The 4 cardinal virtues of implementing change in veterinary practice

August 27, 2016
Hannah Wagle, Associate Content Specialist

Handling the chaos created by change within a veterinary clinic is something that requires virtue, and Shawn McVey tells it on the mountain to practice manager at CVC Kansas City.

Whether it's a big change or a small change, as a manager you're going to face resistance in the form of lack of motivation and lack of commitment from many employees within a practice. This is something that you have to tackle head on, says Shawn McVey, MSW, a speaker at CVC Kansas City. Feedback, reflection and shared experiences will help you and your employees' emotional intelligence-something crucial in managing a veterinary practice-grow. Here are four tips to take away from his session on implementing change in a veterinary practice. 


Understand that when you make a big change, employee turnover is inevitable. You can take comfort in knowing you need to take a risk to get a reward. Systems will help you set goals for your employees, reduce stress and make workloads manageable. Employees with a lack of emotional intelligence will see systems as a hindrance to their own personal values-and those are the people you need to vote off the island right away. 

Your clinic should make a good restaurant 

Restaurants have systems and processes that veterinary practice managers can learn from to use in times of change. 

> Develop a checklist. Restaurants and other service industries use checklists routinely. Managers will review the lists and make sure employees have done everything on the list-properly.

> Manage workloads. Restaurants have an orderly system they put into place when a busload of people stop in. Shouldn't it be the same for veterinary clinics and busy periods? 


Practice managers must learn not only to judge right and wrong in a situation, but to deal with it. To do this, they need to focus on results: If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Stop making yourself the emotional bumper car between doctors and employees, McVey says-make realistic, short-term goals and discuss them regularly. If you're constantly focusing all of your time and energy on a bad employee, you're neglecting your good employees. 


Practice managers must have the courage to remain steady in the face of destruction, because, hey, it's common knowledge, McVey says: Change is destructive. But remember that healthy new growth comes from forests that burn down. It's messy, it makes noise and, ultimately, it upsets people. Remember that the fear that comes with change can be resolved with empathy-let employees know you can understand where they're coming from, but you also expect compliance. 


When implementing change, you'll soon realize that it takes more time than you thought, McVey says. Start change at the periphery-the likelihood of success is greatest when change is implemented in small, autonomous units. Your goal as a practice manager is continuous improvement and that takes change. Remember that implementing any sort of change in a veterinary practice is a process, not an event. Take the time to train your employees. You must get rid of the “You'll learn on the job” mentality-if this were human oncology, would you want to be handled by a nurse who is “learning on the job”? Resistance to change can take anywhere from weeks to months, so take a deep breath, McVey says … “You got this.”