Steer team members to starring roles
Naomi Strollo, RVT
Organizing, communicating with, and training the Greatest Show on Earth: your veterinary hospitals client and patient care.
Do you feel like you have a key role in your work performance? Our costarring role really requires a veterinarian star who offers us challenges. But just as there are many kinds of dance, there are many ways for a doctor and technician to work together. (Shutterstock.com)Have you ever snuck in the back of a business to watch how it operates? You silently observe people move in directed paths like a perfectly choreographed play. Everyone knows where to stand and when to move along with their partner.
When employees know their job description and communicate easily amongst each other, the flow of an organized veterinary hospital is like a great dance. And you know behind this great performance, the director deserves all the credit. It starts with a written plan, training key players and multiple dress rehearsals before the final curtain call. Everyone has a part, and each one is important to bring this show to its masterful display.
Are technicians ready for their costarring role?
Do you feel like you have a key role in your work performance as a veterinary technician? Our costarring role really requires a veterinarian star who offers us challenges. If veterinarians don't let us perform the duties and procedures we were trained for in technician school, we become spectators. But just as there are many kinds of dance, there are many ways for a doctor and technician to work together.
We're an ensemble!
Some clinics prefer to work in regular teams. They assign a technician and an assistant to one veterinarian. Busier practices get more costars assigned to their lead performer. The veterinarian knows exactly who's on the team and who to talk to. Veterinary patients and medical orders are passed to the team, and the doctors are confident they can move on and let the team continue with the treatment plan. There's no time wasted, looking for help, or having the veterinarian perform tasks that technicians are trained to do. These costars can rotate days, so they are not always working with the same lead every day.
Veterinary hospitals that don't want to be tied to teams organize instead by tasks. Room technicians, or triage technicians, handle exam rooms. These techs are in the rooms first-getting vitals, performing heartworm tests, starting lab work and showing the veterinarians to the right rooms. The technicians return to the exam room at the end of every appointment to explain medications, give handouts, answer questions and explain future visits. Assistants are part of this crucial client communication team as well.
Be the change you wish to see in the world
If calmer patients, happier clients and less stressed team members motivate you, then getting certified as a team member for Fear Free might be worth the effort. Learn more here.
Fear Free Certified Technicians can use longer appointment times to properly evaluate patients. They can also work with the Fear Free customer care representatives (receptionists in some of your hospitals) for scheduling appointments and effectively communicating arrivals and departures.
Surgery technicians can line up with doctors by day of the week or by procedure. A surgery technician should be comfortable with all aspects of anesthesia from pre-surgery to the extubation. Teams of these technicians and support staff can have patients ready for veterinarians to walk in and perform the surgery and walk out and write up a surgical report.
The veterinarian knows what to expect from his team. Trained assistants are there to help and monitor post extubation, so the veterinary technician (and the doctor) can move on to the next patient.
Don't typecast your performers
Some veterinary technicians love dental work and want to stay in mouths all day. But don't let that hinder others from learning! Everyone needs a rotation in everything. Medicine is always changing, and we need to always know what our clinic is capable of. How can we go into exam rooms and speak from experience on our wonderful dental procedures if we never have anything to do with them?
A cast of dozens!
In busy practices, there are still more key roles:
> Walk-on roles. Do you allow lots of walk-ins or technician-only appointments? If so, assigning a technician or assistant to handle all walk-ins gives the front office team a person to take charge. This person can triage and be an advocate for clients to make sure they're not left stranded in exam rooms, forgotten. This is their main priority, but when not busy doing this, they can help the triage technicians.
> Supporting (surgical) roles. An assigned technician can be in charge of surgical drop-offs and patient releases. For drop-offs, these team members can make owners feel comfortable with signing forms and answering questions. They can update anxious owners over the phone and text pictures of pets. For patient releases, technicians and assistants can cover discharge instructions and medications and release the animals. Veterinarians can explain any personal notes or information to the assigned technician before release.
If a pet needs to walk out a back door to stay away from other animals or needs assistance to a car, the technician or assistant can make arrangements for such smooth releases. Having a person in charge allows the team to effectively communicate and not pass information along numerous times-to be forgotten.
How directors screw this up
Management is key. Managers write the script, assign the roles and choreograph the dance moves. But once that work is done, managers and veterinarians must trust the folks they've put in the roles. Micromanaging performers won't help them grow.
Veterinarians must delegate to the capable technicians. This may involve some training and mentoring-for a while. But with good training, the right systems and the right talents, the team will grow and shine.
> See a role for ICU. Can you arrange for an ICU-devoted team, with technicians and assistants to treat hospitalized patients? If your clinic is large with many hospitalized pets, then assigning an ICU technician and an assistant is ideal. Pet owners pay for high-quality care for sick pets, and leaving them in cages, soiling themselves without direct monitoring, is not proper care. Plus, thorough documentation for hospitalized pets is needed to help the veterinarian prepare a treatment plan for the day.
ICU staff can effectively run rounds for the team and veterinarians before every shift. After all, everyone needs to know who's hospitalized and what their medical status is. If multiple veterinarians have different cases in ICU, page doctors on loudspeaker or communicate on smartphones for fast notification.
> Room for a one-woman play? If the clinic isn't large enough to have ICU staff, then the surgical team can assign one person for the day to monitor treatments and be sure they're carried out in a timely manner. This person's main goal is to care for hospitalized pets and be the direct line of communication for all. After hospitalized care is met effectively, then they can jump back in with the surgical team. However, their main concern is still ICU patients and they may need to leave at times to continue to offer care.
We're the opening act!
Front-desk team members need to be aware of all of this precise teamwork. If technicians rotate, the front-desk team needs that schedule. They need to know who to communicate to for each of their concerns. Randomly grabbing the first person who walks by will not get the job done. Searching around the back, asking everyone, takes valuable time and causes frustration for front-desk team members and clients. Clients quick service-or an explanation for why you're slow. If they don't get it, your clients will go elsewhere. Without well-informed receptionists, the show can't go on.
Applause … and criticism
Acknowledging a team member's great performance increases the drive to succeed further. If you don't praise hard work, team members might rightly wonder why they don't just slack off like your poor performers. Your poor performers require coaching and training; your best performers require recognition. Poor performers need to be held accountable or your performance will suffer. And your stars may find another show down the road …
When all this work pays off, the show produces employees who have pride in their job. Your clients will notice the organization, and you'll get value from all the planned communication.
You can be that person sneaking behind the scenes of your own business and be proud of how your team performs.
Naomi Strollo, RVT, is Fear Free Certified and has been working in the veterinary field for over 24 years. She practices emergency medicine and freelance writing. She also has a special interest in dog training, which enables her Akita, her pit bull and her Shiba Inu to all reside happily together.