1. Review. Read up on the guidelines published by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and decide how they mesh with your current standards of care. Get a comprehensive list at dvm360.com/vetguidelines.
2. Doctors’ meeting. Meet to review your standards of care—a vaccinations standard of care is crucial. If doctors disagree, the staff is working with a hand tied behind their back. Staff need to say, “We believe in this.” If you’re the doctor who wants a change, bring in supporting information. Once you’ve got a consensus, put it in writing (that means printed documents in binders for easy access).
3. Team meeting. Vaccination is a part of wellness care. Since the team is the main purveyor of wellness care, practitioners should first focus on education. Just knowing what the standards are isn’t enough; your team needs to know why you believe these are the right standards for your patients. Explain that while the AAFP and AAHA publish guidelines, it’s not that easy to make a blanket recommendation for all pets. Have the team use a risk assessment form then review the client’s responses and add to the existing knowledge base about that client and pet.
4. Role-play and change the conversation. Have two team members act out a scenario between a client and staff member. Consider this: The AAHA/AAFP guidelines are for “healthy” animals and many pets are less than healthy. The “client” has a senior-age pet that may have a diminished response to vaccination due to age-related suppression of the immune system. Have the staff member explain the diminished response to vaccination, reduced duration of immunity, and have her give this example from the human medicine side: Flu epidemics are countered by recommending vaccinations for the young, old and immune-compromised.
Changing client behavior requires the entire practice team. Luckily, most clients consider vaccines to be the most important reason to visit the veterinarian. The next time you introduce yourself as a veterinarian, listen closely to the comments: “Oh, I just took my dog to get his shots!” The majority of the public still places value on vaccinations. Now, the challenge is using that vaccination visit to educate clients on the other important services veterinarians have to offer.