Using Your Veterinary Staff More Effectively
Breaking into the veterinary field can be tough. Everyone loves animals, but is a love for all creatures great and small enough to be a successful customer service representative (CSR), technician, or veterinarian? As a practice manager, owner, or lead technician, you are perfectly positioned to build on your new hires’ love for animals and help them grow, learn, and thrive.
To build a well-oiled veterinary machine, follow our tips.
#1: Layer and graduate your veterinary staff
Your team’s skills and expertise are like an onion’s layers. New personnel, with the least number of duties limited to a core area, should be the innermost layer. More experienced staff who can cover more tasks should encompass the middle layers. Credentialed staff who have the most expertise and skills and are the only ones who can perform specific tasks form the outermost layer.
New team members should be treated like the onion’s inner layer. First assign only a few job duties, and once those are mastered, expand their skill set. Allow new staff to gradually dip in their toes, rather than throwing them into the deep end. Pair them with a mentor who will guide and coach until they feel comfortable handling their job on their own.
#2: Hire for soft skills
Given their innate nature, soft skills are more difficult to learn, but they are critical for ensuring your new hire works well as part of the team, and are important for their long-term success at your practice. Soft skills include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, work ethic, adaptability, and flexibility, and you certainly don’t want to add a team member who embodies the opposites of these traits.
So, while you may be tempted to hire a veterinary technician for their blood-draw skills, despite their references that include a penchant for causing workplace strife, consider the fresh new graduate with the enthusiasm and desire to learn and to be a team player.
#3: Invest in technical skills and knowledge
After hiring staff based on soft skills, you need to put in time, effort, and money to build their technical skills and knowledge. If you hired appropriately, based on an eagerness to learn and desire to advance, your new team member will be excited to attend CE conferences, listen to webinars and podcasts, and read articles in peer-reviewed journals. Although they may answer phones and schedule appointments at the beginning, with the proper support and instruction, they can learn to triage difficult cases, recommend parasite preventives, and construct rough treatment plans for owners.
In addition to the information needed to excel, your new team member must have the opportunity to practice their skills. Once they complete a low-stress handling course or learn to take hands-free X-rays, ensure they have the opportunity to practice their new knowledge. Supporting your team members with information, education, patience, and practice opportunities is a surefire way to keep them happy and fulfilled.
#4: Encourage your staff to practice at the top of their license
For a successful practice, you must not only empower your staff, but also encourage them to practice at the top of their license. This means that your credentialed technicians should be handling tasks only they are qualified to perform. Giving your technicians the room to tackle virtually everything except diagnosing, prognosing, prescribing, or performing surgery frees up your veterinarians to complete veterinarian-only duties. Then, your entry-level staff can manage the tasks that require less training and experience, until they gain these skills.
#5: Play to your team’s strengths
When rounding out your support staff team, look at each individual’s strengths and where they can be applied, and then determine what you’re missing. For example, if you have a pain management advocate who loves formulating anesthesia protocols and discussing pain-relief techniques with owners of geriatric pets, make them your comfort champion. Or, if your staff are all firmly on “team dog” and hesitant to wrangle spicy cats, post job ads stating you are looking for a feline-friendly team member who can implement low-stress handling techniques.
No matter your team’s skills, they can certainly be used in veterinary medicine. Encourage every team member’s strengths, such as a passion for organization, a love of all things social media, or an eye for anxious body language, which will support their interests and improve your practice. By taking time to learn about your staff’s skills, knowledge, and passions, you can slot them into the best-fitting practice roles, instead of simply filling open positions with a warm body.
We know that finding the perfect match for your team can be tough. First, strive to find someone who meshes well with your team, complete their introductory training, and encourage them to keep learning. Then, consider supporting your team with relief staffing. Give our Veterinary System Services team a call to discuss your staffing needs.