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Use it or Lose it: A Vet’s Constant Lifelong Battle to Learn

Most pet owners don’t realize this, but veterinarians spend a lot of time taking continuing education (CE) courses throughout their life. Most states mandate that we take a certain number of CE hours per year to maintain our veterinary license.

In Minnesota, where I live, a veterinarian needs a minimum of 20 CE hours a year. Well, I just got back from lecturing at the world’s largest veterinary conference: The North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) in Orlando, FL. Each year around the middle of January, over 13,000 veterinary professionals descend on Disney World. If you’re a local, now you know the reason why you’re seeing lots of ads for flea and tick medications on your local buses.

At NAVC 2011, I was honored to give nine hours of lectures, with anywhere between 80-800 people in attendance at a time. The lectures ranged from "Common mistakes made in the ER" to "Antidepressant poisonings in pets" (Yes, they do indeed accidentally ingest them!) to "Sleep aid poisonings in pets" (Are you seeing a pattern here? Keep your meds off your night table!) to "Upper and lower airway challenges" to "Misconceptions of emergency and critical care." So, why were these talks so popular?

Well, believe it or not, most vets hate seeing emergencies. It’s stressful, and it takes a lot of time, throwing off your busy clinic day. So these lectures at NAVC were particularly popular because vets want to maximize their learning on topics they might feel weak in. It’s understandable, since if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you don’t do emergency every day, you can quickly feel out of your element. Hence, the requirement for CE.

Top it off that our veterinary field is always changing. When I graduated from veterinary school 14 years ago, I felt on top of my game. I knew all the latest drugs, procedures, flea and tick medications and techniques. But within a few years, I was quickly amazed how fast things had transitioned in veterinary medicine (i.e., how much I fell behind in technology!).

There are new products being released constantly (after all, the flea and tick industry is a multi-billion dollar industry), advancements in medicine, and if you don’t keep up with your ever growing stack of veterinary journals, one can rapidly fall behind on all the hip, hot, new things that are evolving in veterinary medicine (Who has time to read all those journals when you’re busy in the clinic?).

With the growing field of veterinary medicine and advancements in the quality of care, it’s a constant battle to learn new techniques and keep up to date on all the new products, surgeries, and research out there.

So, if your vet is missing for the week and you can’t book an appointment, cut him or her a break. Your vet may be off learning — for your sake and your pet’s sake!

Dr. Justine Lee

Pic of the day: Empty Classroom by Max Wolfe

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