How our veterinary hospital survived an employee mismatch
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.
Dealing with hiring and firing of DVMs is part of being a practice manager for me. And the most important aspect, from my experience, is catching problems as early as possible—whether they're related to the new doctor's clinical knowledge or his or her relationship with the staff. What made this situation more difficult was that I had only been at the hospital for a short time when the new doctor was hired, and I had to handle the transition while our practice owner was on vacation.
Problems with time management
The most significant issue with the new doctor was her inability to see clients and patients in a timely manner. During an exam, she would get sidetracked from the pet's main problem and would talk about all the potential health issues that the pet may have in the future as well as every potential treatment for those issues. She would do this even if the appointment were just a well-pet visit. She might have been eager to tell clients about everything she learned in school, despite it being irrelevant to the visit. This inconvenienced the clients and the staff by prolonging the length of the appointment.
After a visit with her, many clients insisted on seeing a different doctor or scheduled appointments when she wasn't working. She also had trouble prioritizing and dealing with urgent or busy times in the hospital, which made it difficult for the staff to trust and respect her. The hardest part for the staff was staying extra late when she hadn't finished her appointments. Our hospital is open until 9 p.m., and our staff was often here until 10:30 or 11 p.m., which hurt morale. This new doctor was likely a good veterinary student, but she couldn’t translate her knowledge into practical action in a clinical setting.
Our efforts to help weren’t enough
I tried dealing with this issue in several different ways:
> I spent time with the doctor and explained to her in detail what our normal procedures are when in an exam room and addressing the pet's issues (as well as the client's concerns) in a timely manner.
> I emphasized that what she thought was being helpful was actually scaring off clients, but that we could show her some better ways to conduct an appointment.
> I made sure the other veterinarians discussed this with her and allowed her to shadow appointments as often as possible.
> I spoke with the staff often to try to motivate them and to encourage them to work with her and give her some more time to adjust.
However, despite all our efforts, this new associate continued to struggle and I knew that if she kept working with us, the atmosphere and productivity in the hospital would keep declining. I made sure that the other doctors knew the reasons behind my recommendation to not extend her contract, and they agreed that we did everything in our power to help her get acclimated, including allowing her many months to adjust. Afterwards, the staff was grateful to see that the doctors and the manager were on their side and took their concerns into consideration when making big hospital decisions.
One recommendation that I made to the doctors was that going forward, they should check a new DVM's references much more diligently and that they should focus on asking these references specific questions about a potential doctor's demeanor, experiences in the exam rooms, and ability to deal with stressful situations.
We all want our hospitals to stay busy, and it's very important that a new doctor can handle a busy and stressful environment while maintaining a confident attitude. The next doctor we hired ended up being a much better choice and a much better fit for our hospital and staff.