Step up into veterinary hospital management


Find out what it takesand how to get therewith these tips and a quick quiz to see if youre ready to be a practice manager.

Do you have what it takes to be a practice manager? Wait, wait … don't answer yet. First let's discuss what it means to be a practice manager.

Practice management includes responsibilities in almost every area of practice operation, it doesn't look exactly the same in every practice and practice managers don't all follow the same path to their positions. Well beyond providing high-quality care to animals, practice management focuses on business operations, employing sound management principles and standards so the business can serve its mission and provide a profitable return to the practice owner. A practice manager is a member of a team, working hand-in-hand with the practice owner to bring the owner's vision to fruition. 

So what does the typical practice manager's job description look like? The practice manager's realm of responsibility may include accountability for staffing, marketing, finances, risk management and equipment and facility management. A practice manager is more than a jack of all trades-he  or she is a master of all trades. The tasks the manager performs-as well as the skills and knowledge required to accomplish these duties-are extensive. What many practice managers love about their job is that the responsibilities are multifaceted, and each day can be very different.

1. Human resources

As the human resources guru, the manager plans, directs and coordinates the organization's human resource management activities, including recruiting and hiring team members, managing employee benefits, providing guidance and direction to subordinates, training the team, scheduling, setting performance standards and monitoring performance.

2. Law and ethics

In the role of legal eagle, the manager addresses issues related to compliance with legal and statutory requirements, as well as ethical mandates for veterinary professionals. 

3. Marketing

Marketing responsibilities require managers to develop internal and external marketing plans and materials and monitor the outcomes of these efforts. To promote client relations, the manager establishes protocols for client communication and oversees client services. 

4. Practice organization

Practice organizational responsibilities include maintaining inventory and medical records systems, establishing protocols for hospital policies and procedures and coordinating equipment acquisition and maintenance. The manager also establishes data monitoring systems related to veterinary practice, such as controlled drugs, radiography exposure and laboratory and surgical procedures.

5. Finance

On the financial side, the manager oversees banking procedures, establishes client credit policies, conducts fee analyses and manages payroll. In consultation with the practice owner, the manager also monitors financial trends and projections and prepares budgets.

Becoming a hospital manager

You can pursue a career as a practice manager from several directions. One approach is to land a position in a practice as an office manager or another management type of position that will be a stepping stone to a higher level management position. Working as a receptionist or a technician teaches hands-on experience in a practice, which provides a basic understanding of a practice manager's responsibilities. Office managers also learn basic management skills applicable to practice management. 

Once you determine you're ready to move to the next level, it's imperative to take a personal inventory of your skills, accomplishments and career goals and schedule time with the owner to evaluate your performance and identify areas of improvement. This is also the time to share your inventory and discuss career aspirations. The goal of the meeting is to enlist the owner's support as you prepare to take on your next professional challenge.

Another strategy for entering the field of practice management is to take classes at one of the growing number of schools that offer training in veterinary practice management. These schools offer courses such as business management, veterinary law, accounting and veterinary hospital supervision. The more managerial skills you possess, the more responsibility you can assume. Check out the self quiz to test your readiness. 

Christine Shupe, CAE, is the executive director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. The association is dedicated to serving professionals in veterinary management through education, certification and networking. 

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