Starting his or her own veterinary practice is the ultimate dream of every veterinary school graduate. While most veterinarians start their career working in hospitals or private clinics under the apprenticeship of another professional, the time comes to eventually move out on their own. At that time, learning what is involved in opening a successful practice should take first priority.
- Skill level:
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Don't jump into a practice until you have experience. Setting up your own place right after graduation may not be the smartest business decision. Instead, choose to work with a seasoned veterinarian so you learn the ins and outs of the business.
Start with a business plan. Opening a veterinary practice requires a large investment. Whether you are able to put the money upfront yourself or you require a bank loan, it makes sense to have things on paper so you know exactly what you are dealing with and how to approach it.
Decide on the type of practice you will open. A large animal clinic will require a different structure than a clinic dealing with exotic animals. Not only will the equipment be different, but your decision will also impact the size of the office, the operation room and even the waiting area.
Make up your mind in advance about additional services you will offer. For example, many practices also offer grooming services, a pharmacy or sell a variety of pet products. If you include any of these additional services, decide whether you will contract out to other companies or buy and then resell.
Research the type of technology and instrumentation you will need. This depends mainly on your location and your budget. If you are located near a large animal hospital, it may make sense to refer CAT scans and X-Rays to them, while you are in charge of basic care. Certain technologies, like oxygen and heart monitors, however, are essential to any veterinary practice.
Tips and warnings
- Once you start your practice, don't forget that you also need to let people know about you. Until one-time visitors become clients, you need to invest in advertising, free services (like vaccines or first consultations) and other perks that will get the word out to the community.
- Consider getting involved with the local Humane Society or ASPCA. Not only will you be helping animals in need, but you will also get free publicity and a chance to give back through the community.
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