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Workplace Violence

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Workplace violence ranges from threats to verbal abuse and ultimately to physical assaults and homicide. It can occur at the workplace or otherwise be related to the workplace even if it doesn’t occur at the physical work location. Without a doubt, it is a growing concern for both employers and employees. VHMA’s 2019 February Management Survey asked veterinary practice managers where things currently stand in their practice.


When asked “Has your practice ever experienced a workplace violence situation (involving employees and/or clients)?” sadly, 35% of the managers answered yes to this question.


When asked “If yes, what type of workplace violence situation was your practice presented with?" By far the biggest perpetrators of violence in the veterinary practices surveyed were clients followed by employees of the practice.


Regardless of the type of violence, it is prevalent enough that practices feel the need to put in place policies and procedures to prevent workplace violence and educate employees about how to protect themselves and others. Almost 2/3 of the managers’ surveyed respondents answered “yes” having a written policy or procedure ensuring employee/client safety. Keep in mind, while a written policy by itself cannot stop a random unknown shooter, a policy CAN help set expectations about behavior in the workplace and educate employees about the kinds of behavior and conversations that can be red flags. The policy can also help demonstrate the practice’s efforts to protect its employees should it be involved in legal action following an incident. 80% of the managers who responded said their practice has a written policy banning weapons, drugs and violent or threatening behavior by employees in the workplace. Unfortunately, while most practices have workplace violence policies in place, only about 30% do any training related to this topic.


When asked about security features in the practice lighting, video surveillance and limited public access to most of the facility were the most frequently cited.


Workplace violence is a scary issue, and most small businesses are less prepared to deal with this issue than larger companies with extensive resources. Some of the actions a practice should consider include:


1. Establish a policy regarding workplace violence. Some topics to include are:

  • Zero tolerance for violent behavior
  • List and description of prohibited conduct
  • Consequences for such behavior
  • Required employee training
  • Grievance procedures
  • Types of dangerous situations that should be reported to management, to whom they should be reported and how

2. Establish emergency action plans for various kinds of situations including exit strategies for all employees


3. Educate all employees about reporting unusual client, vendor or employee behavior; it is not tattling and is the responsible action to take


4. Setup a confidential way for people to report dangerous situations


5. Design and regularly provide employee training. Some topics to include are:

  • Red flag behavior or conversation that should be reported to management
  • The types of situations that may arise and what to do
  • Personal safety training from an outside expert

6. Perform background investigations during the hiring process


7. Annual review of the premises to identify any vulnerabilities that could contribute to violent behavior


8. Follow up promptly on all concerns and reports; take action where needed



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Corporate Social Responsibility

Posted By Administration, Sunday, January 27, 2019

Corporate social responsibility (often abbreviated as CSR) isn’t a term used much in veterinary medicine, but the concept certainly exists. The vast majority of veterinary practices give back to their communities in one way or another, and most practices have a strong belief in a responsibility to actively contribute to the health and quality of life of those communities and encourage our employees to do the same.”


There are many different definitions of CSR and many different types of initiatives and ways they are implemented in different kinds of businesses and different countries. The concept is broad and can include efforts related to human rights, health and safety, the environment, working conditions, economic development and, of course, animal welfare.


Veterinary hospitals participate in a large range of community and charitable activities for example:


·         Pet rescue and adoption

·         In-house pet foster care

·         Free educational events for pet owners

·         Participation in local career fairs

·         Providing clinic tours to schools, youth groups, and community groups

·         Hosting a low cost or no cost spay/neuter clinic

·         Hosting a low cost or no cost vaccine clinic

·         Offers a charitable fund to help pet owners with limited resources

·         Support local organizations’ fundraising events

·         Provide employees with paid time off to volunteer

·         Provide supplies and/or services for disaster relief


Small businesses often contribute back to the community just because they think it is the right thing to do. While this is true of some larger companies as well, bigger entities have also started to recognize that social responsibility is a good business strategy. Customers prefer to do business with companies who give back.


According to one report, 2017 Cone Communications Study, 87-92% of customers say that when a company supports a social or environmental issue, they:


·         Have a more positive image of the company

·         Would be more likely to trust the company

·         Would be more loyal to the company


Eighty-nine percent of consumers are likely to switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause, given a similar price and quality. Eighty-seven percent said they would purchase a product because the company stood up for or advocated for an issue they cared about, 88% also say they would stop buying a company’s products if they learned of their irresponsible or deceptive business practices.


There is also a strong feeling in the business world (and many studies to support this feeling) that it has become increasingly important to employees to work for companies that give back. This is especially true for millennials.


CSR is becoming an ever increasing issue. While your practice may be doing this for the best reason—because it’s the right thing to do—there isn’t any reason not to tell the world. Pet owners and potential employees want to know!


For whatever reason the practice gives back; make sure you do it right. Be transparent and honest about what you do. Recognize that consumers and employees want to know that your motives are authentic.


Review the full report, VHMA's Insiders' Insight Report, January 2019, to see what practice managers have to say.


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Team Wellbeing

Posted By Administration, Thursday, December 27, 2018

There has been a great deal of discussion and concern in the last few years about the mental wellbeing of veterinarians and their team members. Most probably agree that life is tougher than it used to be and most people’s personal and professional lives are at least somewhat intertwined. It is hard to be a star performer at work if your personal life is falling apart and hard to be a loving and supporting family member or friend if your professional live is beating you down. And, of course, hard to take of yourself if either of these is going on!


In December 2018 VHMA member managers were asked to share their perspective on the following questions for themselves, as well as their DVM and support team staff. Here is what almost 300 of your colleagues had to say about themselves and their team members (visit the VHMA website to review the full report, VHMA Insiders’ Insight Report, December 2018).


·         I am happy at work the majority of the time.

·         My level of stress at work is easy to manage.

·         I have ample opportunity to do work I enjoy.

·         I feel supported professional at work.

·         I feel supported personally at work.


Overall, managers seem to be happy with their work situations; about 82% agreed or strongly agreed that they are happy at work the majority of the time. About 70% feel both professionally and personally supported at work. Handling work stress is another matter, 24% of managers stated they could not easily manage stress at work.


Managers feel that 75% of DVMs are happy with their work situation. The majority of managers feel DVMs have opportunity to enjoy their work. 80% of managers said their DVMs felt professionally supported at work, and 75% felt DVMs feel personally supported. Handling work stress is perceived to be as difficult for DVMs as for the managers.


About 78% of managers agreed or strongly agreed that support team members are happy with their work situation. 73% of managers said support team members have ample opportunity to enjoy their work. The majority of managers also feel support team members feel professionally and personally supported at work. Again, managers feel that support team members find it difficult to manage work stress.


There are a large number of seminars and articles in veterinary publications that talk about work satisfaction, mental health in the workplace, work-life balance and things individuals and practices can do to stay mentally healthy and happy with life. One of the most interesting was the Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study, released early in 2018. While this study focused on veterinarians, common sense indicates similar issues impact non-DVMs and many of the recommendations would clearly apply to all veterinary team members. For more information on this study, visit:


For additional resources the VHMA is presenting a workshop to help veterinary practice management professionals better understand what wellbeing is, how it impacts the business of the practice, and how to cultivate a positive workplace focused on wellbeing. Visit the VHMA website for more details.



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Managers Share Sage Advice on Forward Booking

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 29, 2018

Forward booking simply means booking the pet’s next appointment before he/she leaves the practice after the current visit. At the dentist’s office, you can’t get out of the exam room, much less the practice without booking your next appointment. The same goes for your physician’s office, you always book your next annual exam before you leave. Unfortunately, we’ve been slower to adopt this concept in veterinary medicine.


VHMA first asked veterinary practice managers about this in 2014 and decided to see what has changed in the four years since then.


When respondents were asked “Is your practice “forward booking” (i.e. making an appointment for the next visit before the client leaves the practice) for RECHECKS/MEDICAL PROGRESS EXAMS?” Responses were consistent with the 2014 survey results - 75% of the respondents answered “always” or “most of the time.” No change from 2014 to 2018. No surprises here.


When respondents were asked “Is your practice “forward booking” (i.e. making an appointment for the next visit before the client leaves the practice) for ANNUAL/SEMI-ANNUAL WELLNESS OR PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE EXAMS?” Responses increased a very disappointingly small amount to 15% in 2018 compared to 11% of the respondents who answered “always” or “most of the time” in 2014.


Managers shared some of the reasons they said they didn’t forward book preventive care appointments:

  • Forward booking doesn’t fit (ER or walk-in only practice)
  • Clients are reluctant to do so
  • Appointment calendar won’t book that far out
  • DVMs disapproved of the idea
  • Staff reluctant to try forward booking
  • Not a priority with the owner
  • DVM schedules aren’t set that far out
  • Practice tried forward booking previously and it wasn’t successful

 Managers who are already forward booking in their practice shared some sage pieces of advice for those practices that need encouragement. See the full report for those insights.


Like any cultural change in a practice, it will take time until forward booking becomes “the way we do things here.” There are specific things you can do, however, to make implementation of this change easier and faster; some of these are discussed below:


Discuss the benefits with everyone in the practice

Don’t assume everyone in the practice already understands this. It’s important to talk through the advantages of forward booking as a part of your team training.


Shift your thinking about what clients will or won’t do

A few pet owners won’t like the change and won’t make their appointments early but this isn’t a reason not to implement forward booking. There isn’t a single thing you recommend in your practice that EVERY client accepts.


Words matter

Forward booking preventive care exams works best when the exam room team and the front desk team work in tandem with each other, consistently conveying the same message with their language. Most practices have found that including the doctor in these conversations makes a difference in client willingness to forward book the first time.


Reminders are critical!

Set up reminders several weeks and then several days in advance of the next year’s appointment so the client can change or cancel if needed. Don’t forget to consider generational differences and use the type of reminder the client prefers; some clients may want a text, email or phone reminder while others prefer a traditional reminder card.  


VHMA's Preventive Pet Healthcare: Your Guide to Becoming a Practice Champion is a solid, practical, easy to use resource for practice leaders who are seeking to implement forward booking. Check out the Partners for Healthy Pets website for a roadmap, tools, and success stories.


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Are Managers Valued?

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The utilization of a dedicated professional business manager in a veterinary practice is a relatively new development in veterinary medicine. There have always been a few practices that had a dedicated manager but many did not until perhaps 10-15 years ago. And even now most practice owners struggle to identify the value a manager can bring, the types of activities they should be involved in, and the support and resources they need to do a good job. VHMA’s October 2018 Insiders’ Insight Report explores this topic with managers.


Managers were asked: Do you feel your employer provides the tools and resources for you to manage operations effectively?” Fortunately, about ¾ of the survey respondents answered yes to this question; however, there is still room for improvement in the other ¼ of the practices.


When asked what tools and resources are not available about ½ of the respondents noted that several very critical resources were missing: the job description, support for their decisions, and access to the owners. It is very difficult to function effectively as a manager without these.


When asked why these key resources were not available, managers concluded: lack of urgency regarding business matters, owners can’t give up control, owner has personal loyalties to some poor performers in the practice, lack of vision/direction, owner not around or doesn’t have time to share needed information, and owner not willing to share financial information. Responses from managers in corporate practices indicated information not shared at the practice level, difficult chain of command, and no support from the top. 78% of respondents have had to advocate for the tools and resources they need to perform their job.


30% of managers polled stated that they had to convince an employer or potential employer of the value a manager can offer.


When asked how they’ve most successfully advocated for their role and for access to the resources, managers stated that demonstrating financial impact, outlining how and what you want will be used, as well as the benefits expected from this resource, and customizing an approach based on your employer’s communication style as the top successful strategies.


And finally, respondents were asked to share advice with other managers who are interested in advocating for their role. Over 120 managers submitted some great advice; below are some common themes:

  • Be consistent and transparent in your communications with the practice owner
  • Have a strong backbone; speak up when needed; don’t take things personally
  • Never stop learning
  •   Know what your practice owner wants and make your practice owner’s life easier; this will make your life easier and allow you to do more things
  • Develop both your analytical and technical skills, as well as your interpersonal skills—all are important
  • Work hard but make sure you have some work life balance and a support system outside of work
  • Develop a job description and a list of daily, weekly and monthly tasks—share this with your practice owner; often they don’t really know what you do on a regular basis

 For more information and survey details read VHMA’s October 2018 Insiders’ Insight Report.


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