3 steps to solving veterinary practice problems

Immersing yourself in the day-to-day activities of your hospital can make all the difference when tackling client, patient and employee problems.
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Jun 30, 2014

This was written by one of 10 finalists for the Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year award, sponsored by VPI. For more from each finalist and a slideshow of the nominees, visit dvm360.com/PMOY.

Don’t hide behind an office door
I’ve always found that identifying problems is the easy part, and that was also the case with this hospital. In my role as manager and now as hospital administrator of a specialty and emergency hospital, I find time to be a part of the practice. I sit at the front desk and work or just watch. I send surveys to pet owners and referring veterinarian’s clients. I encourage my staff to share with me their ideas or what they see that isn’t working—and I listen.

Doing these things allows me to see how the systems I have in place are working and observe flow firsthand. Was my system wrong? Did it need to change because it no longer worked effectively? Did I have the wrong people in place or in the wrong position?

I attend each of the specialties’ team meetings at my practice to be able to hear issues and ideas from each specialty I’m involved in. By immersing myself in all areas of the hospital, the problems, no matter how many, tend to show themselves. Sure, it might be easier to stay upstairs in my office and believe that I got all the systems and people right the first time around, but that wouldn't be the best for the practice.

Keep lines of communication open
If the lines of communication are open, that’s the best way to respond to problems. I also put myself in the role of client or referring veterinarian or staff member to see what it would feel like to be in that situation. Then I imagine what I would have wanted to happen and use that to make a new plan to fix a problem. Then I share that plan with the people involved, as they are the best ones to offer input in the area. For example, if it’s a technical problem I run it by my technicians because they do the day-to-day job and have the best input.

Prioritize problems
Sometimes I want to pull out my hair and quit, but then I remember something my dad always said to me: Picture the worst-case scenario of the situation. If you can survive it, then it’ll be OK. There are very few situations I can't survive. Some problems are horribly difficult, but I prioritize them all and decide where in my list of duties they go. Is it something that can wait a day or so, or must I drop everything and fix it now? I know I can't do it all. I know problems will exist no matter how great I think things are and I just accept that is part of the job and that truly helps me keep my sanity.

Donna Recupido, CVPM, is hospital administrator at Veterinary Specialty Care in the Charleston, S.C., area.