Trust Impacts Veterinary Teams, POSITIVELY!

February 19, 2018

Trust Impacts Veterinary Teams, POSITIVELY!

You can measure and improve trust – improving your veterinary team and ultimately profitability!

Research in the healthcare setting has established that highly functional, highly coordinated healthcare teams result in:

  • more efficient medical care
  • reduced costs of delivery
  • improved patient outcomes
  • increased work-place satisfaction

At the foundation of every successful veterinary team is an environment built on trust. A trusting, well-trained team is able to manage the day-to-day events in a way that leads to positive outcomes for the veterinary practice, the individual team members, the clients and ultimately the patients.

gem in ten trust videoA few years ago, I teamed up with Dr. Jason Coe (associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph) to write a paper on team trust and how it affects satisfaction, patient care and profitability. This information is presented in the video. Here is the accompanying PDF of the slides: Trust Impacts Teams Positively_slides

Trust defines healthy workplaces. It elevates, empowers, engages, offers profitability and prosperity.

What is Trust?

Per Webster, trust is an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something. Simply, trust is part of a culture that relies upon respect, knowledge and communication.

Empowering your team to manage conflict proactively is important in building and sustaining an environment of trust and respect (Gittell, 2009). This includes developing systems to address conflict when there are perceived power differentials among team members (e.g., practice owner versus kennel attendant).

Research suggests major detractors to trust in a veterinary practice are unresolved conflict, people who safeguard power or absentee leadership (Moore, thesis).

Building trust can take a long time and can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. However, trust seems to be an intangible concept; a perception, with varying definitions and described differently among teams. Until recently, trust has not been quantified.

Measuring Trust

Now, we know we can quantify and measure trust, similar to other key indicators. As written in the book, The Speed of Trust, the economics of trust simply state that trust always affects two measurable outcomes: “speed and cost.”

  • When trust goes down, speed will also go down while cost will go up. This is a tax.
  • When trust goes up, speed will also go up while cost will come down. This is a dividend.

In the book it states, “Every interaction, every work project, every initiative, every communication, every strategic or tactical imperative we are trying to accomplish is affected positively or negatively by trust.”

Therefore, the benefits of a trusting team are plentiful. A team that does not trust each other is doomed to fail. “Nothing is as profitable as the economics of trust.”

Four Elements of Trust

These are good to know, especially when speaking with the veterinary team.
1. Able, demonstrating competency
2. Believable, acting with integrity
3. Connected, demonstrating care and concern
4. Dependable, follow through

Team Exercise: Measuring and Improving Team Trust

Now that we know that trust improves a veterinary team, we want to quantify it and improve upon it. Ask your team, on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being low, 10 being high):
• How well do you trust your co-harts?
• How well does the veterinary team demonstrate competency?
• How often does the veterinary team act with integrity?
• How well does the veterinary team demonstrate genuine care and concern for:

  • Team members?
  • Clients?
  • Patients?

• How often does the veterinary team complete projects?

In three months, after consciously focusing on improving trust, ask the same question. Has the needle moved?

Benefits of a trusting veterinary healthcare team include:
• A team that is mentally and physically healthy
• Strong bond and relationships between team members
• A collaborative environment
• Positive outcomes for clients and patients

Overall, when there is a trusting environment, energy can be directed towards more efficient medical care, reduced costs of delivery, improved patient outcomes and increased work-place satisfaction.

In positive team trust,
Rebecca Rose, CVT


Further Reading/Resources
Gittell JH. High performance healthcare: using the power of relationships to achieve quality, efficiency and resilience. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009.
Gittelll JH, Fairfield KM, Bierbaum B, et al. Impact of relational coordination on quality of care, postoperative pain and functioning, and length of stay. Med Care 2000;38:807-819.
Gittell JH, Weinberg DB, Pfefferle S, et al. Impact of relational coordination on job satisfaction and quality outcomes: a study of nursing homes. Human Resource Management Journal 2008;18:154-170.
Moore IC, Coe JB, Adams CL, Conlon PD, Sargeant JM. The role of veterinary team effectiveness in job satisfaction and burnout in companion animal veterinary clinics. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2014;245:513-524.
Moore IC. Exploring and evaluating veterinary team effectiveness in companion animal practice. Guelph: Moore IC, 2013.
Covey, SMR. The Speed of Trust. The One Thing that Changes Everything. 2006.