Communicating with clients
Well-informed, organized clients make better cat owners. Providing clients with health record folders allows them to keep
all of the cat's pertinent medical information in one place. Many clients bring these folders with them for each veterinary
visit. Clients also appreciate wellness forms completed during the physical exam. These forms can be organized by body systems
and the veterinarian or technician can simply check "normal" or "abnormal" under each category, then briefly comment on each
abnormal finding. Clients will remember exam room discussions more accurately with this helpful prompt. Moreover, in the frenzy
of drop-offs and pick-ups, the person who brings the animal in may not be the actual caregiver. Wellness forms provide crucial
information for absentee pet owners.
Getting staff on board
Present your new feline healthcare program to the staff with an initial overview to introduce the concept to them. Let them
know that they do not have to "know it all" after the first session and that there will be regular meetings to discuss each
item in the preventive medicine protocol in detail. Make these seminars comfortable with an open invitation for questions.
It also helps to provide lunch or a snack. Staff members, like their veterinary employees, learn better on a full stomach,
and the staff will appreciate the added consideration of a treat.
Keep interruptions to minimum during the training sessions. We all have a practice to run and do not want to ignore clients,
so schedule seminars during the slower part of the day, perhaps over lunchtime. Assign one employee to "run the clinic" while
the rest of the staff is in session and educate this staff member individually. Some doctors prefer after hours sessions at
night to avoid interruptions, but often personnel are anxious to get home. If seminars are conducted after the clinic closes,
remember to compensate your staff for their time.
Stagger educational meetings to give the staff members time to absorb the material and think of questions. Time between meetings
allows employees to become adept at implementing each portion of the program before embarking on a new area. Make sure that
the team is comfortable with each new "play" in the game plan before introducing a new one. Make regular meetings a priority
in your practice to emphasize your commitment to the plan.
In multi-doctor practices, alternating speakers keeps the meetings interesting and gives colleagues ownership in the preventive
medicine plan. Technicians and receptionists may assist in discussing certain aspects of the program, too, especially as it
relates to their individual duties. For example, technicians may lead the discussion of parasite testing, while the receptionist
may cover the topic of parasiticide sales. It helps when staff members speak from experience. Clients appreciate hearing what
products or services staff members consider useful on their own cats.
Ask all staff members for suggestions that may improve the overall health maintenance protocol. Most people appreciate being
a contributor and will often present a new angle on the subject. The staff may also have good ideas on how to actually present
the information to clients. They know what techniques work for them, so allow them to make the most of their personal experiences
with the clients.
Strong delivery system
Provide the staff with the tools they need to do a good job of client education. Handouts provide the client with written
information to take home, but also serve as a good discussion guide for the staff member while in the examination room. And
remember, a picture is worth a thousand words. Show pet owners what roundworms look like and they will surely want the preventive
medication you prescribe.
Clients are frequently linked to the information highway, so provide them with pertinent Web sites. Perhaps they could benefit
from the AAFP Web site or the sites provided by pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies. Providing Web sites that you have
personally reviewed may decrease the client's tendency to access less dependable Internet sources for information.
Staff members are usually quite dedicated to the protection of animal health and will attend employee seminars and educate
the clients without external motivation, but a little incentive never hurts. Have the staff keep a tally of each time they
discuss the preventive health plan with clients and reward them when they reach a designated goal. Perhaps they would enjoy
a lunch outing or movie passes or video rental certificates after they reach their goal. Once a goal is reached, set a new
one and start the tally over, so the staff remains enthusiastic about the wellness program.
Group praise is great. Complement your staff on their team effort, but do not hesitate to individually recognize members who
truly stand out. Rewarding individual accomplishments may encourage excellence in the rest of the staff members. When an employee
does an exceptionally good job, tell him so.
Being a good doctor is rewarding, but we all know that the smartest veterinarian in the world cannot have a thriving practice
without a good staff. From the front desk to the exam room to the kennel area, we depend on the people who work with us to
keep the clinic running smoothly. An informed staff certainly makes a veterinarian's job easier and frees up the veterinarian's
time to truly "practice medicine."