Fla. veterinary students learn practice management skills through new externship
This summer, 14 veterinary students from the University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine completed the school’s first business externship and certificate program. The experience aims to give students an overall awareness and knowledge of veterinary practice management, as graduates often enter the workforce with little academic time spent on the business of the profession, UF administrators say.
“Despite the fact that most veterinarians also become small business owners at some point in their career, we as a profession are doing very little to train students for that responsibility,” says Martha Mallicote, DVM, DACVIM, who coordinates the externship course and has a degree in economics. “The certificate program and business courses that have been added to the UF curriculum over the last few years go far toward correcting that deficiency.”
The certificate program, created by Dana Zimmel, DVM, chief of staff of the UF Veterinary Hospitals and advisor to the Veterinary Business Management Association student club, puts students in a two-week externship. Modeled after a program at the University of Georgia, students are paired with local practice owners where they can get real-world experience analyzing financial reports, observing staff-client interactions and witnessing firsthand the management side of a private veterinary hospital. Zimmel says in a UF release that she believes the program is a useful educational tool for students while also building relationships with practitioners.
“This training will give students an advantage when searching for their first position, because they have an understanding of the challenges that practice owners face when operating a hospital,” Zimmel says. “Students will graduate with confidence and knowledge that within a few years they can be successful practice owners.”
Participants meet with a practice owner to discuss key areas the owners want to receive feedback on—areas such as revenue analysis, fee review or observations of staff-client interaction. The students then observe the practice for two days, return to the classroom to process what they’ve seen and prepare an evaluation to present to the practitioner on the final day. “I loved that we were able to go into real practices and evaluate them. It’s easier to understand numbers and statistics when you have an applicable situation,” says veterinary student Amanda Ditson.
Classmate Sandy Scarpinato signed up for the externship because she thought it would give her a glimpse of what practice ownership would be like. “This rotation should be considered essential to anyone planning on owning a veterinary clinic,” she says.