'Three strikes' helps reduce stress, improve efficiencies

Employee accountability can help promote, encourage 'awareness'
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Apr 01, 2005

Veterinary practice can be fun, or it can be stressful. The trick is to figure out how to minimize stress points so you can experience enjoyment the majority of the time.

Some common stress points can be easily overcome. Not only do they eliminate your frustration as a doctor or manager, but the following tips can also increase employee efficiency, reduce complaints and the nitpicking that often distracts you from the daily satisfaction of working in a pet hospital.

Three-strikes rule


Table 1. Sample requisition form
Diann Wallace, practice manager of Lake City Animal Hospital in Lake City Florida states her recently implemented "three-strikes" rule has made a significant difference in staff efficiency, job satisfaction and eliminated some management hassles for her. Each employee is responsible for notifying Diann of malfunctioning equipment, out-of-place items or even the occasional thought "I wish I had ..." By the third time of noticing the same problem, Diann should know about it.

For example, if an employee reaches for an otoscope and it's not in its usual place, the employee has the responsibility to notify Diann at least by the third time it occurs. Perhaps an additional otoscope should be purchased for increased staff efficiency.

Wherever possible, Diann budgets for equipment that will help employees be more productive. Employees are able to document the need and in exchange, they are expected to prove proficiency with new equipment immediately and that its implementation propels measurable results, such as increased transactions and fee income.

Through repetition and accountability, employees have developed a useful habit: awareness. Employees quickly notice and work to rectify small snags that previously were frustrating time vampires.

When they notice a latch or doorknob isn't working or some other problem with the facility or equipment, team members let Diann know promptly so she can address the situation.

In past days, if a kennel door latch was not working, it might be ignored until a busy vacation season. At that point, the hospital would lose income because the unsecured kennel could not be used. These days, such repairs are made almost as soon as the problem is noted, and no avoidable income loss occurs.

The practice maintains an "open-door" policy. All employees enthusiastically notify Diann at the earliest moment they notice anything wrong. The practice manager is always accessible. To make the system work, Diann allows employees to call her at home if they see a problem that needs to be rectified quickly.

For less urgent issues, a want-list is conveniently located so employees can fill it out at any time. As an aside, many practices use requisition forms, such as the one depicted in Table 1.

Adopt a room

We need to pay a thank you for this next tip from Dr. Gretchen Zarle at Bartels Pet Hospital in Brecksville, Ohio. Dr. Zarle picked up the idea when she was shopping at a large retailer. She noted that store management designated areas of employee responsibilities through strategically displayed wall placards.

She adapted this idea of employee responsibility in her own hospital. Each employee has adopted a room in the hospital. During a visit, we noticed and remarked on a small sign on the laundry room wall that read "Laundry-room supervisor: Jessica."

Each employee is proud of his or her space and keeps it well-organized and immaculate. The neatness of Jessica's laundry room was impressive; everything was organized and in its place. Shelves were neat and orderly. The floor was clean and all of the lights worked.

The doctor reports the hospital stays much cleaner and well-organized than before employees adopted rooms of their choice. Everyone's stress is less because things are put away in their proper places and clutter is reduced to a minimum. A needed item or piece of equipment can be located quickly.