What kind of veterinary surgeon are you?

10 questions to ask yourself

To celebrate my 100th surgery column in Veterinary Practice News, I designed a quiz so you can assess yourself. It will help you determine how far you’ve
come along after faithfully reading my humble musings about veterinary surgery.

You are welcome to circle your answer below, or, if you like your privacy, you can write them on a separate piece of paper.

Technicians, don’t hesitate assessing each one of your doctors. Tally your answers along the way. Remember, this is all confidential. Nobody is looking over your shoulder, so be honest.

1.  What is Your Prepping Style?

  1. You’ve read the surgery books and hung copies of the procedure on the walls of the OR.
  2. You’ve read all the Veterinary Information Network posts for weeks, emailed three specialists and, to be safe, called one professor.
  3. You’ve done it a few times and can always consult with other vets in your practice research network.
  4. No need to research; you have never done this surgery, but you’re not worried.
  5. You’ve got this. Why would you waste time? Prepping is for worrywarts.

2. What is Your Patient Preparation Preference?

  1. You supervise from a distance to make sure it’s done properly. After all, this is your patient.
  2. You micromanage the induction and intubation. Scrub contact time is five minutes, but 10 makes you feel better.
  3. You’ve instructed the techs, and you’ll do a quick check prior to scrubbing in.
  4. The techs have got this. You have more important things to worry about. Even if they do it wrong, it will be fine.
  5. You don’t care what happens as long as the patient is ready to cut when you want. Your time is valuable.

3. How is the OR Set Up?

  1. You prefer certain instruments and feel most comfortable setting up yourself.
  2. Everything needs to be in its place, and you need your favorite instruments. Sometimes setup takes longer than the surgery. You check the tape on every pack to make sure it was sterilized properly.
  3. You rely on your techs. You can adapt easily if something is not quite perfect.
  4. It’s OK if instruments are out of sterilization date. It’s not like you’d be the first one. Living on the edge is fun.
  5. You have drilled into your staff exactly how you want it. You will make them do it over if things aren’t exactly as instructed.

4. What Do You Listen to in the OR?

  1. Music is banned. You must concentrate.
  2. Some background music is acceptable, as long as you choose it.
  3. Whatever the techs like is fine. You don’t have any difficulty focusing.
  4. You believe the OR is a perfect place in which to practice for karaoke night.
  5. Death metal. Full blast. Much louder than the EKG.

5. How Do You React if Something Does Not Go as Planned Intraop?

  1. I’ve seen this before; I’ll just modify accordingly.
  2. OMG, OMG, OMG!
  3. You take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
  4. Challenge welcome. Finally something interesting!
  5. It most certainly is not your fault. Whoever is within yelling or throwing distance is at risk.

6. What Are Your Thoughts About Speed?

  1. You’re fast but prefer to focus on perfect technique.
  2. You can’t rush art.
  3. You’re likely in the middle of the pack. Your main concern is how your patient does.
  4. Cutting corners is acceptable if surgery is faster.
  5. Twenty minutes skin to skin; you’re the best.

7. What is Your Teaching Style?

  1. The more educated the people around you, the better you can do your job.
  2. If asked, you will explain, after you check the book.
  3. You ask the techs if they are familiar with the surgery and if they have any questions. Every surgery is an opportunity to teach. A good tech is an educated tech.
  4. Teaching is at the bottom of your list for today, right next to getting a root canal.
  5. Teaching is not in your job description. This is not kindergarten.

8. When You Are Done With Surgery, Your OR Looks Like …

  1. A baby nursery.
  2. You had the techs open three suture packs and one extra instrument pack that you didn’t need.
  3. Dirty instruments are separated from clean ones, and you removed your sharps.
  4. Everything is in one big pile. Clean? Dirty? Sharps? Same difference.
  5. A war zone.

9. After Working With You, the Techs …

  1. Admire your handiwork, but they were stressed at times.
  2. Are glad the patient is alive.
  3. Learned something new. They feel appreciated and are contemplating specializing.
  4. Feel underappreciated.
  5. Are contemplating a new career.

10. How Do You Follow Up With Your Patients?

  1. You have a process you always follow.
  2. You call to follow up so you can stop worrying about it.
  3. You call to make sure the clients have no questions and that your patient is recovering on schedule.
  4. You never call back, but you will talk to clients if they call with questions.
  5. Callbacks are for people with far too much time on their hands.


Count how many A’s, B’s, etc., you have. The scores noted below were validated by a board-certified cocker, so your description will be perfectly accurate.

  • Mostly A’s: You are a well-groomed standard poodle. You are smart and professional. You do things by the book. You follow best practices. You’re all business, all the time.
  • Mostly B’s: You are a timid pup. You want to do your best, but everything scares you. When surrounded by people you feel comfortable with, you can do well. It doesn’t take much to put you on high alert and send out a distress signal.
  • Mostly C’s: You are a friendly and intelligent golden retriever. You love having a job to do and learning new tricks. Getting along with coworkers makes you happy, and you care about all your patients.
  • Mostly D’s: You’re a Belgian Malinois. You’re confident and don’t need the approval of others, except on occasion from a few elders you admire. You are savvy and skilled, but at times your arrogance can get you in hot water.
  • Mostly E’s: You’re a rabid Rottweiler. You blow a fuse easily and seek to harm as the virus takes over your body. You may have some lucid moments, but they are few and far between. There is a good chance the techs may send your head to be tested.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. You may visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com or follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman. 

AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, Pa., contributed to this article.

Originally published in the March 2017 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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