Veterinary Team Decision-Making: Decisions Aren't Just for Managers

Veterinary team decision-making is one of the most difficult parts of being a practice manager. Your team's happiness at work depends on the choices you make. This can make even simple decisions exhausting. How can you prevent decision fatigue? Can your team help take some of the stress off your plate by participating in decision-making? If these decisions don't directly affect patient care or customer service, can you trust your team to make decisions? Decisions don't always have to be just for management. Let's delve into how we can involve the team in decision-making.

Coaching to Create Decision-Makers

Veterinary team decision-making gives leaders the opportunity to let their staff find solutions. One of the most common daily struggles is scheduling.

Example: Dr. Smith is double-booked but Mrs. Jones must get Fluffy in today.

Your receptionist may ask you how to move forward in this situation. This is where you can provide coaching. Maybe your receptionist is stressed and can't immediately see how to squeeze in another patient, but you can ask some helpful questions to get the ball rolling.

Ask them if Fluffy needs to be seen urgently and why. Are there times on the schedule that would work better for the treatment team? Go through the schedule and point out places that a work-in may be possible, or ask the receptionist if they think a drop-off appointment would work better. Empower your players in team decision-making.

Talk Among Yourselves

Sometimes team members defer to you for decisions because that's easier than having a conversation with their coworkers. It's common for practice managers to shoulder some of the issues that could easily be resolved if coworkers talked to each other. Encouraging dialogue among team members is the first step toward veterinary team decision-making.

Example: One of your technicians, Sally, has changed daycare providers, and on certain days she must leave earlier to pick up her son before the daycare closes.

Instead of adjusting schedules and possibly upsetting someone, encourage discussion among the treatment team. You might say to Sally, "I know it's really important for you to be able to leave early these particular days. Can you talk to Jessica (the opening technician) and see if she could switch some shifts with you? Let's touch base in a couple of days on whether you both can make the scheduling work."

By saying this, you are inviting Sally to take ownership of the request and giving her a time frame in which to talk to Jessica. Of course, if they can't agree, you will have to step in. But otherwise, they can solve this problem on their own, and even build camaraderie.

Put It to a Vote!

One of my favorite things about staff meetings is that people share amazing ideas! As a group, we envision the positive outcomes of proposed changes or initiatives. People nod in agreement — but all too often, the enthusiasm and goals evaporate as soon as the meeting is over. Veterinary team decision-making means agreeing on a task and executing it. So the next time your team is sharing new ideas that everyone seems to love, put them to a vote! Then, set the winning ideas in motion with a definitive timeline. We all are super busy, but great ideas don't have to fall by the wayside. Empower your team to take action.

Example: Your team members identify something they want to do differently. Perhaps it's approaching client callbacks another way, trying a new medication, or implementing a different way of handling surgical check-ins. Have the staff vote on whether they are in favor of this new and improved idea — majority rules. If some people are on the fence, encourage them to consider it a trial period. The idea can be implemented for the next 30 days and then the team can revisit it.

At the follow-up meeting, discuss the results of the implementation. Were there unexpected pitfalls? Did the idea increase revenue or efficiency, and was it received well by the team? Take another vote and see if the idea is something the team would like to pursue in the long term.

By involving the team in decision-making, you encourage members to solve problems and create ideas. The most important aspect of practice managers' jobs is guiding and empowering our teams to make decisions.

Jade Velasquez
LVT, Practice Manager

Jade Velasquez is an LVT and practice manager who works at a general practice in Gig Harbor, Washington. She uses her writing and speaking to reach veterinary professionals with her unique view on veterinary medicine. In 2014, Jade created the Facebook group Veterinary Support Staff Unleashed to boost positivity and create dialogue to inspire open communication in the field. She is also a regular contributor to The NAVTA Journal and guest author at DrAndyRoark.com.

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