A fun way to answer your team's questions


Use a newsletter to make sure staff members never feel left out in the cold.

At Hawthorne Animal Hospital in Glen Carbon, Ill., our employees look forward to a weekly staff newsletter, which is on its 150th issue. With three satellite clinics and a large staff, it's a valuable tool for communication and training. Regular features include safety tips, a vocabulary builder, meeting dates, recognition of staff stars who go out of their way for a client or co-worker, and a recap of important topics. Everyone's welcome to contribute, but we don't include personal news—just information to keep staff informed. For example, we'd include new protocols, changes in procedure, 401(k) information, and news from the lab.

There's also a monthly feature called "Pearl." Pearl's an imaginary dog that lives in a small wooden doghouse in the staff lounge. She has a ravenous appetite for questions. When team members submit questions, we talk about the answers at the monthly staff meeting, and print responses in the newsletter. At monthly staff meetings, there's a 10-question quiz on important newsletter items. We put the names of those who score perfectly in a drawing for a small prize.

Barbara Schipkowski, member of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, is the assistant practice manager and receptionist at Hawthorne Animal Hospital in Glen Carbon, Ill.

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