Ask Amy: I'm afraid I work for a sellout

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How can I keep my doctor focused on patients and not profits?

The owner of our one-doctor practice has been trying to sell for a couple of years because he wants to move on to something new—and more profitable. It's hard to keep him at work, even when there's plenty to do. How do I keep him focused on his practice instead of greener pastures?

—LEFT IN THE LURCH

DEAR LEFT IN THE LURCH:

If your doctor is motivated by money, remind him that he'll get the best price for the practice if it's busy, profitable, and stable. A practice with a poor reputation for service is going to be a hard sell. If you don't feel comfortable talking about money with him, talk to him directly about the problems his absence is causing the practice.

If he's missed appointments, tell him how angry clients have been about needing to reschedule. Focus on the predicament of upset clients, not his personality defects. Then look for solutions. For example, try saying, "I'm not sure how to handle this situation. Is it possible to get a better idea of when you'll be in so this doesn't happen again?" Try to get him to set a schedule right then. If he won't, ask if he wants you to start referring clients to another practice when he isn't able to accommodate them.

Here's another thought: His absence and drive to sell the practice may be because he's simply tired of performing certain procedures or duties. Try to find out which things about being at the practice are aggravating him most and see if others in the clinic could take over these responsibilities. If callbacks are a problem, could a technician help? If he's weary of certain medical or surgical issues, could he hire a relief veterinarian to perform surgeries one day a week?

If he's truly intent on selling and leaving the practice, then these are just short-term solutions. But they may help you provide better medical care and client service until the sale occurs. –AMY

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