Adding value to a practice — immediately


Adding value to a practice — immediately

New graduates can shed still-learning stigma by bringing business sense, skill to the table
Sep 01, 2005

5 ways a new association can add value
Business-savvy veterinary students are learning that practice owners appreciate the fresh view they bring to their work. Students' understanding of the business and medical sides of practice allows them to quickly add value and help improve their work-life balance.

This story is a composite picture of what happens in veterinary medicine as students embrace the importance of sound business management to support good medicine. It is not based on an actual person or practice.

New graduate Dr. Keri Black stepped into her associate veterinarian role with ease in her first practice. It was hard to be new, but she felt confident she could meet the expectations of the owner and clients at Berry Hill Animal Hospital. Not all graduates are so fortunate. What made things different for Keri?

It began during Keri's third year of veterinary school when she discovered a new student organization called the Veterinary Business Management Association (VBMA). VBMA is a growing, national student-managed organization, dedicated to the belief that business management knowledge is integral to the education of a well-rounded veterinarian and that business knowledge will allow DVMs to practice better medicine.

Keri thought it was important to understand how a veterinary practice worked and how an associate veterinarian fit into the mix. VBMA had a chapter on her campus. She was surprised to find so many other like-minded students eager to learn about the business side of the profession they soon would enter.

At VBMA meetings, Keri learned that the average annual compensation new graduates could expect, depending on what part of the country they practiced in, ranged from $40,000 to $54,000 a year. She also learned that to produce value sufficient to justify that level of compensation, she would need to generate approximately $223,000 to $300,000 in gross revenue. Her gross revenue, or production, would be based on how many patients she examined, the healthcare services she provided and the fees that the practice charged.

Standards of care

Keri also heard a talk about the American Animal Hospital Association's (AAHA) compliance study and its implications for improving the quality of patient care and practice finances. Compliance, she learned, was about setting standards of care that you believed in for patients. The standards of care should address pet wellness and preventive healthcare needs. The AAHA study also encouraged practitioners to set goals and track how well they were meeting the standards they set.

Keri wrote down the six areas that the AAHA study covered (vaccinations, heartworm testing and prevention, dental prophylaxis, pre-anesthesia testing, nutritional support and senior care) and took the list with her to her summer job at a small companion animal practice. She wanted to talk to the practice owner about them and get his opinion.


The practice owner was impressed Keri put so much thought and effort into her job. He thought establishing standards of care was an excellent idea. He and Keri held several follow-up meetings to establish written standards to share with the rest of the hospital team. They followed the AAHA compliance model and created standards for the six preventive healthcare areas addressed in the study and added an additional standard of their own to cover fecal testing.

Their next step was to share the new standards with the practice team. The practice owner touted the importance of the standards and shared his belief that they would help them to take better care of patients.

The practice owner asked his team to consider how they could support the new standards in their roles: What ideas did they have for implementing the standards to ensure consistency of care and make the workload manageable for all team members? What training would they need?

The team members had plenty of ideas, and Keri was assigned to a cross-department team composed of the head receptionist, a technician and the practice manager to think through the intra-department implications of improving compliance. The team was charged with coming up with a practical plan to implement, track and measure its compliance success.

Keri enjoyed working with the team; they came up with better ideas than she could have alone. She also gained valuable perspectives from each team member that deepened her appreciation for the contribution everyone made to patient care.

The practice owner was happy Keri had initiated standards of care compliance and appreciated the fresh energy and enthusiasm she brought to the project. Keri searched online for the most current pet care guidelines from the American Heartworm Society, the Companion Animal Parasite Council, AAHA and American Association of Feline Practitioners to provide up-to-date information for their discussions.