Making Your Veterinary CE Courses a Priority

As practice managers, it is incredibly important that we grow and develop with our teams — and supporting them in finding the right veterinary continuing education (CE) courses is a key part of that. But as passionate and dedicated managers, we can easily get distracted by the to-do list and lose track of our own personal development. Remember: Practice management CE helps to make us more well-rounded and effective at our jobs, and everyone benefits from having leaders who can engage successfully with a range of tasks.

Here are some ways to make veterinary CE a priority in your practice.

Remove the Roadblocks

Continuing education is an investment in yourself and in your practice, yet somehow it can be hard to find the time. Operational commitments can take precedence and the little elective time is quickly exhausted. In my experience, there are two key issues that undermine my CE efforts: First, I undervalue the benefits I get from learning, and second, I overestimate how critical the operational tasks are. The truth is that many of the tasks we deem critical can easily be put off for a few hours, or even days, without changing the outcome. Skipping a CE course, however, can mean that the learning opportunity is permanently lost.

If you're struggling to motivate yourself, hold yourself accountable by sharing your plans with others. If you're going to be working on a course that will benefit the practice, tell the practice owner or other senior team members that you will complete the course and make a commitment to report back on how the lesson could be implemented. Not only will this encourage you to follow through with taking the course, but it will also help to focus your mind on taking good notes so you can effectively explain the lesson to others.

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Find the Right Course

Every practice manager has different experiences and paths that brought them to the role, and each practice has its own definition of what their practice manager does. The right CE course is different for everyone, but here are some key areas to think about:

  • Financial management: From accounting to inventory management, there are great courses available that will help you make the most of your cash flow and keep your practice's finances healthy.
  • Negotiation: The deals we work on can be complex, spanning multiple years and large commitments. Your reps almost certainly have sales and negotiation training; if you want to get the most out of these partnerships, you probably should, too.
  • People: One of the most rewarding, and challenging, parts of being a practice manager is people management. Picking up skills on hiring, training, motivating, and coordinating people can have huge benefits for you and your team.
  • Legal: Many of the decisions we make need to take into account the laws at local, state and federal levels. Although you will certainly still need professional legal support in some situations (such as understanding rules around OSHA), legal education can help you quickly make decisions or at least know when you need external help.
  • Veterinary CE: If you previously worked as a technician, you probably still get pulled onto the floor, and you'll want to keep your skills up to date. If, like me, you previously worked outside the industry, then learning more about treatments and products is critical to your success.

The range of beneficial topics is as wide as your role. When you come across something you wish you knew more about, make a note so you can look into the applicable CE courses.

Reap the Benefits

The best time to implement something you've learned is immediately. After the course, take five minutes to consider the following:

  • What were the key topics? Did I learn something I want to implement?
  • Who else would benefit from this? Take the opportunity to recommend the course to others.
  • Do I want to learn more? Sometimes, one CE course can lead you to another.
  • What am I going to do right now to make use of this?

Often, the immediate steps might be as simple as documenting the changes you want to make and starting a discussion with other key decision-makers. If you decided that this isn't something you can immediately use in your practice, that is worth communicating, too. The important thing is that you make communication and planning part of the course — not something that gets put off until later when it may fall off the to-do list.

When I look back over my career, the best managers I had led by example. By taking your CE courses, involving your team, and making the learning valuable, you show them how seriously you take personal development and encourage them to invest in themselves, too.

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Des Whittall
Practice Manager

Des Whittall is an owner and manager of two veterinary clinics and pet resorts in Texas. A software engineer by training, he worked with an investment bank for 13 years in roles ranging from technical support to business divestment, managing large international teams and complex vendor relationships. With his partner, he has grown the clinics and resorts and is focused on developing businesses that can provide high-quality medicine and development opportunities for their teams.

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