Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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41 December 2018/January 2019 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM I see three primary maladies facing our profession: • The high cost of veterinary education. • The high cost of veterinary care. • Wellness issues that plague too many of our colleagues. Where Do You Stand? Let's talk about well-being. Among the more disturbing symptoms of a work-life imbalance for veter- inarians and veterinary nurses is career dissatisfaction. This symp- tom frequently manifests in nurses leaving our profession — I'm told seven years is their average career span — and in veterinarians advis- ing their children and other people not to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. The situation is heartbreak- ing and, if untreated, threatens our profession. I'm determined to change this. It's not OK for us to lose talented nurses. It's not OK for doctors who were once thrilled to be accepted into this great profes- sion to no longer advise others to enter it. Not on my watch, not in my practice. I recently listened to a podcast discussing the power of incremen- talism as it pertains to retirement savings. Many Americans are under the impression that saving enough for retirement is impossible. They love get-rich-quick stories. (As an aside, did you know that more was spent on lottery tickets in the Unit- ed States last year than was spent on all aspects of the pet industry?) The podcast went on to advo- cate for the power of incremental- ism, pointing out that a relatively small amount of money saved every year for many years delivers a significant stash at retirement. While this strategy is no secret to anyone who has read a personal finance book, it's just one of many case studies centered on the power of incrementalism. 18 Tactics When we look to improve veteri- nary team wellness, an incremental approach applies. We may not all be in a position to tackle deeply rooted issues, but we can incre- mentally tackle the symptoms using a number of tactics. I encour- age you to act on the following ways that ring true to you. Implement flex sched- ules: When it comes to scheduling, one size does not fit all. Ask your team members what works best for them. Get creative. Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, works for almost no one. Give robust paid time off: We work hard. One vacation week a year is not enough time to recharge, nor is two. If you receive generous paid time off, take it! I'm amazed to hear of colleagues who don't use their vacation days. Join forces: The solutions to most of our issues exist among our brilliant peers. Join your state and local VMA, professional associations, alumni groups, clubs, committees, LinkedIn groups and more. By becoming a member of a community, you become a part of the solution. Honor two-doctor days: One-doctor days are stressful. Working solo is not fun. Eliminate it. Empower hospital leaders: Too many large practices are defaulting to the old top-down leadership approach. Stop! Veterinary professionals are brilliant. With a little help they know how to lead teams. Hospital auton- omy is critical to building a culture of empowerment and work satisfac- tion. Teach others to lead, then get out of the way. Magic will happen. Make it OK to ask for help: The American Veteri- nary Medical Association's well-being and peer assistance programs are widely available. So are the American Animal Hospital Association's team well-being and employee assis- tance programs. Also take advan- tage of team meetings, suggestion boxes and open office doors. Don't forget the basics: Eat well, sleep, exercise, and hug your pets and family. Keep a daily gratitude journal: There's so much to be thankful for. Develop stress-relieving tools: Breathing exercises, physical activities, alone time, vol- unteering, reading and games help. Practice teamwork: Health care delivery is a team sport. Lean on and support your team. Delegate: Teams work best when delegation is used. I am a big believer in innovation. Breakthrough ideas are inspiring, exciting and energizing. I look for opportunities to challenge the status quo; there's always a better way to do things. That said, I try not to underestimate the power of incrementalism — one step at a time, bit by bit. While it's not as headline worthy as a breakthrough innovation, incrementalism is often equally effective in changing the status quo. I'm reminded of this Chinese proverb: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Community CREATIVE DISRUPTION By Bob Lester, DVM 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 The veterinary profession must and can do better with well-being. An incremental approach would get us turned around. 9 11 10 Continued on Page 43 One step at a time

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