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How to Take Control of Your Career

Philip J. Seibert, Jr., CVT
Veterinary Practice Consultants
(423) 336-1925

Everyone wants to belong and contribute. We also have a basic human need to be useful and appreciated. It's how we act to fulfill those needs that makes the difference between success and mediocrity. With the increased competition in the veterinary market, hospitals are now realizing that associate veterinarians and support staff members are revenue enhancers not cost center expenses!

"The veterinarian may produce the gross, but it's the staff that makes the net!"

Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA

There are certain traits or abilities that make some people more desirable as an employee. Certainly, honesty, dependability and a willingness to learn the job are always traits that are in demand, but now we're talking about the next level of attributes - the characteristics that make the difference between a good employee and a real team member. There are three traits that many veterinary hospital managers and owners find in their exceptional team members; what do you think they are:

Your Answers

   Their Answers

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Now lets talk about how you can make yourself a more valuable member of the team! These 10 Steps To Success are my recipe for finding job satisfaction and financial reward in the veterinary profession.

Step 1:  Make the decision to take control! Set specific goals for yourself that are consistent with the practice's goals. Remember, a practice goal must meet the needs of four entities: the patient, the client, the owner and the staff!

Step 2:  Invest in yourself! Learn as much as you can about the overall operation of the practice. The more you know, the more you are likely to succeed. Avoid the "it ain't my job" syndrome.

Step 3:  Develop a set of personal philosophy guidelines and share them with your leaders and co-workers. Let everyone know what you stand for and what you expect - and stick by them.

Step 4:  Try to understand the basic personality traits of several people: your boss, your coworkers, and most importantly, yourself. Different people are driven by different needs; none are wrong and none are right, but each has it's uses. Before introducing any ideas, it is important to understand your veterinarian's attitude toward the practice, the profession, the purpose and responsibilities of staff, and his/her comfort with change. Once you realize where you, the practice, and the rest of the staff are, only then can you determine where you're headed.

Step 5:  Knowledge is power! You must do your homework. You must appear knowledgeable in the subject, but not a know-it-all; the power of expertise is very strong and usually linked to success. The ability to gather resources, assemble a plan, and package it so that it meets the current needs of the practice and the staff, takes a lot of time and work - mostly reading. As one of my professors was fond of saying, "There is an unlimited pool of knowledge in books and the human imagination. Drink deeply from this pool, for therein lies wisdom, and wisdom is the most admirable of all human traits."

Step 6:  Look for problems to solve. Start with the highest priority for any business: customer service problems. Can you identify some of barriers to excellent customer service that are present in your practice? Now's your chance to do something about them!

Step 7:  Take the initiative. Come up with a solution not just restating the problem. This is a much better way of introducing ideas than stating "This is a pain in the @#&*, we need something different!" Remember, bosses want someone to handle the details. Don't avoid responsibility - go in search of it!

Step 8:  Work smarter, not harder. Take an objective look at the processes involved, as they interact with the entire practice, and what the ultimate objective really is. Most times those extensive, laborious processes are the result of a "knee-jerk" response to a situation without much planning or forethought. Try to ensure that the cure isn't worse than the disease. Take on small projects that can be done relatively fast and have visible results. This will establish your credibility as a logical thinker and an organizer, and will usually result in instant success!

Step 9:  Lead, follow or get out of the way! Obtain the support of coworkers. You are more likely to succeed if you show others the solution than if you simply complain about the situation. Always remember that health care delivery is a team approach, and every member of the team is responsible for any program's success or failure.

Step 10:  Timing is everything. Since you've already analyzed yourself, your coworkers and your boss, you know when they're most receptive to ideas. Attempt to introduce ideas when people are happy/relaxed instead of waiting until you're knee deep in surgeries and two emergencies just walked in. This is probably not a good time to talk about reorganizing anything!

Step 11:  Reevaluate and make adjustments as necessary. Try to anticipate problems ahead of time, but when you can't then solve them as they arise. If there's one thing that destroys credibility worse than no initiative, that's running back to the old way as soon as a problem comes up. Use the old infantryman's motto of "Adapt, Improvise and Overcome."

Step 12:  Don't be afraid to make changes. I have found that you often receive forgiveness faster than permission!

As a consultant who has visited over one thousand hospitals in the past six years, I find an overwhelming majority of practice owners who wish their staff would take more interest in the day to day procedures of the hospital but don't quite know how to get them involved. If you make it easy and start the ball rolling, there's no telling how far you will progress.


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