Too many cooks in our kitchen?


This 2019 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year finalist doesnt think so. Shes seen a healthy veterinary practice culture develop because of a bigger leadership team and open communication.

It's true, too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth, but improving communication and more shared decision-making worked for Kerry Balding's veterinary practice. (annaav /

Recipes for success

Kerry Balding is one of 10 finalists for 2019 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year. Learn more about the contest and read more stories from other entrants, finalists and winners here.

A couple of years ago, our practice was part of a veterinary management group, and our hospital owner floated the idea to me of putting together a bigger leadership team and developing core values. We asked some of our key team members if they'd take on lead roles and now have a strong team in place. We've built a strong culture led not just by me, but a group of us. Some managers may not have liked this idea-maybe fearing it would be an intrusion into their management “space.” I welcomed it. Together, we worked through some hirings and firings, developed core values and training plans, revamped job descriptions and made it through the sale of the practice.

The most recent big change that came to our leadership team was adding another RVT, coworking with our lead receptionist and covering as a supervisor when she wasn't there. The new veterinary technician was also brought on to help train veterinary assistants who help in the exam rooms. The opportunity to bring on this new leader popped up unexpectedly.

First, a former employee asked me if we had any openings. (She left us almost a year ago for a supervisory position at a specialty hospital.) The job was OK, she told me, but she really missed the client and patient interaction she'd experienced when she worked for us.

Second, my two doctors were worried about the lack of training our new veterinary assistants and receptionists were getting. I spoke to the lead receptionist about this. She was honest about the fact that doing all the managing and training of these team members was too much for her, and she was burning out. We talked through some different scenarios to help her and decided together that it would be best to move her to reception only (she spent some days as a room assistant). That way she could work on getting the reception staff up to speed. But we still needed to figure out how to train our room assistants properly. Remember my former employee?

I'd initially told her I didn't have anything for her, but after the doctors' complaints and my conversation with the lead receptionist, I thought bringing this employee back on board could be a solution. I first emailed back and forth with her on my ideas and the thought of a job-share with the lead receptionist. I then shared my idea with the lead receptionist to make sure she was comfortable with the possibility. I didn't want to step on her toes or go behind her back in hiring someone before chatting with her. She was thrilled. We spoke about it at our next leadership meeting, and everyone was on board with the idea.

She started July 8, and she was definitely the person we needed to add to our team. She brought clear eyes and experiences from other practices. Our doctors feel much more comfortable with our room assistants, knowing what the training plan is and who to talk to if there's an issue.

Kerry Balding is practice manager and co-owner at Paw Patch Veterinary Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a finalist for 2019 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year. She has also taken on management of a second clinic to help manage inventory and develop a strong leadership team there as well.

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