Your best ally
Practice managers serve a variety of roles; can help new associates adjust to practice culture; run interference with non-medical problems
Visions of a brand new job in a veterinary clinic may strike up imagesof a healthy client base, a plethora of chances to test your clinical skillson living patients and a real, but perhaps negligible, paycheck.
Don't forget the person behind the scenes of many such practices - theglue, bonding veterinarian to staff to clients. Meet the practice manager,whose role can be integral to the success of a young veterinary graduate.
When a new associate joins the practice, Sandra Brown Wiltshire, CVPM,of Walden, N.Y., says it's up to the practice manager to familiarize theassociate with expectations of the practice, such as practice philosophyand vision and how they should relate to clients.
"We want to help them learn how to interact and make a smooth transitioninto the team. They need to learn especially because new graduates haven'thad a lot of hands-on dealing with the public," she says.
Jennifer Inbody says at Animal Medical Clinic in Granbury, Texas, herpractice incorporates an orientation for veterinarians, during which thenew associate is paired up with a seasoned associate, the practice owner,or practice manager (or any combination) to learn inner workings of thepractice.
"Helping the new veterinarian bond with clients and staff shouldbe the top priority for the practice team during the first months of employment,"Inbody says.
At Michelle Campoli's practice in Eugene, Ore., the practice team takesthe orientation process to the next level. Their most recent associate hirespent the first month in the trenches: a week with receptionists, anotherweek with technicians, a few days with the practice manager and so on withno clinical practice.
"To be honest, in hindsight, it was probably the best thing we everdid," Campoli says. Once the associate began practicing medicine, "notonly did the associate start meeting their salary in production, but theveterinarian was making production-based bonuses faster than any other associatewe'd had. This highly correlates to the fact the staff bought into thatassociate. There was more respect. It wasn't me versus them."
The job description of practice managers typically involves working withcontracts, keeping doctors' schedules, financial input, marketing and advertising,OSHA compliance, and working with accountants and attorneys. In an idealsituation, the manager can take care of all business aspects of the practice:human resources, scheduling, client satisfaction, maintaining facilitiesand overseeing finances.
Simply put, some managers say they do everything administrative.
"The practice manager is someone to talk to about any issues thataren't medical," says Marty Bezner, CVPM, of Florida. "Our wholepurpose is to help the doctors get their work done."
Wiltshire says it's common for practice managers to try to mentor thenew veterinarian to get them acclimated to the culture of that practice.
Her best advice to fresh associates: "Have a practice manager workingwith you who has your vision of what you want to do in practice. Then givethem the flexibility to let them do what they're trained to do, knowingthat they have your best interests at heart," she says.
Inbody adds: "Practice managers can be one of the strongest alliesthat an associate or owner has. When a good working relationship, solidcommunications and established goals exist, then the sky is the limit."
Inbody says it's not uncommon to find new associates struggling withlack of confidence in abilities, deficient people skills and lack of basicbusiness knowledge.
"Many associate veterinarians (both recent graduates and experienced)do not understand that veterinary medicine is not just a service we providebecause we care about animals, it is also a business," Inbody says."It's a business which needs to be run efficiently because there aremany individuals (pet, clients, employees, owners) who depend on its success."
At Bezner's practice, the problems have focused on personality diversities,which prompted the practice management to profile everyone's personality.
"Personality profiles help everybody understand each other's weaknessesand strengths," she says.
Adds Inbody: "A team of diverse personality types can be both wonderfuland stressful at the same time. Put forth the effort to learn as much asyou can about the different personality types (including your own) and howto effectively relate to them."
An open mind and willingness to communicate with the practice managergoes a long way toward building a successful relationship between the newassociate and practice manager, Inbody says.
"A new associate may have wonderful ideas, but there is a time,place and approach to sharing those ideas. I recommend that you not comein like a bulldozer. If you do, you will probably put most of the supportstaff on the defensive, have a harder time bonding and experience difficultybecoming part of the team," she adds.
Bezner advises new veterinarians to know the practice culture beforesigning on and pay attention to how it's organized.
"Having a well-organized practice, from everybody's point of view,is the best practice to go to. Most practices practice good medicine. Buta lot of practices are not organized and not well managed. What you wantis a practice that isn't full of fire engine situations," she says.
Practice managers recommend veterinary students visit www.vhma.org fora closer look at the responsibilities and certification process of a practicemanager.