What We’re About | Boulder Vet Hospital

Jun 25, 2020

What We’re About | Boulder Vet Hospital |

Over the years I’ve worked at three different boulder veterinary practices and was a 50% owner in a fourth.  Each had its own flavor of management.  Each had an influence on employees which spilled over into customer service and patient care.  Each had positives and negatives.   My goal is to use the lessons I’ve learned, both good and bad, to create a practice that offers an above average work experience which will translate into exceptional patient care. 

It’s understood most clients of a veterinary practice don’t really care about the backstory.  The client’s need is to be heard followed by a clear understanding of the services, diagnostics, or treatments being offered to help their loved ones.  They want guidance through the necessary next steps; all delivered with compassion and service.  And they want options.  The backstory is of little importance and not often considered. 

With this boulder vet hospital I’d like my clients to understand the “why” because it is the foundation of the business model.  And, if you’ve read this far it’s reasonable to guess you are someone who appreciates a backstory and understands the value of knowing it.  What we’re about is creating a different veterinary business model, one that I’m not aware currently exists in the profession.  Here’s a little more on that backstory to explain…

What lacked at my first three practices as an associate (i.e. an employee) was a collective team mission.  Each boulder vet hospital had the goal of exceptional patient care.  The problem with this statement is that it’s extremely generic and there is no follow-up explanation of how it is going to be achieved.  Each practice was a staff of individuals and the individual paths didn’t align.  I believe that finding a united purpose is the way to improve upon the present norm. 

Care within a veterinary hospital is heavily dependent on a veterinarian’s support staff.  In fact, they outnumber the veterinarians nearly 4 to 1.  The support staff is there to make sure a vet’s job is focused on discussions with clients, diagnosing illness, and recommending treatments.  Support staff makes sure all this happens successfully, from taking phone calls and scheduling, from restraining dogs to drawing blood to sending out lab work, to filling medications and cleaning up diarrhea, all while dealing with emotionally difficult situations and working long unpredictable hours…usually while short staffed.  The results are high levels of stress, low morale, staff turnover, and too many people multitasking which leads to errors.  It ends up looking like one big dysfunctional family.  I’ve found very few people in my profession that were genuinely happy.  And it showed through poor staff interactions with clients and team members.

When getting my first taste of management through my 50% ownership in a practice, I thought I could correct this immediately.  My partner was the “business and numbers” guy who said all the right things.  He had no actual veterinary credentials except a history of managing and partnering in several other practices.  He wanted me to be the lead vet and run the medical part which seemed reasonable.  I did due diligence but was also naive and entered the partnership.  Long story short, this didn’t work out.   Most corporate managers have different priorities than medical professionals.  Hard lessons were learned, one of the most important was that two people walking different paths cannot lead a group of people.   And I don’t believe managers who haven’t worked on a treatment floor have a real grasp of the situation on the ground. 

So, I’m out to create a different boulder vet hospital model, and hopefully a better industry model.  What we’re about is creating a practice where everyone wins, not just owners and executives at the expense of patient care and staff.  One that engages the staff with a common mission; to advance as a team through staff profit sharing, quality of work-life improvements rooted in mindful leadership, and a definitive career path…something beyond individual vet production bonuses and punching a clock.  As a result, clients will witness a dedicated team approach, with a staff personally invested in each case and working coherently as a team.  The focus will be on delivering the most positive client experience possible.  Because this way everyone wins.  

We can’t expect a staff to deliver true compassion if they are not working in a compassionate environment.  And compassion is what the veterinary business is supposed to be all about.  We’ve all heard managers call their businesses well-oiled machines.  But my take is that most veterinary leadership doesn’t consider what that oil actually is, let alone stop to add it.  I believe the oil is simply compassion and care for the staff, so they can be present and compassionate for clients.  When a machine is oiled it means it is actually cared for, not repeatedly run into the ground.  It operates much better because of this care, all parts interacting in unison.  It facilitates longevity, reliability, and is necessary for peak operating potential.  And again, everybody wins.  It’s time to give the veterinary profession an oil change. 

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what we’re about | boulder vet hospital

Rise Vet Boulder is Boulder’s new veterinary clinic specializing in medicine and surgery for cats and dogs. We will be opening late summer. Serving pet lovers in Boulder, Louisville, Lafayette, Longmont and along the Front Range. Contact us for a telemedicine appointment.

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