Veterinary Culture by Default or Design?

January 18, 2017

Team dog wash, building traditions. Building team culture.

Team dog wash, building traditions. Building team culture.

All veterinary teams have a culture, but is yours created through default or design?

The other day, while attending a class, the group was asked to define their hospital’s culture. An attendee simply stated, “We have no culture.” That is impossible. To have no culture is defining it: lack of direction, lack of vision, lack of traditions. When there is a working environment, a culture will be created, either by design or by default.

Veterinary hospitals, clubs, communities and families all have beliefs. Consider the traditions generated, embraced and cultivated by each of these groups as their guiding principles.

Culture can be defined as the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguishes one group from another.

Within a veterinary setting, traditions may include:

  • supporting the team in continuing education,
  • building trust through training and team building,
  • hosting summer barbecues,
  • achieving professional objectives,
  • identifying common goals and striving to accomplish them.

Those traditions may also be seen as valued aspects that are continually cultivated and enhanced. When hiring, the new team member is hired for aptitude, attitude and similar ideals and motivators. Values can be looked upon as “guiding principles,” written (created by either the veterinarian, management or the team to enhance transparency), or unspoken (ideas each individual on the team believes to be the guiding principles).


Consider three foundational components (identified common focus) of a transparent veterinary hospital: Mission, Vision and Values. These prized statements can be created by the veterinarian owner(s), by upper management or as team collaboration. Keeping in mind that reviews and updates to the Mission, Vision, and Values should be evaluated when shifts occur in society, team beliefs change, hot topic in ethical dilemmas occur and increased transparency of leadership happen.

Mission-Identifies the common focus and/or goals to be brought to fruition on a daily basis

Vision-The lofty focus for long term achievements and broad outreach, who we want to be in the future

Values-the team’s guiding principles of “how to be” and how we treat each other, the patients, clients and community we serve

If you have “living” Mission, Vision and Values that are embraced by the team, acted out each and every day with each and every patient, and explicitly transparent, then you are on the right track. When leadership is unified in the transparent focus, they “talk the talk and walk the walk,” then you are on the right track.

If your statements are dead in the water, it is time to readdress the concepts, preferably with your team, refocusing everyone and realigning them in common goals and purpose.

How are you current, philosophical statements, Mission/Vision/Values experienced and expressed by your team?  Leaders feeling really creative can ask their team to bring photos or cut out pictures from magazines to depict various aspects of the statements.

Team Exercise

During an upcoming meeting, after the team has been given this article to read and ruminate upon, ask:

  1. What are our hospital’s Mission/Vision/Values? If your team can answer, succinctly, then WELL DONE! If your team is reluctant, offers varied answers and is frustrated in their knowing, it is time to pull them together and regroup.
  2. How do they bring the Mission/Vision/Values to life, each day with each other, and with the patients and clients they serve?
  3. What, as a team, do you value when working together and providing care to patients and pet owner? Identify their Values…

As we step into a New Year, now is a great time to evaluate your Values, Vision and Mission. Now is a great time to evaluate your team culture. What does your culture currently feel like? What do you want it to feel like? How do you fill in the gaps?

Yours in Veterinary Team Development,

Rebecca Rose, CVT

Rebecca Rose, CVT, CEO of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants

About the Author

Rebecca Rose, CVT is the founder and president of CATALYST Veterinary Practice Consultants. She has 30 years of involvement in the veterinary industry, including experience as a veterinary practice management consultant, a practice manager at two AAHA-accredited animal hospitals, and as an award-winning veterinary technician. She can be reached at: or 303.717.6224.

Connect with her on LinkedIn: Rebecca Rose, CVT

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