Team Training – Imperative for Professional Headway

December 17, 2018

Is your training program effective? Or is it stagnant?

The common veterinary training practice of see one, do one and teach one is woefully inadequate. Training should be agile, provide the complexity of real-world situations and allow learners to demonstrate practical skills that can be immediately employed.

This means engaging all six processes – hearing, seeing, questioning, discussing, doing and teaching. But how can this be accomplished when there are patients that need attention, a clinic that needs steering and a staff that is chronically overworked due to understaffing?


One of the major issues related to staff development in any clinic is feasibility. From planning a professional development strategy to setting goals, it is imperative to be flexible in order to make training appropriate, timely and meaningful.

Ultimately, the best way to design training that meets different needs and accommodates different levels of expertise is to find out what people do and do not know and what they need to know. Then develop a strategy for continuous learning that not only aids knowledge retention but also enables employee growth.

Microlearning works

If you have ever looked up something quickly on VIN, you’ve engaged in microlearning. This is obtaining information in short bursts that can be accessed at any time. Self-directed microlearning is the perfect training fit for busy clinical settings, can be built around any action or skill and is a great way to cultivate a culture of learning within your clinic.

First and foremost, let your employees know how this will fit into the strategic goals of the clinic. Aligning this training to clinic culture will encourage participation. Your employees work at your clinic because they believe in your vision/version of practicing veterinary medicine and ongoing talent development.

Next, communicate to the staff how this will benefit the patients, the clinic and themselves. There are different ways to present materials. Here are just a few:

  • Video illustrating what you want them to learn – engages hearing and seeing processes
  • Email written information – engaging the seeing process
  • Lunch and Learns – engages the discussion process
  • Set up a system to encourage people to ask questions along the way – engaging the questioning process

Lunch and Learns – as an example

By the time the lunch and learn occurs, all employees should be familiar with the new process, how it compares to the old process and the overall benefits of adopting the new technique.

Research shows that when learners make the connection between existing knowledge and the acquisition of new skills, learning and retention are improved because this active learning commits the synthesized information to long-term memory.

Right after the lunch and learn is the best time for practicing the new technique (engaging the doing process). While learning motivations may vary, everybody appreciates practical skills that can be immediately employed.

Provide frequent and varied feedback to maximize employee strengths and provide opportunities for improvement. Studies show that employers who do not provide feedback often fail to engage up to 98% of their employees! Ask questions to arouse curiosity and challenge your employees to engage in doing the new process.


The last process to engage is the teaching process. This is done once the skill is mastered.

It has been well documented that peer teaching/training has many benefits. For example, peers often explain ideas in more relatable ways. Often learners feel more at ease asking questions of each other. Most importantly, the act of teaching deepens the peer trainer’s understanding of the topic and how it is applied in different situations.

By giving your employees the power and responsibility of directing their growth, you can effectively engage them in their own upskilling process. This in turn can lead to them designing their own training, resulting in experiences that inspire future growth.

Risk / Reward

I’m often asked, “What happens if we invest in developing our staff and they go to another clinic?” However, what should be asked is “What happens if these employees stay?”

Without engaged training, do they become stagnant and just go through the motions? Do they succumb to burnout? Do you eventually fire them for being unproductive? If your clinic doesn’t make training a priority, how can you be sure the work that is being done is the best it can be?

In order to develop a training strategy, you need to align the learning objectives with your clinic’s overall strategic goals. When employees know what they’re doing, why they are doing it, and how they fit into the clinic’s overall success, they will be more motivated and engaged in the training process and the work environment.

A culture of agile microlearning benefits both your clinic and your employees by staving off professional stagnation. If your clinic is behind on the training curve, then you risk falling behind in the overall industry.

When people learn new information, it spurs creative ways to complete tasks and deliver better medicine. The feeling of accomplishment and pride is invigorating for your employees and the long-term impact to your clinic can include time savings, cost reductions, and more engaged, productive employees providing care to your clients and patients.

Now that’s an effective training program!

Deanne Pawlisch, MS, CPP, CVT3
[email protected]

Deanne Pawlisch has worked in a variety of practice settings as a credentialed veterinary technician. She has been a volunteer veterinary technician for the SPCA in Suva, Fiji as well as a technician supervisor for a 24-hour emergency clinic. Using only a leash and a towel, she once single-handedly defended a police officer from a gang of feral cats. Deanne pilots a Tonopen with unflagging speed and performs ten-minute snap tests in nine minutes. She writes award winning patient histories while translating doctors’ hieroglyphics into discharge instructions. On week-ends, to let off steam, she participates in full-contact bird grooming. In 2008, Deanne became an instructor for the NAVTA-approved Veterinary Assistant program at Harper College in Palatine, IL and in 2011 she was elected to the board of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Foundation. Deanne holds a BS in anthropology from Loyola University and a MS in instructional design from Western Illinois University. Currently Deanne is a trainer with Complete Veterinary Team Services, where she helps practices build the staff of their dreams. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her furry family.