Transformation: time to break the mould... - Veterinary Practice
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Transformation: time to break the mould…

CHRIS WHIPP has decided it’s time for a complete change and wants to try a new approach ‘not limited by subject or domain which steps aside from traditional business and veterinary assumptions’

THE start of 2015 sees me making a significant transformation as I simplify my life and change the direction of my business.

I have been greatly appreciative of the positive feedback that I have received regarding my articles both here and in the Vet Learning and BEVME E-Newsletter and I would like to share with you a little of the journey, the transformation and the future. I would also ask for your help if I may.

The last 15 years have certainly been a helter-skelter of emotions as I have been distracted from my profession and then led back to it.

Unbeknownst to me, it started in 1998. Until then I had led a fairly typical veterinary career, most good and some bad as I developed and grew my practice in Cambridgeshire.

I had always been keen on personal and professional development for both myself and my staff but had never really looked critically at what or why we did what we did, simply accepting the status quo and pursuing ever greater volumes of medical knowledge.

In 1988, I did a one-year modular course in clinical coaching and mentoring at Guy’s Hospital in London. It really opened my eyes to how much more I could have been doing with my staff all those years and provided a sound grounding in adult learning.

As with so much CPD, the devil is in the detail of the implementation when you get back into the practice. We made a lot of beneficial changes but I was left with a sense of anti-climax that perhaps that we should have achieved more.

In 2001, I was invited to join the first SPVS Masters group tasked with doing some of the underpinning research for what would become the CertAVP qualification. From that time I really learnt the pleasure and power of learning with like-minded individuals and just how important learning in the workplace will be to the profession in the future.

In 2003, I sold my practice and committed myself to a new path.

In 2004, I did a oneyear course in “executive and professional coaching”. The hype about coaching was really just beginning then and I approached it with a critical eye, for the whole course skills practice I declined to coach anyone with a medical/veterinary background.

I learned a huge amount during the course, not least the importance of psychology (a subject I had never had any interest in), the value of diversity and the myths of the “scarcity mentality”, linearity and specialism.

A fine grounding in business subjects

I have worked for eight years in the business sector (not veterinary) which has given me a fine grounding in a range of business subjects that I would never have otherwise been exposed to. Despite the remuneration, my real interests sit with veterinary practice and owners of SMEs and I closed this part of my practice in December 2014.

In 2006, with colleagues from the SPVS Masters sets, we formed Vet Learning Ltd, a niche provider of the CertAVP and the only GPCert provider recognised by RCVS.

We never intended becoming CPD providers but recognised a significant hole that needed to be filled if GP vets were ever to gain the recognition they deserved.

Unsurprisingly, the courses are evidence-based, provided in the workplace and specifically aimed to meet GP needs with subjects such as clinical governance, clinical audit, consultation skills and professional responsibility and practice. We have now almost met our original aims, so are looking to the future for new challenges.

In 2008, I was asked to assess on a Neuroscience of Leadership course at Middlesex University which was quite interesting in that I knew nothing about the subject at the time! Learning to fulfil that role taught me a huge amount about why and how we think and just how “brain-unfriendly” the average workplace is.

Having spent a fascinating six years in the role, I finished in December 2014 and now intend to use what I have learned in the workplace.

The journey so far has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and experiences that have broadened my perspectives in subjects I would never have dreamed of touching as a veterinary surgeon (see Table 1). Throughout that time I have also maintained a presence in primary veterinary care, keeping current and, in fact, enjoying it more for the added diversity.

In 1985 the world became connected in a way it had never been before, the internet was in its early days and the first mobile telephone call was made initiating changes that have developed exponentially over the last 30 years, sweeping away many of the traditional business and medical ways of doing things. Despite being nearly 30 years on, businesses, veterinary practices and society as a whole are still struggling with these changes as we try to find new ways to adapt and I believe a new form of support is needed.

I have developed a new approach not limited by subject or domain which steps aside from traditional business and veterinary assumptions to offer alternative, more productive perspectives and actions.

Because it is new and distinctly different from traditional formats, I am looking for a few vets to participate in a short series of case studies to demonstrate its efficacy in veterinary practice. You would need an issue or problem that:

  • is not simple or easily solved;
  • which you both want and are ready to address; and
  • either the solution or the implementation eludes you.

So if you are pulling your hair out about something and you would like to hear more, e-mail me at

Bringing together the knowledge domains in Table 1 is not simple but the solutions generated generally are. Figure 1 shows the four most commonly used areas of activity and I shall say more about these next month.

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