Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect

Mar 01, 2005

Jeff Rothstein, DVM, MBA
I've played hockey for many years, often once or twice a week. One day it dawned on me I wasn't improving. Instead I was doing the same wrong things over and over—I was playing but not practicing. Finally, I took a skills class and was amazed at how much I didn't know.

How often—and what—does your team practice? Do you get resistance or excitement regarding training sessions? Do senior staff members think they know everything they need to know to provide great care and service?

Occasionally a staff member says to me, "Dr. Jeff, I don't want to go to that seminar this year. I've been to similar ones, and there's not much more for me to learn on this topic." Does working at a veterinary practice for five or 10 years mean you know everything about your position at the clinic? I think many seasoned staff members think so.

Needless to say, experienced staff members are absolutely invaluable. But their job proficiency relates more to how well they're trained than to how long they've worked in the profession.

Try to stress to team members that showing up to work is a good start, but to really grow their skills, it's important to focus on continued improvement. Of course, you need to help by facilitating weekly staff meetings about what worked and what didn't; providing stand-alone training or practice sessions, perhaps a luncheon seminar; or giving team members access to outside continuing education programs.

Hospitals that excel in this area start with phase training programs from the minute a new employee arrives. They develop a culture of practice. Try to view your business team as a sports team, which practices regularly—often even daily.

Help get into the practice mode by developing a schedule that works for your group. You may choose to do something once a week or less frequently. The main point is that it's frequent and comprehensive. Practice, practice, practice should help build your hospital into a winning team. As the fellows on my hockey team like to say, "Winning is good. Losing is bad."

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is the president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group, which owns and operates hospitals in Michigan and Ohio.