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Lessons in leadership: Key to success resides in organized communication


Encinitas, Calif. — Communication with staff is the key to a hospital's success, Dr. Michele Drake says.

ENCINITAS, CALIF. — Communication with staff is the key to a hospital's success, Dr. Michele Drake says.

Drake, of the Drake Center for Animal Health, says, "A practice can only work because of the relationship a veterinarian has with his or her staff. This relationship translates over into clients."

Here's how it works:

  • Every two weeks doctors meet to discuss positive occurrences and possible problems. Suggestions and/or changes are discussed.

  • Every two to three weeks, the staff meets for a sort of housekeeping and training session.

  • Memos are used regularly to keep everyone in the loop with each other.

  • Practice managers help sort problems, filtering some of the stress from the veterinarian.

  • A technical book written in-house is used by all new employees for training purposes.

  • All new employees go through four to six weeks worth of training before they are unleashed on clients.

  • New veterinarians shadow other doctors and follow charts that are provided.

It is not uncommon to have one problem employee in the practice, she says. The employee is kept because the practice owner "feels bad firing the person," or "they have been with the practice for years." Despite the difficulty of the decision, the bad seed must go.

"You will win the trust and respect of your staff if you stay focused on the vision and eliminate those who are unwilling to be team players," Drake says. "If someone runs with scissors or doesn't play nice in the sandbox, they have got to go."

One way to handle it:

  • Present problems to the appropriate employee and give them the option to change. If they don't, you can let them go without guilt.

  • Keep in mind that the time you stop trying to improve is the time to hang it up.

  • Be aware of what is happening in the practice.

"The organization of a practice is what makes it run well. The communication I have with my staff and the vision I have for the practice has successfully been adopted by the staff."

Dr. Michele Drake has been owner of The Drake Center for Animal Health for the past 14 years. She began her practice with four employees and now employs 30 staffers.

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