Hands & Heart in Team-Delivered Veterinary Care
June 7, 2017
I have been fortunate to have worked in a practice that offered team-delivered veterinary care – and it was a mixed animal practice in rural Colorado in the ’90s! However, I didn’t really understand how special that service was at Town & Country Animal Hospital (T&CAH) until I began networking within organized veterinary medicine (Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians & Colorado Veterinary Medical Association) and offering veterinary technician relief services.
First, a walk down memory lane. I knew at a young age I wanted to be a veterinary technician (not a doctor) because my mother worked for a veterinarian in Michigan as his receptionist/technician (early ’70s). That’s when I understood veterinarians needed assistants in offering medical services. Upon graduation from Colorado Mountain College as a veterinary technician in 1987, I began working at T&CAH, 30 miles from the Continental Divide (in the middle of nothing but mountains, ranch lands and recreational paradise for a 60 mile radius).
Luckily, my veterinarians were already employing credentialed veterinary technicians. My doctors understood time management, leveraging their team and client service. As a young veterinary technician, I was already speaking with clients, inquiring about life style (traveling outside of Colorado with their pets) and helping to determine what was best for the pet and pet owner using our check-off lists and consistent messaging. The veterinarians entrusted us to educate and build relationships with the clients. We were an extension of their education and expertise. We were their hands and heart in continuing to deliver veterinary care.
Looking back at my experience as a veterinary technician through the ’80s and ’90s, those were shinin’ times! Granted, we had our ups and downs, disagreements and growing pains, but through it all, we offered veterinary medicine as a team. Each client knew that every team member was an important part of the hospital and together we offered great services in a friendly, trustworthy and respected manner.
In their wisdom, as the practice began to grow, the veterinarian owners sought outside support to manage the growth and their time. In 1994, Dr. Tom Catanzaro observed the team and reviewed the finances, client data and services. One of his suggestions was to continue to grow and foster the team-delivered aspect of veterinary care. This entailed transitioning from a doctor-centered practice (where clients were bonded to a particular doctor) to a client and team-centered practice (where clients bond to the hospital and all its team members).
What does it mean to offer team-delivered veterinary care? In my experience, it means all team members seek to understand the needs of the client and their pet(s), then fulfill the need, together. It means a team that is trained, trusted and empowered to work together in a systematic manner, offering extraordinary client experience and the highest standard of veterinary care.
Within this team there is a known mission for the day for expectation of client service and patient care. Then the team members are leveraged to their highest potential (within their scope of formal training and role) in advocating for the pet and respecting the pet owner.
It means the receptionist (client service representative) understands the services the veterinary hospital provides, properly articulating the value and importance of wellness exams (prevention), dental care, vaccination protocols, etc. to support the client in making decisions. The receptionist has a general understanding of common illnesses, emergencies and surgical procedures the veterinary hospital provides. The client care team advocates for the pet’s general health and well-being, supporting the team by properly scheduling for the services.
It means the veterinary technician is an extension of the client care team’s conversation and supports the veterinarian in treatments, surgery, client education and emergencies. While speaking with veterinary students and technician students, I explain, “A great technician anticipates the needs of the veterinarian he/she is supporting. That is not diagnosing or prescribing, it is simply the synergy that exists when the veterinary team is properly trained, trusted and leveraged.”
In a veterinary hospital where there is proper delegation of the team, the veterinarians focus on diagnosing, prognosing, prescribing treatment plans and initiating surgery. The veterinarian’s time is leveraged to the max by entrusting their trained team members to properly perform treatments, complete laboratory tests, prepare for surgery, fill prescriptions and the list goes on.
Obviously this is not a detailed outline of everything veterinary team members can be leveraged to accomplish in a team-centered practice, but you may get a sense of what I am talking about. Over the years I have simplified this idea where team members, collectively, “Do what is best for the pet, pet owner, veterinary team and veterinary hospital.”
We hold a special bond in our hands and hearts when we help pet owners take care of their animals. We hold a special bond in our hands and hearts when we deliver a team-centered approach to veterinary care.
I am grateful I worked at Town & Country Animal Hospital and that we embraced Dr. TomCat’s recommendations in team-delivered veterinary care. I truly believe the experiences continues to drive my passion in veterinary team development.
“Your staff members are your #1 client. How you treat your staff is how the staff will treat your clients.” Tom Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, FACHE, DACHE
Yours in Veterinary Team Development,
Rebecca Rose, CVT