Take steps to becoming an outpatient nutritional advisor

Remember veterinarians and staff sell 'peace of mind', every other service and/or product comes with a fee


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Clients are practiced observers; they do not know the inner secrets and terminology of the science and technology of veterinary medicine. They only know what they see in the caring, sharing and pride of the practice staff.

My goal for this article is to address "selling pet food," and the best management approach to achieve success. While the simple approach would be to do what I was asked, that is seldom my consulting style; it is far more important to me to set the stage for what should happen.

The only thing we sell to clients in a quality-based companion animal veterinary practice is peace of mind; all else they are allowed to buy.

We have written in many sources that the outpatient nurse technician is responsible for escorting the client/patient into the consultation room, completing an asymmetry exam including the TPR, dental score, body condition score and parasite protection screening history (+/- conducting the interviews required for baseline client and patient information), doing the history review of the client's concern, and providing the delivery of healthcare information as directed by the veterinary practice's standards of care.

The skilled nurse technician also provides whatever else the client may need (pet parent awareness training). The staff members must act as a caring friend to the client and have genuine concern for the companion animal (patient advocacy = speaking for the pet's "needs"). Nurse technicians must always act, dress and look like a member of a superior healthcare delivery team. They must always remember that they are "on stage" and that their actions, appearance and words are not missed by owners.

They are impressive, simply because they are friendly and they know "their stuff."

Remember: The goal for the outpatient nurse technician — to allow the consultation room encounters to go smoothly, to increase the doctor's productivity, and to give the client another healthcare provider to talk to in the consultation room and on the telephone.

  • The mission

With the above philosophy, it must be obvious that we believe technicians are critical to effective veterinary healthcare delivery.

As we have said, many times, in many seminars, in many areas of this country and internationally, "...veterinarians are accountable for producing the gross, but it is the staff who can produce the net!

The effectiveness of the staff is directly proportional to the level of trust for which they have been trained. If they have not been trained to be trusted, or if the doctor corrects them in front of clients or other staff members, the health care delivery team system will be non-functional.

The concepts of practice operation stated herein are built upon the premise that the provider trusts the team, that training has occurred, and that the team members feel nurtured rather than controlled.

Nurtured means they know the desired outcome and accept the accountability for getting there with the client and patient; they operate in a harmonious "safe haven," with inviolate core values which decisions can be made.

They concurrently understand that the choice of process is theirs and the "boss" does not care as long as the philosophy of the practice, core values or standards of care, are not violated. Authority and responsibility are outdated terms on this healthcare team, since accountability for outcome means doing the right things for the right reasons at the right time. Doing things right was a training concern, not an operational control.

The measurements of success are the controls on this team: happy clients, harmony in the team and net income for the practice.

  • Nutritional advisors

The goal for the outpatient nutritional advisor — to allow the pet parent to have a personal counselor in matters dealing with the nutritional health of their companion animal, and to give the client another healthcare provider to talk to in the consultation room and on the telephone.