The 15 ingredients of effective veterinary team training

A pinch of mentorship and a spoonful of reading go a long way in advancing your career
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Apr 01, 2011

Repeat after me: Practice makes perfect—perfection doesn't happen by accident. It happens through training. Excellence in veterinary practice revolves around training programs for all employees, from support staff to the high-ranking specialists.

In the world of human medicine, at places like the Mayo Clinic, fellows accompany clinicians on rounds. They learn their craft at the feet of the more skilled. Apprentice training is wonderful, and in practices where it's in place, it produces excellent results. But apprentice-type training has largely vanished from the veterinary arena.

In addition to apprentice training, mentorship is beneficial for both parties involved. The profession would benefit from its further deployment within the private practice setting, but seldom do we see it as a formal part of our lives these days as the short-term economic pressures override long-term training. While we do see expanding short-term internship or residency programs in veterinary medicine, these are pretty much available on a limited basis and at a significant cost to the trainee.

For excellence in the clinical world, training must become a lifelong obsession, and therefore it must be a major part of a veterinary practice. With training, we can better understand the world we work in. The better we understand options regarding customer service and the various ways to address medical issues, the better we're able to pass this on to consumers—who then will respond intelligently.

So without further ado, here are the 15 ingredients of an effective training program:

1 Mentality

The astute practice leader nurtures skill development by pairing up staff to permit a mentor/mentee relationship. For example, pair senior technicians with junior staff members and senior clinicians with new graduates.

2 Consistency

This is essential to all training endeavors. Employees need repetition in order to assure consistency day-to-day, year-to-year, and staff member to staff member. Because of limited in-house resources, there's a tendency to limit training because of the financial and time commitment needed in order to train folks. So set up a budget to assure you have the dedicated resources and time to make team training a priority.

3 In-house and outside training

Local, state and national CE meetings like CVC in Washington, D.C., offer a wide variety of opportunities for exposure to updated ideas and concepts. But the most important training is what takes place on a daily basis within your practice.

4 Monitoring

Once employees are trained, what they remember and implement tends to undergo a metamorphosis. This drifting is an issue you'll need to address. Monitor employees' duties day-to-day to ensure that the training, compliance and consistency remain steady and don't morph into something you don't recognize.

5 Written format

Training works best when the duties are in written format. Create templates cookbook style—step by step.

6 Balance

The challenge is: Do you focus training on operational issues or quality of medicine issues? Focus too much on one and the other slides. If you focus too much on operations, including fees, clients can be put off. If you focus too much on medicine, you wake up three years down the road and wonder why your practice's cash flow is poor. Making money is easy. Being good is hard. Effective training determines excellence in a practice. Excellence leads to prosperity.

7 Increase value

If you want a raise, make yourself more valuable to those signing the paycheck. To be more valuable, seek to expand the value to the practice by assimilating the duties on the training list and develop new skills with creative training.

8 Budget

If you have a training budget, it'll let everyone in your practice know the importance of training. Practices can set a budget of 1 percent to 3 percent of the gross revenue for training purposes.