Skilled management will help lead a divided house


Most practices get the administrator duties completed by the members of the dedicated and sometimes overworked staff.

Most practices get the administrator duties completed by the members of the dedicated and sometimes overworked staff.

At some point, encroachment of administrative duties versus medical delivery cause internal practice problems.

Veterinarians want to practice medicine; we do not want to take on more business tasks. In many situations, it comes down to choices. Either the business tasks go uncompleted or there is less time to spend with clients or keeping up on medical developments.

This encroachment occurs when we have about nine or more people working full time in a practice.

So, we need a manager/administrator at this level.

The hospital manager's duties are to see to the daily smooth operation of the multitude of issues that culminate in specific daily patient care.

To that end, the following are needed by the administrator:

  • Vision. A clear vision of what the veterinary business is trying to accomplish. Such vision would differentiate between wellness clinic services and specialty services.

The vision would also identify the targeted client niches and patient groups that the practice seeks to help with veterinary services.

  • Mission. A simple easy-to-understand statement that clients and staff can clearly understand makes daily activities touchable. A rambling mission statement is easy enough to produce. The vision statement is quite different and adds clarity.

  • Business plan. A comprehensive business plan should include the assembly of services, hours of operation, budget, monthly Profit & Loss statements, quality control, staffing considerations, task lists of daily, monthly, semi-annual and annual duties.

The task lists can be divided into hands-on duties, soft-time duties, and infrastructure/facility duties.

Looking at skill sets, I've outlined those needed for an administrator.

  • Communication.

It is essential that managers are able to communicate positively, humanely, competently and effectively to support staff.

An effective office manager needs to understand that folks do not want to be told what to do, but want to be led. It's a huge difference.

The concept of managing employees through daily tasks verses leading has become a key element of businesses, especially with an employee pool with various generations all sharing different views of life and work and, yes, balance.

  • Attitude is everything.

Recently at the annual Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association meeting, I asked the group what personal attributes are desired in clients. The response?

We want clients to be:

  • Loyal and kind

  • Financially responsible

  • Willing to learn

  • Compliant with recommendations

  • Compassionate.

What a coincidence! A practice manager with these same skills and attributes can become the perfect office manager. For the office manager missing any one of these five attributes surely will be trying to lead a divided house.

  • Observation.

An administrator who walks around and is observant can also "see around corners." In other words, he or she can anticipate needs, supplies and issues before it turns into a crisis.

The walk-around administrator must be able to quietly, politely and tactfully activate staff to attend to clinic and patient duties.

The walk-around manager needs worksheets, checked for completeness of daily duties and for delegation. Remember: What is monitored is completed. Worksheets provide the template.

Therefore, worksheets should be dispensed and used as "checkoff" sheets to be turned in at the end of the day.

Dr. Riegger, dipl. ABVP, is the chief medical officer at Northwest Animal Clinic Hospital and Specialty Practice. Contact him at telephone and fax (505) 898-0407,, or 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.

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