When Dr. Beth Fritzler, CVPM, and her husband, Dr. Timothy Kraabel, bought Lien Animal Clinic in Seattle, they needed help. Neither had any real business experience or training and while their new practice was well established, it still needed some work when it came to management.
"The first couple years were kind of rough as far as ownership goes," Dr. Fritzler says. "We realized pretty quickly that we needed to learn more about business, finance, human resources, and inventory."
More veterinarians like Dr. Fritzler are becoming certified veterinary practice managers (CVPMs), according to Christine Shupe, CAE, executive director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA). There are currently 325 CVPMs in the country and 22 (about 7 percent) of them are licensed veterinarians, she says.
"It's a trend that we're seeing because more doctors are realizing the importance of the business aspect of their practice," Shupe says.
Dr. Fritzler realized this early on in her career and started attending medical and management continuing education courses at local and national veterinary conferences. Before she knew it, she was enrolled in classes offered by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Q&A: The CVPM test
"Going through the process of preparing to take the exam and completing the requirements made me a much more well-rounded manager," Dr. Fritzler says. "I could have studied those things on my own, but realistically I probably wouldn't have."
Once she started actively pursuing the certification, it took Dr. Fritzler a little more than one year to get her CVPM. She says it did take time, but she was able to make improvements to her practice as she was learning new management skills.
"When I reviewed OSHA rules I learned there were a bunch of things we were supposed to be doing," Dr. Fritzler says. "When I studied inventory, I thought, 'Oh gosh, we should be doing this.'"
As the practice grew, so did the need for excellent practice management skills. Now Dr. Fritzler practices one or two days as a veterinarian but devotes the majority of her time to practice management. This flexibility in her schedule has helped improve her family life as she and her husband have three kids. Last spring, the two owners hired an additional practice manager with experience in one of Dr. Fritzler's weaker areas: marketing. The two usually work as a team but when the other practice manager went on maternity leave for a number of months, Dr. Fritzler was thankful she had gone through the CVPM process. She took back all of the management duties without being overwhelmed.
"Veterinary school doesn't prepare you to manage a practice and it shouldn't," Dr. Fritzler says. "It teaches you how to do medicine but not how to conduct interviews, hire employees, or comply with tax laws."
Many veterinarians need to manage their practices better, according to Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM. She says veterinarians need more management training, and the CVPM program sets the framework for what they need to know about client service, scheduling, and so on.