Qualities of a veterinarian
Black and White headshot of IndeVets Employee Marisa
Words by:
Marisa Brunetti, VMD — Chief Veterinary Officer

As the Chief Veterinary Officer at IndeVets, I am often asked, “What are the skills needed to be a veterinarian?” Everyone assumes we all love animals (we do!), but the answer is never short because there are so many characteristics that must come together in the perfect mix to excel in veterinary medicine.

The traits are well beyond excellent clinical skills or the school whose diploma is proudly displayed on your wall. Personal characteristics also play a vital role in the success and satisfaction of being a veterinarian.

What Kind of Skills Do You Need to Be A Veterinarian?

Eight qualities continually rise to the top of my list. These are essential to every vet hire we make at IndeVets.


1. Medical Knowledge and Clinical Skills

As in any healthcare field, the depth of your medical knowledge and skills are foundational to your ability to treat your patients. That knowledge is built through an accredited, post-secondary veterinary institution. The field of veterinary medicine is dynamic, with new research and technologies emerging regularly.

The best veterinarians are committed to lifelong learning of technical skills for vets, staying abreast of the latest advancements in veterinary science, and seeking more knowledge than required of continuing education credits. This dedication to continuous improvement enables vets to adapt their practices to incorporate cutting-edge treatments and ensure the best possible care for their patients.

2. Compassion

A profound sense of compassion and empathy is at the heart of exceptional veterinary care, adding to the requirement of veterinarian soft skills and qualities. Leading veterinarians understand that the animals they treat are not just patients but cherished members of families. Most vets already have an innate ability to show compassion, allowing them to connect with both the pets and their owners on a deeper level, fostering trust, and creating a supportive environment for healing.

However, be aware that this depth of compassion can come at a price with the phenomenon known as “compassion fatigue.” Veterinarians are dealing daily with disease and death, witnessing traumatic signs of animal abuse, and interacting with difficult, demanding, or dispassionate pet owners.

This is a leading cause of mental health issues in veterinary medicine. An incredibly supportive clinic, an empathetic leadership team, and an appropriate work-life balance help combat this.

3. Communication Skills

Another vital skill of a great veterinarian is the ability to convey complex medical information in an understandable and empathetic manner. The best veterinarians excel not only in explaining diagnoses and treatment plans to pet owners but also in listening actively to concerns and questions. Clear communication builds trust and ensures pet owners are active partners in their pets’ healthcare journey.

We have a “no jerks policy” at IndeVets, which means our doctors must be nice people to work with – no exceptions. Although veterinarians tend to be more reserved, great veterinarians exude a welcoming and warm attitude that immediately puts everyone at ease – clients, support staff, and pet owners.

4. Confidence

Great vets have to instill confidence in the team and be able to handle almost any medical issue that comes into the clinic. This could mean having the skills and experience to resolve the issue directly or, more importantly, knowing when and where to direct that patient in the case of a more complicated situation. This is especially true for the Associate IndeVet, who works at a variety of clinics and must adjust to each individual clinic’s culture. Our clinics hire IndeVets to deliver excellent medical care and confidently lead regardless of whether it’s their first shift with the clinic or their 20th.

5. Problem Solving Skills

Veterinary medicine often presents complex cases that require innovative solutions. Exceptional veterinarians possess strong problem-solving skills, enabling them to diagnose challenging conditions and develop effective treatment plans quickly and collaboratively. The ability to think critically and approach each case with a solution-oriented mindset is a hallmark of leading veterinarians.

6. Flexibility

Veterinarians who succeed and thrive in our industry today must be flexible. Sometimes, an owner does not want to proceed with your recommended plan of care. That’s why it’s very important to see several correct ways to achieve the same result (if possible!) so you can flex to do what is best for the animal while also honoring the owner’s wishes.

Flexibility also means you must be able to practice confidently out of your comfort zone. Our IndeVets do this daily as they seamlessly integrate with new associates and technicians, new pharmacies, new electronic medical record systems, and new hospital cultures. We look for doctors who are incredibly comfortable with this fluid approach.

7. Leadership and Teamwork Skills

One of the most essential qualities a veterinarian can have is understanding that veterinary medicine is a team sport that involves veterinarians, veterinary technicians, support staff, and pet owners. Effective collaboration ensures that each veterinary team member contributes their expertise, leading to comprehensive and holistic care for animals.

Ensuring cooperation and understanding between the entire staff is the best way to create positive outcomes for our clients and the pets we treat. Our IndeVets can recognize which team members to involve at the appropriate times and credit them for their contributions.

Another aspect of great veterinarians is their commitment to mentoring others within the clinic. Veterinarians are obligated to help evolve the standard of care at all levels in a helpful, encouraging, and productive way. Mentorship plays a critical role in developing the next generation of veterinary care.

8. Emotional Intelligence

Being emotionally aware is a big deal for vets. It’s not just about knowing your feelings but also understanding what others are going through. This skill is handy when talking to pet owners and working with the vet team, making communication smoother and more compassionate.

Vets with good emotional intelligence handle stress well, tackle tricky ethical situations with care, and get what clients and animals need on an emotional level. Plus, it makes handling patients safer and keeps the work vibe positive and collaborative. Basically, having emotional smarts is another must-have skill for veterinarians, helping them with the technical stuff and all the feels that come with the job.

Becoming a Skilled Veterinarian

Being a veterinarian who excels today requires much more than the education you gain in vet school. Having highly developed personal skills is critical to ensure the best collaboration and care for the animals we treat each day.

I could include many more critical characteristics, but clinical knowledge and skills, compassion, confidence, flexibility, communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills are essential. They serve as the foundation for every veterinarian we hire at IndeVets and ensure a long and fulfilling career in veterinary medicine.