"Nobody's got time to train veterinary team members!"

"Nobody's got time to train veterinary team members!"

This Practice Manager of the Year nominee faced her coworkers' criticism and made time to reboot her practice's training protocols.
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Jun 12, 2015

Veterinary Economics and Firstline will be publishing dozens of personal stories, in-the-trenches advice and bright practice management ideas in the coming months—all from the final nominees in the 2015 Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year contest, sponsored by VPI-Nationwide. The final winner will be announced at a special reception CVC Kansas City Aug. 30.

When I started working at my hospital, it was normal for new hires to receive training for a day or two and then be left on their own. For someone like me—coming from big corporations with a lot of training—this was a huge change. Because I had very limited veterinary knowledge, for the first year I struggled to learn all the policies and protocols. My team was used to the environment and didn’t realize the benefits that good training could provide. But once I was promoted to practice manager, I made it my personal goal to create an effective training program.

The early complaint? “I don’t have time for this!”

The new training protocol was not well received. In many instances, the team members insisted they didn’t have time to train. No one ever really told me why they thought it was a waste of time; they just insisted that we didn’t have time to do it. It took me a few years of staff changes to build a team that not only viewed training as essential but asked for it. I’d like to think that I “convinced” them that we needed to have a trainer, but in reality I think I just wore them down by creating more and more training protocols until we had so many that it was obvious that we needed someone to teach them.

I promoted one of my RVTs as the first clinic trainer. I met with her on a weekly basis to help her understand what was expected of her. I helped her create an effective technician training manual, and she helped make a lot of improvements to the phase training protocols that we had in place.

Two ways our training was tested

When we hired our next veterinary assistant, we were ready. The trainer spent the first three months working closely with the new hire.

It wasn’t always easy. Some of the senior team members again complained that we were spending too much time on training. But the decision to thoroughly train paid off when the assistant eventually passed her RVT exam and is now prepared to train any new assistants.

After the success of training in the treatment area, we branched out to reception. A new receptionist worked one-on-one with our front-office manager for the first month.

Our training recently hit a road bump, however, as our treatment-area trainer had to reduce her hours. This made it more difficult to ensure new hires had someone to work with. The trainer tries to assign others to work with the new hire, but this doesn’t always work. Team members still need reminders that they need to take the time to properly train new employees. And I remind the doctors that if they want a better-trained team, they need to be patient and give us time.

This has been a small step back, but I believe most of the team now understands why we need training because so many of them wish they would have had better training in the beginning.

Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, is practice manager at The Cat Care Clinic in Orange, California. Read more about past Practice Manager of the Year nominees and winners as well as new nominees in the next few months at dvm360.com/PMOY.