Practice Management News and Views from around the World – November 2014

CarefreeCredit For Vets

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Queen bestows first ever RCVS Queen’s Medal at Buckingham Palace


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(Image: Press Association Images)

Her Majesty the Queen bestowed the first-ever RCVS Queen’s Medal to Des Thompson OBE at a private ceremony in Buckingham Palace

The RCVS launched the Queen’s Medal in 2013, with the approval of Her Majesty as our Patron, and it is now the highest award that we can bestow upon a veterinary surgeon in recognition of a particularly outstanding contribution to the profession.

In receiving the medal, Des was joined by Professor Stuart Reid, current RCVS President, Colonel Neil Smith, immediate past President, and Gordon Hockey, RCVS Registrar.

The Belfast-based vet received two separate nominations for the medal, both citing his decades of active involvement in veterinary politics which includes being president of the RCVS, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and the Northern Ireland Veterinary Association, among other organisations.

Also cited was his willingness to help other members of the profession, particularly young vets at the beginning of their careers, through his involvement with organisations such as the Young Vet Network in Northern Ireland and the Veterinary Benevolent Fund.

Commenting after the presentation, Des said: “It was a complete honour and a wonderful experience to be received by Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace today, and I’m thrilled to have been awarded the RCVS Queen’s Medal. “Her Majesty was interested to hear about Northern Ireland, and the fact that I’ve been practising there since I qualified.”

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The cost of complacency in the veterinary profession–and how to fight it

From an article by Dr. Jeff Rothstein and published in the DVM360 onl;ine magazine

I see complacency as reaching a point in your professional or personal life where you’re OK with the status quo and what you’ve accomplished. You lack the motivation, energy or desire to work any harder to achieve new goals.

Twenty years out of veterinary school, I still need to fight complacency. I was always interested in practice ownership and management and I felt owning multiple practices would provide certain economies of scale that would allow me to run well-managed practices. For my first 15 years I focused on growing and adding more locations, but I realized bigger is not always better. Since then I’ve sold a number of the practices, and yes, it’s a lot easier to manage.

Here’s what I now share in common with many veterinary practices that have been around and are well established: We’re not setting the world on fire, but we’re doing OK. We don’t want to put in time and energy to innovate and push to the next level. We’ve done it before and now want to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Don’t settle for “OK”

Coasting is OK. Work-life balance is good. The problem is, like it or not, we’re in the wrong profession for complacency. First off, from the medical and technology aspect, we can’t afford to be complacent—there’s too much change to bury our heads in the sand and ignore, if you want to practice top-tier medicine. You can practice medicine that just “gets you by,” but that shortchanges the client and patient. It’s incumbent on those in private practice to keep up with the latest and greatest. This not only means CE, but also keeping in sync with the management side of the practice.

Fighting complacency is a challenge, but I’m afraid of the alternative. Practice complacency will lead to practice decline, and declining practices can spiral downward.

Start change with you

Veterinarian and team complacency are often directly tied to practice complacency. The impact is that little change comes into the medical side of the practice, and the doctors and teams don’t dive into CE and practice expansion because they aren’t focused on continuing improvement.

It all starts with you. Ask yourself what your long-term practice goals are: Do you want to develop a new skill or improve those you have or own a practice? Keep asking yourself what you want to do and what it will take to accomplish it.

Take a look at yourself and your practice to see whether complacency is causing problems now or threatening problems in the future.

You can click here to visit the website

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Determination and Drama at Vet Charity Challenge


It may have been the toughest event yet, but the teams that took part in this years Vet Charity Challenge certainly rose to the part. Spurred on by their commitment to raise funds for three very deserving animal charities, 50 teams from vet practice and industry overcame a series of physical and mental challenges to see who would take the winner’s trophy. That title went to the BVC Bashers from Belmont Veterinary Centre in Hereford for the second year running, who streaked ahead with 880 points out of a possible total of 1,000.

BVC team leader Andrew Cooke said “All four of the team had a fantastic day, all a little bit sore, but well worth the effort. The event is great for team bonding and we enjoyed meeting other people from other practices. We look forward to coming back next year and trying for the hat-trick.”

The beautiful Wiltshire countryside provided all the elements needed to test the mettle of the teams in orienteering, kayaking and cycling tasks, as well as a number of puzzle-solving challenges. Using St Francis School near Marlborough as a base, the 50 teams competed to see who could work best together to finish the day with the highest score.

Kirsty Wills-Mace, from Vets4Pets team, 3 Birds and a Fella commented, “The challenge is awesome fun, with the really important goal of trying to raise as much money as possible for the supported charities. I’d say that training helps, but anyone can have a go, and the day is a great opportunity to get to know your team mates better and really gel.”

Jo Fielder from Pines Vet Clinic, Maidenhead added, “Our clients, family and friends have all been behind us, and have pledged money through our Just Giving page. I don’t think any of them will fail to be impressed by the effort we’ve put in today.”

Contestant and charity trustee Gavin Mitchell from sponsors BCF Technology said, “It was a tough challenge this year and those Wiltshire hills were pretty gruelling, but the sense of achievement at the end was palpable in the air. Everyone justly felt very proud of their efforts and we hope to turn that well-earned pride into money for our supported charities. The challenge raised £70,000 in its first two years and we’re aiming with public support to top the £100,000 mark with this year’s event.”

And as if the terrain didn’t prove enough of a challenge, Team Kruuse added further drama along the way by rescuing a dog from the Pewsey canal during their kayaking stage. The Kruuse contestants spotted the elderly dog struggling to climb the steep banks of the canal before repeatedly falling back into the water. They managed to haul the exhausted animal up onto their kayak before paddling downstream to a waiting crew of vets and nurses. The dog was whisked away to a nearby surgery where it subsequently made a good recovery.

The charities supported by the event this year were Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, along with Cats Protection and SPANA, both of whom entered teams on the day. This year will also see the introduction of a Bursary Scheme where a team can apply for funding to work with an animal charity. The Vet Charity Challenge is sponsored by companies BCF Technology, Kruuse and Vétoquinol and supported by Mojo Consultancy, the VMPA and Veterinary Practice magazine.

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How to Handle Criticism and Nonconstructive Feedback

From an article by By Nicole Wolfe and published in the TalentSmart website

At one point or another, no doubt, you’ve flipped through the channels and seen a zebra instinctively fleeing a hungry lion. This reaction is part of a natural response to threats called the acute stress response—or more commonly, fight-flight-or-freeze—which is hard wired in the brains of humans and animals. And while taking flight from a lion is a zebra’s productive response to a threat, this response does not work so effectively in the workplace.

Unlike in the animal kingdom, the threats that induce the acute stress response at work are not life threatening. More often than not, these “threats” are merely criticisms of our work. When a boss or co-workers criticize us, we feel the same immediate stress that causes the zebra to flee. In the workplace, this automatic response is characterized by verbal defensiveness (fight), avoiding the situation (flight), or having no response at all (freeze). These responses do nothing more than leave us with a sinking feeling of regret that we could have handled ourselves better. Luckily, unlike the zebra, we have other options.

To respond gracefully to criticism, we must overcome the rash default modes of fight, flight, or freeze. Here’s how you can avoid these counter-productive responses:

  • 1. Be prepared To avoid being overwhelmed by criticism, it is vital to spend time now preparing yourself to receive it. Being prepared will make you far less likely to be caught off guard and to fall victim to fight-flight-or-freeze. First, visualize the experience of receiving criticism. Think of times in the past when you have been criticized: Was it in a meeting or a private conversation? Is there a particular individual you usually receive criticism from? Then create a plan of action for the types of experiences you are visualizing. Having a plan that you have already thought through will give you an alternative reaction to fight-flight-or-freeze. It may be particularly helpful to create some generic “back pocket” verbal responses that may be used in a variety of situations. This will give you something appropriate to say when you are tempted to argue, stop paying attention, or freeze up.

  • 2. Keep things in perspective The fight-flight-or-freeze response is a form of emotional hijacking that overwhelms your ability to gauge what an appropriate reaction is. It’s much easier to resist the urge to fight, flight, or freeze when you take a more holistic look at the situation. Rather than allowing yourself to be overcome by your strong emotions and thoughts of the implications of the criticism you received, count to twenty, take a step back, and look at things from a more productive perspective. Will blurting out a comeback serve you in the long run? What are the other options that you won’t regret? Even though it might feel good in the moment to let your emotions take control, a rash reaction will only make a bad situation worse. Looking at the big picture will prevent you from giving in to your impulses.

  • 3. Know your physical reactions Everyone experiences physical reactions to stress, whether becoming flushed, experiencing a racing heart, sweating, or shaking. These physical responses are designed to stimulate you to react to a threat. Although they are uncomfortable in a meeting, these reactions are important clues that something has triggered your stress response and you are vulnerable to an emotional hijacking. Getting to know your physical stress reactions will allow you to stop them and take control of your behavior before they hijack it. This awareness is essential if you want to take control of the situation before your emotions take control of you.

Unfortunately, criticism and nonconstructive feedback are realities we all must face from time to time. With these strategies at your disposal, you can face them without regret.

You can click here to visit the TalentSmart website

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Presidents past and present come together to celebrate VPMA’s 21st birthday

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The Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) celebrated the 21st anniversary of its inception recently with a dinner held in London. The evening brought together members of the VPMA council as well as a group of past presidents, some of whom were founding members of the association.

Current VPMA president Helen Sanderson was keen to acknowledge the contribution made to the association’s development by the former presidents, many of whom are still prominent in the management world today. She commented, “I’d like to say a heartfelt thank-you to our past presidents in guiding the VPMA towards this important anniversary. As well as leading our association, they have actively driven the evolution of practice management as a profession. Much of the knowledge that we draw on day-to-day in our role as practice managers has come directly from them and we are grateful for their generosity in sharing their wisdom over the years.”

John Sheridan, the association’s first president (1993-1996) and owner of, commented, “It’s been quite a journey since a small group of veterinary practice owners, managers and others with a joint interest in business came together to share their insights. I’ve seen the association grow from tiny beginnings to over 800 members, and veterinary practice management to become a career choice in itself. I feel proud to have been part of this progression along with my colleagues, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Association continue to prosper.”

VPMA offers membership to anyone with an interest in veterinary practice management and helps to disseminate knowledge through regional meetings and forums.

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CareFree Credit for Veterinary Practice

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CarefreeCredit provides interest free and low cost payment options for Veterinary clients so that their pets can be given the best possible treatment without delay and without worry over the costs. Vets can carry out optimal care, knowing that they will get paid for the work they do whilst not having to worry about chasing debts.

The CarefreeCredit system is totally paperless, entirely online, and works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – crucial for afterhours work. Online applications take just 4 minutes, the decisions are instant. They are carried out in practice, or for elective procedures and if the client prefers, can be done in the comfort of the clients’ home via an email link sent from the practice. The Client then signs by clicking an e-signature box and that’s that! The Vet then receives a confirmation email to say the finance is approved and can then drawdown the funds into the practice bank account via the CarefreeCredit online dashboard. The Client receives an email to outline the terms of the agreement and the payment schedule.

The beauty of the system for Vets is that the practice gets paid within 5 days from requesting drawdown. This improves cash-flow as there is no waiting for bills to get paid or insurance payments to come in. The Vets charge properly for treatment because they know the funding has been approved by CarefreeCredit, rather than discounting bills because they feel the owner might not be able to afford to pay. Furthermore, vets do not carry as many debtors on their books as there is now an affordable alternative for the pet owner.

Founder and managing partner Stewart Halperin says – “Finding the right online system has been paramount to the success of the business. The only way a credit facility like this works is that if it is so simple to use that front office staff see it as a help rather than a hindrance – a tool to make their lives easier rather than just another piece of admin to do. In order to get to this point, we have been through discussions with a number of consumer credit institutions as well as major retail banks. The system we can now provide is the market leader by a long way. The great thing is, vets love it as they can do gold standard work, get paid properly for it and receive the funds straight away. Owners love it as they can spread the cost at no or very low cost to themselves – and of course, the pets get treated immediately!”

Once registered, CarefreeCredit will provide onsite or remote training to the practice team – whichever works best for the surgery. They also have a full set of ‘how to’ videos as well as downloadable PDF manuals in the members section of our website – although the system is so easy to use that no one has looked at them yet!

You can click here to visit the CareFree Credit website

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