Now, by saying forget the rookies, I am NOT saying we should disregard the new teammates our veterinary practices so desperately need. What I am saying is to instead, switch the focus. Bring up, build up, boost up the reserves, those gals & guys that have been in the trenches, buried in cases, and all the muck that goes with them. Let me elaborate…
Actions Speak Louder
I am most definitely a hands-on learner, as are the majority of us in #vetmed. It’s kinda difficult to learn how to place an IVC theoretically, you literally have to feel that ‘pop’ into the vein to fully appreciate & understand what it is that you’re doing. And I can say with a fair amount of certainty that most #veterinary team members will tell you they learned so much more on the job than from a textbook.
That being said, we cannot learn all that we need to within 1-2 months, and sometimes not even in 1-2 years in practice. Honing any skill takes time, and mastering that skill? Takes time, effort, and determination. No one is going to be able to run a solo TIVA case within their 1st week (just entering the field, freshly graduated – if you’ve got the experience & are simply new to a practice ya might!). Gaining the trust – of your teammates, supervisors & doctors is crucial. Fine-tuning your skills & gaining confidence – not arrogance – is critical. Both of which take, you guessed it, time.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Kermit spoke the truth, it’s NOT easy. But I’m clearly not speaking about the color here. Being the new kid at work is challenging – learning names, finding your way around, protocols, processes, workflow, oh and yeah all the #veterinarymedical skills on top of that! Every practice regardless of its location and/or size should have some type of orientation/onboarding program in place.
Depending on a person’s work & life experience, skill set, learning type, communication style, this can – and should – encompass anywhere from 2-8 weeks. The 1st week ideally off of the floor and focusing on workflow, computer skills, and acclimatization. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule which is what EVT is aiming to change, but I digress.
It’s worth noting that the recruitment, interviewing, hiring and training of a new veterinary team member in the US costs anywhere from $3,300-8,000, and that’s only for them. Take into consideration the extra time of their trainer(s), and let’s please, please not forget to address the mental & emotional toll this can take on the entire team – trainee & trainer, management, doctors, and patients.
This is an essential process and one that is incredibly rewarding and worth every penny & each ounce of blood, sweat, and tears. But…you knew there was going to be a but, it’s a LOT. Especially with short-staffing. Exponentially amidst a pandemic. What are we to do?
Heads down, noses to the grind, not a complaint, and getting completely & utterly burnt. The pillars of the veterinary practices, those dedicated & determined to do it all and save everyone teammates. Been in the field for more years than most know, and sometimes more than they’d like to admit. Backs and knees aching, creaking, breaking. Brains fried, hearts broken. And yet, they keep going. Coming back for more, and making a difference in everyone’s lives that they come into contact with.
How are we supporting them? Raises are great. Incentives, bonuses, benefits, are wonderful too. Provide them wellness resources & materials, yes, please. But how will they use them? When will they be able to enjoy it? Most cannot because they simply aren’t given the time. Minimal breaks, if any. PTO they’ve got it, but it’s sitting there, unused. And why? Because who else is there to do their jobs? No one can do it like they can, and they don’t have the time, energy, resources to teach anyone else. Who’s fault is that? All of ours. Another problem to solve…how?
Be the Change
It’s time to flip the focus. Head back to the proverbial drawing board. Not for recruitment, but for retention. Provide training – CE, events – make it integral not optional, and MAKE THE TIME for it. You provide a CE allowance, fabulous – now add that in addition to a PTO allotment. Find out each team member’s why, Give them the materials, the resources & the means to go, and get the education for their professional growth. Or bring it into your practice, what a great day that would be & one that actually warrants a pizza party.
Train your trainers, because this role isn’t for everyone, and even those of us that love to teach need to know how to do it, not just what to tell people. Workshops, reading material, mentorship – provide it all. Meetings, regularly so they’re not dreaded. Give them something to work towards, all the while ensuring they know that it’s about progress and NOT perfection.
Recognize, respect and reward. Give these heavy hitters their due. Shout outs on social are great, but just as a start. If someone is a true cat whisperer, they’re the ones that lead the low-stress handling workshop for the team. This person can hit any vein, anytime, in any situation, that’s your go-to for phlebotomy practice. Have them set their own expectations high and keep yours up there as well, it’ll be that much more incredible when they’re met – and exceeded.