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Adapt, Change, Repeat

A manager doesn’t always have to be the problem-solver. Becoming a learner again and trusting your staff might deliver better solutions.

“COVID-19 isn’t a big deal. There isn’t anything to worry about!” I said those words in January 2020 and weeks later I was shocked by life’s change of direction. Within months, I went from preparing for a busy year to trying to find my new normal in quarantine. I had expectations and hopes for 2020 […]


It’s About Time

Talk the Talk

Improving your client communications will mean less wasted effort and will help build loyalty and compliance.

Many veterinary practices are dealing with staff shortages, increased caseloads, more client demands and curbside care inefficiencies. This is why it’s imperative to streamline client communications while still focusing on building trust and rapport. Combining efficiency with client engagement is the key to enhanced loyalty and compliance. Why Communications Are Inefficient Let’s look at some […]

staff conflict

Tattoos, Stress and Staff Conflict

Opening Shots

Opening Shots columnist Dr. Ernie Ward answers your questions.

Q: At least once a week, one of my friends on social media messages me to seek pet advice. Many of the conversations take considerable time. If I respond, “Go to your veterinarian,” my friend says I’m not compassionate. Am I a fake friend or is my friend asking too much? A: Real friends don’t […]


Safe and Sound

Getting Technical

Remember to assess your practice for workplace hazards at least annually, and then draw up mitigation plans and share them with all team members.

Workplace safety is a general term used to address workplace hazards. Veterinary professionals face many risks while on the job, some of which do not have specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. These risks fall under the general duty clause, which states that every workplace is responsible for worker safety regardless of whether an […]

exit interview

The Final Analysis

H.R. Huddle

When done properly, exit interviews encourage departing employees to give valuable feedback and inform practice leaders about underlying issues.

Among the most valuable assets at your veterinary practice are your employees. A team member’s permanent departure can present both a challenge for a clinic as well as a silver-lining opportunity for management to gather insights through an exit interview. To help your practice extract maximum value from the situation, I’ll address the who, what, […]


A Command Performance

Take Charge

Sit down with a team member whose work is falling short and chart a plan for getting the person back on track.

Do you have an employee who has potential but is habitually underperforming? A performance improvement plan (PIP) might be the answer when typical feedback, coaching and corrective actions fail to move the needle on the team member’s behavior. The PIP is a human resources tool found in many corporations. It’s a formal document that clearly […]


The Cost of Noncompliance

Don’t be surprised if the DEA appears at your door because you didn’t prioritize the proper handling of controlled substances.

Your day-to-day focus as a veterinarian or practice manager is to provide patients with the best possible medical care and ensure that the hospital runs efficiently and effectively. You wear many hats and adhere to a plethora of state and federal regulations. All of this can be a challenge for anyone. Unfortunately, compliance with U.S. […]

orthopedic patient

The Orthopedic Patient


A calm and cooperative animal is essential to the accurate diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal issues. Don’t rule out sedation.

Cortisol is a well-intentioned, very powerful hormone. It is a normal part of the physiological stress response when the body perceives something fearful or threatening. It initially acts as a strong anti-inflammatory and temporarily reduces the pain response when the body experiences an acutely painful episode. In veterinary patients with chronic pain, the cortisol release […]


Bond With a Pet Trainer


An outside expert can meticulously answer many of the questions your clients pose and prepare pets to be willing participants in veterinary care.

Clients have asked me almost every conceivable pet behavior question over the past 20 years, including some that I never envisioned. And while at the beginning of my career I was always willing to spend lots of extra time with clients during an appointment, I soon found that to be exhausting, unsustainable and, later as […]

practice manager

Crunch Time

Take Charge

A practice manager shouldn’t be an absent employee’s automatic replacement. Cross-train team members and empower them to look after each other.

As the young manager of a small veterinary practice, I regularly spent part of my workweek covering shifts for vacationing or sick veterinary technicians and client service representatives. As the animal hospital grew alongside my confidence and status, I pitched in only occasionally as a courtesy and not under compulsion or out of desperation. When […]