Be ready for your boards


No, not the exam kind - the cork kind. Boost team education with old-fashioned bulletin boards

"He who labors diligently need never despair, for all things are accomplished by diligence and labor."

— Menander

And so it is with staff and personnel education. Persistence in education is a key to veterinary success. Continuing education is crucial for excellence in animal medical care and a hallmark of a thriving practice. But we all know it's not easy.

With so much going on — pills to give, calls to answer, calls to return, maintenance issues to deal with, the new payroll tax assessments to calculate and on and on — it can feel like we just can't squeeze time for learning into our busy days.

For example, consider the requirements for clinics certified by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). It takes hours and hours for team members to learn the 900 AAHA standards. And it takes a good chunk of the full three years between voluntary inspections for the entire staff to appreciate and start modeling the AAHA messages and lessons.

It takes hours and hours of teaching time to review the essentials of the clotting cascade, remember the functions of the 24 cranial nerves, the functions of diuretics and the lessons of chemotherapy efficacy — and the accompanying OSHA rules.

Then there's management leadership and human resources news. Team members want to know whether they can opt out of the new $150-per-month payroll deduction for long-term care.

And in all the commotion, there's an ever-growing need for better communication, improved networking and, yes, dissemination of information, which comes with better education and time to reflect with colleagues on workday experiences.

I'm completely convinced that we could close the practice to the public's pets and spend the entire 40-hour workweek busy with teaching, reviewing educational materials and treatment protocols and completing business duties

But we must find time for education and team meetings. Good consensus management requires a meeting of the minds every day so small but growing side issues don't intersect and get in the way of patient care. We need to assemble to share issues that pop up, but we all know we can't organize team meetings every day.

Oh, so what to do? The answer is the "education station." I usually hate signs — but this is the place for them. The education station facilitates team discussion when you just don't have time for a full team meeting.

Your boards today

We still need corkboards, pin-up boards and message boards. The old-fashioned bulletin board is alive and well. Here are some bulletin boards and message exchanges you may already have around your hospital:

  • 24-hour board. Use a chalkboard or dry-erase board to put up urgent items and timely reminders. Issues presented here are important for the next 24 hours.

  • Employee board. Here we post the work schedule and essential employee-specific information.

  • Clinic board. We include here general items of specific interest and duties. The monthly maintenance list can go here. Daily, weekly and case-specific protocols can be posted for review.

  • "Private" message board. Here doctors and team members can communicate with each other about upcoming field trips, gym club activities and social gatherings like the Margarita Club.

  • Client bulletin board. Share photos and bits of news between and about clients and patients. Don't post confidential information.

  • Electronic messages. This isn't part of the education station, but it's still important. E-mails, posts on secured online message boards, text messages and social media Web sites (watch what you post if they're public) are nice for those who are "connected."

  • Forbidden board. This is your crucial treatment-area board, and only cogent medical information winds up on this one. Any other notes are strictly forbidden.

Your brand-new board

But now for the most important board — and likely a new one for your hospital: the education station.

This area is fun, full of information and packed with educational material.

Where can we post news about current events?

Clippings from the New England Journal of Medicine?

Veterinary journal clippings?

New protocols and standards to focus on, from AAHA or other organizations?

Details about a new service offered at the clinic?

Media alerts about insecticides?

The education station material is fresh, timely and inspiring, a welcome break from other bulletin boards that might change only slightly. (How often will the maintenance duties be changed? And how exciting is that? Not very).

Think of the education station like collecting change. Thanks to a few coins collected every day, hundreds of dollars are eventually earned. Think of this when posting information on the education station. Those small bits of information can add up to a feast of knowledge.

Building your new board

Here is how to create and maintain your own education station:

  • Keep it fresh. Add, change and update the information daily.

  • Make it fun. Put up cartoons from the morning paper. Comics always attract team members' eyes, and then they might read the other important messages.

  • Make it a game. Throw a pop quiz at your next staff meeting all about the items posted on the education station. The winner receives $50 cash.

  • Keep a three-year log. Keep a log of significant items and events posted. Over the next three years, make sure items comprise a clinic "review" course of major educational topics, practice protocols and anything else you consider crucial information. The log may also end up as a starting point for your legal "training" log.

  • Keep it on the highway. Make sure the education station is located on the main thoroughfare in your clinic. This will ensure that staff members walk by the station many times each day.

  • Include a table. A table or other open flat surface is helpful for putting out full journals and brochures.

  • Use circles. If items on the education station are mandatory reads for your team members, put circles on the items in question and ask readers to put their initials in the circle. This is especially important for items required by OSHA or AAHA.

Who can't afford a new corkboard and a little clinic wall real estate? Let your new education station become a fun, compelling, inexpensive addition to your team education efforts.

Dr. Riegger, dipl. ABVP, is the chief medical officer at Northwest Animal Clinic Hospital and Specialty Practice. Contact him by phone and fax at (505) 898-0407, by e-mail at, and on the Web at Find him on AVMA's NOAH as the practice management moderator. Order his books Management for Results and More Management for Results by calling (505) 898-1491.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Riegger, visit

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