confidence — Feeling supported, accepted, and comfortable can reduce newbie nerves and boost your confidence.
  • Increased job satisfaction — New grads who feel at home in their practice are more likely to feel fulfilled.
  • Improved well-being — Being part of something bigger than yourself can reduce burnout risk 

5 Tips for fitting in at your practice

Ideally, you considered practice culture and values when you accepted your first clinical position. If you didn’t intentionally weigh these matters, don’t panic—much of what shapes your impression on these matters is subconscious or a “gut” feeling. 

Starting off in a practice where you feel supported and welcomed will ease the transition from outsider to team member. Use the following tips to prevent or smooth out any remaining roadblocks and ensure a good long-lasting fit.

#1: Observe how the practice lives out their mission and values

While it’s important to always pitch in where help is needed, remain attentive and observant to how the current team works together. Take a close look at the practice’s core values, mission statement, and brand and try to see how it applies to their daily routine. Areas to consider include:

  • How does the team respond in a crisis? After a crisis?
  • How do they handle daily challenges? 
  • How do they ask for help?
  • How do they speak about their services?
  • How do they speak to one another and to clients? 
  • Are tasks clearly defined for each role or is there overlap? 
  • What—and when—can you delegate to a technician, assistant, or CSR? 

The answers to these questions can illuminate practice priorities and core beliefs—which should ideally align with their mission statement—and help you see how to function within the current system without creating unwanted friction.

#2: Get curious! Stay open to new ways and techniques

At Ready, Vet, Go we like to remind new and early career veterinarians that “What got you here won’t get you there,” which is a nice way of saying that real practice life requires a different mindset—and, sometimes a different skill set—than what was required in vet school. 

While you may know an exciting new surgical technique or an industry innovation that can transform standard workflows, hold those thoughts. First, learn the why and how behind your practice’s protocols and learn to do it their way.

Emulate before you innovate. You may be surprised by what you learn from the “old dogs!” And, there’ll be plenty of time to teach them new tricks in the future—after you’re settled.

#3: Align yourself with technicians, assistants, and CSRs

The support staff is the heart of every veterinary hospital—but in a rush to prove themselves, many new veterinarians underestimate the knowledge, skill, and insight possessed by these essential team members. Eager new associates may also overstep their roles and can be misperceived as controlling or untrusting. (Hint—prevent this by observing the practice in action! See tip #1)

Avoid these common errors by partnering with support staff from day one. Here are some easy ways to show them you’re on the same team:

  • Observe — Watching the team in action can clarify each role and help you learn where to go for help.
  • Ask questions — If you’re unsure about something, ask. Your interest and willingness to learn will speak volumes about your character and help you appear more approachable.
  • Stay humble — Humility helps you grow! 
  • Learn from the best — Experienced technicians are incredible teachers, and seasoned CSRs can provide helpful advice about long-term clients to help you avoid an embarrassing faux pas.
  • Express gratitude — Don’t underestimate the power of “Please” and “Thank you.”


#4: Get to know the team

Make an intentional effort to learn everyone’s name as soon as possible. This simple action shows that you care and garners appreciation. To help the name stick, link it to something you know about the person. Don’t know enough? Make small talk! Find out about their weekend plans, where they went to vet school, where they bought their cool shoes, or what they like most about vet med. 

Small talk can be awkward at first, but simple efforts—no matter how generic (e.g., weather, sports)—are always appreciated and help to convey interest, friendliness, and enthusiasm.

#5: Stay away from gossip and negativity

Ah, this is a difficult one. No matter how tempting it is to partake in gossip, negative talk, or general “bad day” complaining and commiserating, do not fall into this trap. Although agreeing with a negative statement can seem like a fast and harmless way to gain acceptance and inclusion, it creates unhealthy thought patterns that quickly turn into bad habits. 

If you find yourself in the middle of another team member’s vent session and you can’t remove yourself without appearing callous, use their monologue as an opportunity to practice your active listening techniques (e.g., withholding judgment, observing nonverbal cues, focusing on the speaker). This can help you appear empathetic while remaining completely neutral—and sharpening your communication skills!

Fitting in with practice culture is a key step toward early career success and long-term satisfaction. And while you can’t force or rush the process, you can smooth the transition by staying open, attentive, eager, and humble. 

Are you or your recent hires struggling to make the leap from the classroom to the exam room? Ready, Vet, Go Veterinary Mentorship provides practical learning and support for new and early career veterinarians so that they can experience long, fulfilling, and productive careers. Get in touch with our team to learn more about Ready, Vet, Go membership opportunities for individuals, private practices, and small corporate groups.

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