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Earning R-E-S-P-E-C-T


Fostering positive relationships between new associates and staff starts at the top

As a new associate, fresh out of school, it's probably safe to assumeyou'd like to find a practice where "everybody knows your name."

And veteran veterinarian Eddie Garcia, since his initiation into thepractice of veterinary medicine 34 years ago, has taken great pains to ensurethe new associate always notices the proverbial welcome mat at his practice'sfront door.

"It is management or owner's responsibility to help make that newdoctor's transition into the practice as smooth as possible," saysGarcia, who practices in Tampa, Fla. "It all starts at the top withleadership.

"You have to walk your talk. What you expect from your staff, youneed to do as an owner manager, a leader."

Introducing that new associate into the everyday life of your practiceis the "greatest gift" you can give them.

But what if you find yourself in a place where veterinarians are just"too busy" to walk you through the daily routines?


During your initial interview or in your first few days of employment,Garcia strongly encourages associates to ask what is required of them.

"The new doctor needs to sit down with the owner/leader/doctor,who needs to spell out certain expectations of the new associate,"says Garcia.

He says he expects new associates to always look, dress, feel and actprofessional, whether in the clinic or out.

"You represent this clinic or hospital now that you're employedhere," he says.

Just as significant, new associates are always counted upon to treatstaff, clients and pets with respect and good care.

"I expect you to never chastise, criticize or crawl over a staffmember in front of other staff or clients. I expect you to also complimentstaff when they do things correctly. If you have a beef or complaint witha staff member, you can come to me or a practice manager or confront thatperson in private," he says.

Expectations should be established in the initial interview. If not,Garcia suggests speaking up and asking the practice owner or manager tooutline their expectations.

Before signing dotted line

"It's a fair question for the associate to ask the doctor, 'do youhave a plan on how to introduce me to your clients?' That's legitimate,because the guy that's hiring may not have given it any thought at all,"says Garcia.

When you're interviewing at a practice for your first job, don't beafraid to ask questions and take notes.

Once you've landed the job, request that the owner introduce you to everynew client he or she sees.

"Ask them to make sure they tell clients if they're going to beout of town and that they discuss the case with you. This builds confidencein the client," Garcia explains.

He adds, as a new associate, recognize your place in the practice - itcan go a long way toward earning you respect.

Know your place

Remember when joining a practice as a new associate that you will bepart of "a true team," says Marty Bezner, CVPM, Tequesta, Fla.

Teams are supposed to favor equality among staff members, including allDVMs. "The DVMs are called 'doctor,' but their contribution is notconsidered more important than any other staff member. "

Once you acquire the team mindset, you can engage in what Bezner dubs"high commitment" teamwork, "where DVMs sit on teams or taskgroups and each member has equal input.

"They are expected to work together to solve a problem or completethe plans for a new project or to handle a specific part of managing anarea of the practice."

These teams are comprised of representatives from each group of staff- veterinary assistants, LVTs, receptionists, DVMs, kennel staff, management,adds Bezner.

Team spirit

As a new associate, it is highly unlikely your veterinary college - atraditional hierarchy - trained you on practice equality issues. Beznerconcedes it is up to the owner to establish how equality plays out in thepractice.

In a perfect situation, the owner will discuss how the practice shouldoperate. But, in the likely event that veterinarians have not schooled theirassociates, Bezner's advice to you is this: leave attitudes at the frontdoor.

Have respect for everyone at the practice.

"Respect for each other starts at the top, and it is the responsibilityof management to reinforce respect," Bezner says.

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