Advice Unleashed (February 2018)
Tips and insight from business, financial and practice management experts.
Carlos Aquino, a compliance consultant for PharmaDiversion LLC in Media, Pennsylvania, educates veterinarians about how to safeguard themselves and their practices if they face a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) inspection and audit.
First, he says, thorough record keeping is vital. “I always tell doctors the patient chart is their evidence and their defense. Veterinarians need to document the patient’s treatment plan, medical testing and evaluations to justify why they wrote the prescription,” he says. “It all comes back to the medical chart — it’s the best source of information.”
The DEA also will examine the security and storage of the controlled substances within the practice, as well as the due diligence policy of the clinic. “This includes when they’re administering, dispensing or even prescribing the controlled substances,” Aquino says.
Look Beyond Private Practice
“Most new graduates go into private practice, but they should be aware of other potential opportunities,” says Gary Vroegindewry, DVM, MSS, DACVPM, director of One Health at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Veterinarians have a vast array of employment options, including nonprofit organizations, government agencies and environmental groups.
For veterinarians looking to hone their clinical skills, Dr. Vroegindewry recommends developing other proficiencies that are important to career advancement. “Communications, marketing, budgeting, team building, conflict management, training and education are all things other organizations are looking for,” he says.
His advice to veterinarians who doubt they possess these skills: “Look at what you do every day in practice. You train technicians or new veterinarians; you market by creating newsletters, talking at schools or maybe on the radio,” he says. “You have the ability to translate those skills into what others are looking for.”
Most important, according to Dr. Vroegindewry: “Learn your craft, do a good job, help others, be pleasant. These are the qualities people are looking for.”
The TEAM Model: Not Magic, But It Works
After a clinical error is made, “the TEAM model helps to structure your thinking by providing specific steps to work through to help you figure out how to handle the client communication,” says Linda Fineman, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology), director of veterinary talent and knowledge strategy at Ethos Veterinary Health. “There’s nothing magical about the TEAM model,” she explains. “It utilizes core clinical communication skills and applies them in a specific order.”
The steps of the TEAM model are (T) disclosing the truth, (E) being empathetic, (A) taking ownership and apologizing, and (M) managing the problem through to the ultimate resolution. “This may include making financial reparations or transferring the patient to another institution,” Dr. Fineman says.
“Certainly, it is about being there as an empathetic partner to go through the emotional repercussions of that error. I feel that empathy should go with everything we do as clinicians,” she adds.
Tony Bartels, DVM, MBA, consultant for the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), advises prospective vet-erinary students to use two tools to help with the immense student loan burden they may face after graduation.
- Designed for prospective students before they commit to a program, the cost of education map “will help you understand, based on where you live, the lowest cost options that might be available for a student loan,” Dr. Bartels says.
- Part of VIN’s student debt center, the loan repayment simulator helps veterinary students understand repayment costs based on several criteria, such as amount borrowed, interest rate, current income, relationship status and career path. The simulator also allows for variables, like an internship or a residency, and projects how marriage or children would impact the income-driven repayment plan, Dr. Bartels says.
Both tools are available at VINFoundation.org.
Simple Steps to a Happy Team
Keeping team members happy is not a secret science, says Sheila Grosdidier, SCP, consultant and partner at Veterinary Management Consultation Inc in Evergreen, Colorado. “You just need to ask your employees what is really important to them — How important is having work—life balance? Are you being compensated at an appropriate level? Do you know what you have to do to get a raise? What would make you satisfied? — and then make sure you accommodate their needs.”
Ultimately, she says, if a prospective employee asks why he or she should work for this practice, the goal is for team members to “have a list a mile long about why this is an employer of choice."