What I learned this week: Job Trial

This week my online courses have taken a back seat because I’ve spent 3 days completing a job trial at a vet clinic on Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Of course, this means I’ve been learning a LOT!

Every practice and workplace functions a little differently, so even if you’re starting in a role almost identical to one you’ve held previously you need to expect a steep learning curve to begin with. Everything will be kept in a different place, your boss will have a different preference for how things are done and you’ll have a whole new workplace culture to navigate.

This clinic uses the patient management software RxWorks, which I think is one of the most commonly used in Australian veterinary practices. I was excited to have the opportunity to have it explained and give it a crack, since I’m likely to use in my work even if I’m not offered this job. 

It’s hideous; a stark white spreadsheet with blocks of flurescent blue, green, navy and maroon to indicate different kinds of appointments. It might get hard on the eyes looking at this for too long every day.


Would you believe the version they’re using at this clinic is even uglier than this image? I’m not sure if they got to choose their own colour palette, but who ever decided fluro and poo brown go together was seriously mistaken.

But I’ve found I’ve picked up the basics of the software pretty quickly. It’s not entirely different from AlisVet, which I used at the last practice I worked at (AlisVet is somewhat less ugly). Apparently there is a training version of RxWorks, so I’ll hopefully get a chance to have a play with that. 

Another new thing they’ve been teaching me is monitoring anaesthetic during surgery. Like many of the nursing things, I’m actually finding it less complex and daunting than I would have expected. 

I’ve never had surgery myself, and to be honest I’ve always been a little terrified of surgery in general, and of anaesthesia specifically. Learning about anaesthetic has made me a bit more comfortable with the safely of it all. If I can monitor it, then it’s probably pretty safe for humans who have a highly educated anaesthetist looking out for us. 

What I Learned This Week: Veterinary Professional Skills/Intro to Animal Behaviour

I’m currently undertaking two short courses via CourseraEDIVET:  Do you have what it takes to be a veterinarian? run by The University of Edinburgh, and Animal Behaviour run by the University of Melbourne. Neither of them are designed for aspiring veterinary nurses, dog trainers or animal attendants, but I chose them to try out Coursera, because the topics interest me and because they will hopefully inform my future more relevant studies.

I’m in the third week of the EDIVET course, and this week has been about “Veterinary Professional Skills”. Probably the dullest week so far, the material looks at the people skills required to be a good veterinarian (and a veterinary nurse or trainer); the structure of a vet practice, emotional intelligence, the basic structure of a typical consult and how to approach conflicts with clients.

EDIVET:  Do you have what it takes to be a veterinarian?
It was all pretty straight forward. My take home message was about the conflict resolution. It wasn’t different to how I would approach an unhappy client, but it gave me a better way explain it. They outlined a step-by-step technique by Carl Sewell (from his book “Customers for Life), which focuses listening to the clients problems, apologising for the situation (but not admitting fault), explaining the situation and then offering a resolution if required.

The next time I’m asked the question “how would you handle an unhappy client?” in an interview I can answer along the lines of:

First, I would take them into a private space away from other customers and staff. Then I would listen carefully to every issue that they have; making sure not to interrupt and that they have outlined everything that is bothering them. I might apologise that things have worked out this way, or that they are upset and explain briefly why the situation has occurred. Then I would focus on how we can move forward, and resolve the issues as best we can.

It is the first week of the Animal Behaviour course, which is largely introductory. They have touched on the concepts behind the scientific method and how it is used to investigate behaviour, the kinds of questions that can and cannot be answered with these methods, the tools that are used by researchers and an explanation of evolution and how it applies to animal behaviour.

Image of a peacock spider, serving as the logo for the Animal Behaviour course. 'Maratus volans' by Jurgen Otto

Overall Coursera seems to be a fantastic resource with a lot of great functions. Both of these courses are focused on video lectures, weekly quizzes and forum discussions. The Animal Studies course has also incorporated links to other resources, as well as in-lecture mini quizzes to keep students engaged and practicing their knowledge as they go. They’re also going to have actual assignments rather than just weekly quizzes, so tune in next week to find out what that’s all about!