Practice Management News and Views from around the World – June 2018

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These 5 Things Will Keep You from Achieving Work-Life Balance

From an article by Larry Kim published in the Small Business Trends website

“If you’re interested in ‘balancing’ work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable.” — Donald Trump

We all have “stuff” to deal with in our everyday lives.

Some of us work from home, others make the dreaded commute each day. Many have children or pets to tend to; some are employees answering to a boss, while others are the boss dealing with their employees. There are meetings, parties, job interviews, school concerts, family emergencies, sporting events, health crises and more, all wreaking havoc with our careful planning.

Barriers to Work Life Balance

Regardless of your station in life or the particulars of your situation at any given point, there are only so many hours in the day. Striking a balance between your personal life and work life can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Avoid these five destructive things that will keep you from achieving that elusive work-life balance.

1.Being a Perfectionist

You’re way too hard on yourself. You are your own worst critic. Yes, it’s important to care about the work you put out, but it’s equally important to tend to your family unit and home. The very idea of perfection is an illusion. If you find yourself frequently criticizing yourself and rehashing mistakes you made and how it made you feel, it’s time to re-evaluate your expectations. Get okay with the fact it’s perfectly okay to not be perfect.

2.Giving People 24/7 Access to You

Whether it’s your boss or clients contacting you at 11pm, you need down time. This goes at home, too–take breaks from the family as needed to do your own thing. People will treat you how you allow them to treat you–this rings true in ALL areas of life.

One of my favorite quotes has and always will be, “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Create boundaries and stick to them. There should be a certain time each day that you cease doing for everyone else and focus on recharging for the next day. Read a book, take a bath, or watch your favorite television show. Just be.

3.Reacting to Everything Immediately

You don’t have to answer each email or return each phone message as it comes in.

Prioritize. Each night, I make a list of the most important things that I need to get done the following day. It’s easy to react to everything, but in doing so (believe it or not), less actually gets accomplished. Schedule a time to read and reply to emails. You can also schedule time for your social media accounts (which can be a huge distraction and timesuck at work AND at home).

Create a system that works for you and stick to it.

4.Mistaking Busyness for Productivity

Skipping breaks and staying up all night working sure make you feel busy, but they may not result in any more getting done. Productivity is about getting things done effectively, not about being a hero who misses sleep and skips meals in the name of being so busy he simply “couldn’t help it.”

If you’re that busy, you need to focus on automating what you can, outsourcing what you can, and making better use of your time.

5.Living in One World when You Should be in the Other

If you’re thinking about work while you’re at home and about home while you’re at work, are you really giving either your full attention?

Are you at your most productive in either role?

Taking a hard and honest look at your habits might be hard, but it’s essential. You need to be present at home with home and family issues just as much as you need to leave those issues at home when you’re at work.

It’s important for your family to understand when you have a deadline that must be met.

However, you also need to strike a balance where you eventually reach that point in the day that all of your work issues stay at work, allowing you to be present at home–physically AND mentally.

You can click here to visit the Small Business Trends website

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Buyer’s remorse: Expect it three to five years after vet school

From an article by Jessica Fusch published on the website

Feeling like you made a mistake becoming a veterinarian? You’re not alone—and you’ll get over it.

Buyer’s remorse is a type of cognitive dissonance that occurs when there’s a gap between what we expect to gain from a purchase and the cost we incur to obtain it. Houses and cars are generally the largest purchases people make. Therefore they tend to generate buyer’s remorse most often.

An expensive graduate degree like veterinary medicine, which often costs more than our first home and rarely pays us back to the extent we expected it to, is very likely to result in some level of buyer’s remorse.

The problem is that most of us aren’t prepared for it when it hits.

We spend a lot of time and money getting into vet school. Since not many people do, we’re elated to be among the chosen few. During school we buckle down and learn all we can, not paying much attention to the money we’re spending during those four years. We emerge on the other side as new doctors, excited to embark on our new career. This is a happy time. Our families are proud and our future is bright.

Six months after graduation we begin to pay back our student loans. Our first round of taxes is often a great experience because we’ve worked only half the year and are still entitled to some student tax credits.

The next year we learn we’re making too much money to even write off our student loan interest and we’re paying one-third to one-half our monthly income back to the government—and this is scheduled to go on for 10 to 25 years. For someone in their midtwenties, this is literally a lifetime.

During this time we may also find that the mentorship we’d hoped for is not available. Patients die despite our best efforts. Clients get angry and don’t appreciate what we do. We still have an enormous amount to learn. For these reasons we tend to dislike our first jobs so much that we question why we chose this profession in the first place. I certainly felt this way myself, and more of my colleagues have expressed these sentiments than not.

I propose that the question “Why did I become a veterinarian?” is completely normal and we should expect it. Between years three and five after graduation we feel like we’re giving too much of our income back to the government to pay for a profession we’re not even sure we want—and we’re stuck. It would cost us too much to go back to school and choose something else. So on we trudge.

By this time we may have bought a house (or wanted to), gotten married and had a baby or two. These life changes often aggravate our feelings of buyer’s remorse. The cost of our schooling just doesn't feel like it’s worth it anymore. But it’s too late. It’s done.

Despite all this, veterinary medicine is our passion and we really do love the science and most of the patients and clients. So most of us would probably choose to be veterinarians again if we had it to do over. But we advise others against following in our footsteps. These simultaneous realities might not add up logically—hence the cognitive dissonance—but we should talk about them and realize the conflicting feelings are normal.

Once we come to terms with (get used to) our student loan payments, become more comfortable and competent as clinicians, and begin to earn more based on our experience, the negative feelings will dissipate. Most of us will find our groove and discover that we’re grateful and glad to be veterinarians.

If the potential for buyer’s remorse were discussed during veterinary school, at least we wouldn’t be so shocked and often debilitated by the experience. We would know that we’re not alone, this is normal, and this too shall pass.

You can click here to visit the website

Dealing with Staff Conflict? Top Tips to Prevent and Alleviate Conflict in Your Practice

From an article by Monica Dixon Perry, published in the Veterinary Management Consultation website

We are faced with many conflicting events, professionally and personally, throughout life. When conflict arises amongst your team, making sure they are resolved sooner than later is imperative.

My goal is to prevent conflicts from arising within a practice - here are some easy techniques to incorporate into your practice. This is a great time of year to start fresh if your practice has a chronic problem with staff conflict.

1.Set expectations.

During the initial interviewing or on-boarding phase, establish and articulate that employees will be treated as professionals and expected to conduct themselves as such. Make it clear from the onset that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

2.Promote a team environment

Although management structure and organization charts are recommended, it is equally important to create a culture within the practice that cultivates appreciation and empathy for all. I recommend cross-familiarization. As a part of on-boarding or phase training, every new hire will be scheduled one full shift in each department so that they can become familiar with the responsibilities and challenges of that department.

When you allow team members to walk in the shoes of other team members, they are more receptive and empathetic to what their co- team members go through and experience day in and day out. I find this to be one of the most successful efforts to bring a team together if there is a divide. Although recommended for new hires, you can plan for all employees go through cross-familiarization regardless of their length of employment.

3.Empower Employees to Resolve Conflict on Their Own.

If conflict does arise, despite your best efforts, let employees know you are not a babysitter. Stress to them that if conflict between employees has gotten to the point it is negatively effecting the practice environment, they will be expected to work it out or they may no longer be able to work at your practice. Even if it means treating them to lunch so that they can work out their differences, do so. But let them know they are not to come back to the practice until their issues have been resolved. If two adults cannot come to an agreement to put their differences aside or agree to disagree in the interest of the practice, they may have to seek other employment.

Whether you are dealing with new employees or those already employed by you, setting the tone and expectations is imperative. It is important that your team knows what is expected of them and that you clearly set and enforce boundaries that will not compromised. Let them know that while they do not have to be the best of friends, they are expected to work together as harmoniously as possible.

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Management Consultation website

Steer team members to starring roles

Organizing, communicating with and training the Greatest Show on Earth: your veterinary hospital’s client and patient care.

From an article by Naomi Strollo published in the website

Do you feel like you have a key role in your work performance? Our costarring role really requires a veterinarian star who offers us challenges. But just as there are many kinds of dance, there are many ways for a doctor and technician to work together.

Have you ever snuck in the back of a business to watch how it operates? You silently observe people move in directed paths like a perfectly choreographed play. Everyone knows where to stand and when to move along with their partner.

When employees know their job description and communicate easily amongst each other, the flow of an organized veterinary hospital is like a great dance. And you know behind this great performance, the director deserves all the credit. It starts with a written plan, training key players and multiple dress rehearsals before the final curtain call. Everyone has a part, and each one is important to bring this show to its masterful display.

Are technicians ready for their co-starring role?

Do you feel like you have a key role in your work performance as a veterinary technician? Our costarring role really requires a veterinarian star who offers us challenges. If veterinarians don't let us perform the duties and procedures we were trained for in technician school, we become spectators. But just as there are many kinds of dance, there are many ways for a doctor and technician to work together.

We’re an ensemble!

Some clinics prefer to work in regular teams. They assign a technician and an assistant to one veterinarian. Busier practices get more costars assigned to their lead performer. The veterinarian knows exactly who’s on the team and who to talk to. Veterinary patients and medical orders are passed to the team, and the doctors are confident they can move on and let the team continue with the treatment plan. There’s no time wasted, looking for help, or having the veterinarian perform tasks that technicians are trained to do. These costars can rotate days, so they are not always working with the same lead every day.

We’re role-players! 

Veterinary hospitals that don't want to be tied to teams organize instead by tasks. Room technicians, or triage technicians, handle exam rooms. These techs are in the rooms first—getting vitals, performing heartworm tests, starting lab work and showing the veterinarians to the right rooms. The technicians return to the exam room at the end of every appointment to explain medications, give handouts, answer questions and explain future visits. Assistants are part of this crucial client communication team as well.

Be the change you wish to see in the world

Fear Free Certified Technicians can use longer appointment times to properly evaluate patients.

They can also work with the Fear Free customer care representatives (receptionists in some of your hospitals) for scheduling appointments and effectively communicating arrivals and departures.

Surgery technicians can line up with doctors by day of the week or by procedure. A surgery technician should be comfortable with all aspects of anesthesia from pre-surgery to the extubation. Teams of these technicians and support staff can have patients ready for veterinarians to walk in and perform the surgery and walk out and write up a surgical report.

The veterinarian knows what to expect from his team. Trained assistants are there to help and monitor post extubation, so the veterinary technician (and the doctor) can move on to the next patient.

A cast of dozens!

In busy practices, there are still more key roles:

Walk-on roles. Do you allow lots of walk-ins or technician-only appointments? If so, assigning a technician or assistant to handle all walk-ins gives the front office team a person to take charge. This person can triage and be an advocate for clients to make sure they’re not left stranded in exam rooms, forgotten. This is their main priority, but when not busy doing this, they can help the triage technicians.

Supporting (surgical) roles. An assigned technician can be in charge of surgical drop-offs and patient releases. For drop-offs, these team members can make owners feel comfortable with signing forms and answering questions. They can update anxious owners over the phone and text pictures of pets. For patient releases, technicians and assistants can cover discharge instructions and medications and release the animals. Veterinarians can explain any personal notes or information to the assigned technician before release.

If a pet needs to walk out a back door to stay away from other animals or needs assistance to a car, the technician or assistant can make arrangements for such smooth releases. Having a person in charge allows the team to effectively communicate and not pass information along numerous times—to be forgotten. 

How directors screw this up

Management is key. Managers write the script, assign the roles and choreograph the dance moves. But once that work is done, managers and veterinarians must trust the folks they’ve put in the roles. Micromanaging performers won’t help them grow.

Veterinarians must delegate to the capable technicians. This may involve some training and mentoring—for a while. But with good training, the right systems and the right talents, the team will grow and shine.

See a role for ICU. Can you arrange for an ICU-devoted team, with technicians and assistants to treat hospitalized patients? If your clinic is large with many hospitalized pets, then assigning an ICU technician and an assistant is ideal. Pet owners pay for high-quality care for sick pets, and leaving them in cages, soiling themselves without direct monitoring, is not proper care. Plus, thorough documentation for hospitalized pets is needed to help the veterinarian prepare a treatment plan for the day.

ICU staff can effectively run rounds for the team and veterinarians before every shift. After all, everyone needs to know who’s hospitalized and what their medical status is. If multiple veterinarians have different cases in ICU, page doctors on loudspeaker or communicate on smartphones for fast notification.

Room for a one-woman play? If the clinic isn’t large enough to have ICU staff, then the surgical team can assign one person for the day to monitor treatments and be sure they’re carried out in a timely manner. This person's main goal is to care for hospitalized pets and be the direct line of communication for all. After hospitalized care is met effectively, then they can jump back in with the surgical team. However, their main concern is still ICU patients and they may need to leave at times to continue to offer care.

We’re the opening act!

Front-desk team members need to be aware of all of this precise teamwork. If technicians rotate, the front-desk team needs that schedule. They need to know who to communicate to for each of their concerns. Randomly grabbing the first person who walks by will not get the job done. Searching around the back, asking everyone, takes valuable time and causes frustration for front-desk team members and clients. Clients quick service—or an explanation for why you're slow. If they don't get it, your clients will go elsewhere. Without well-informed receptionists, the show can't go on.

Applause … and criticism

Acknowledging a team member's great performance increases the drive to succeed further. If you don't praise hard work, team members might rightly wonder why they don’t just slack off like your poor performers. Your poor performers require coaching and training; your best performers require recognition. Poor performers need to be held accountable or your performance will suffer. And your stars may find another show down the road …

When all this work pays off, the show produces employees who have pride in their job. Your clients will notice the organization, and you’ll get value from all the planned communication.

You can be that person sneaking behind the scenes of your own business and be proud of how your team performs.

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