By Terri Johnson, AAHA Practice Accreditation
If you watch television, you know how many ads there are for new medications, treatment options and research being conducted to help people and pets stay healthy. How do veterinarians and their staffs keep up with all this information?
Like many professions, the veterinary industry offers magazines, research papers, websites and classes to keep practitioners up-to-date on all the newest information and developments.
Most, but not all, state veterinary medical boards require continuing education (CE) credits for veterinarians and credentialed veterinary technicians (CVTs, LVTs or RVTs). These requirements are important and necessary to ensure veterinary professionals expand their knowledge and keep up with new developments in the industry.
Veterinary professionals are usually required to accumulate continuing education credits every 1–2 years. Many veterinary hospitals employ Certified Veterinary Practice Managers (CVPMs), who are also required to get CE credits to maintain their credentialed status. The AAHA Standards of Accreditation recommend more CE hours than many state veterinary medical boards require.
AAHA-accredited practices are encouraged to involve every team member in an organized plan of education and self-improvement. Marianne Mallonee, hospital administrator at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colo., says, “It’s about offering the best to your patients and your clients. And about engaging your team members and encouraging them to grow and develop and be a valuable part of the team.”
Continuous learning and keeping skills up-to-date helps staff members build their confidence and ultimately helps hospitals provide a positive client “experience,” while improving the level of patient care. AAHA-accredited practices use a team approach to meet the needs of their clients and the pets they love.
Mallonee says, “We want to offer the highest quality veterinary medical care to our patients. Staff training can go beyond just standard medical care surrounding treatments or medication, and extend into behavior.
“How we handle our patients (particularly felines) and the environment that we provide for them, whether boarding, hospitalized, or for a wellness visit, can dramatically improve their visit and make them more comfortable. This makes it easier for owners to bring them in for wellness care and examinations.”
Training helps team members feel empowered and more confident about what they’re doing. “Feeling confident in their position and their skills, being utilized to their fullest and having the opportunity to help make the business more successful are all very motivating, says Mallonee. “Opportunities for development and improvement increase the level of employee engagement.
“Our staff training includes client service, communication, conflict management, handling difficult situations, being a professional and being a team player. These skills help us work together as a team and help clients have a better experience. A well-trained team offers clients peace of mind, knowing that their pets are being handled in a way that makes them comfortable.”
Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital provides general care and specialty care for pets. Because it has veterinary specialists on staff, many veterinarians refer patients to it for more advanced care. The hospital, in turn, offers CE credits to referring veterinarians and their staffs.
According to Mallonee, “We currently provide our referring veterinarians and their staffs with in-house ‘lunch-n-learns’ by our specialists whenever they want. In 2011 we made over 120 visits to our referring veterinarians. We also send monthly clinical updates and quarterly newsletters, and have a website with informational handouts available to our clients, referring DVMs and their teams.”
Keeping everyone up-to-date includes clients. “Every other month we send newsletters to our clients, as well as doing monthly focused ‘educational drives’ on topics like the importance of microchipping, weight loss, and senior and dental wellness exams. And, this includes offering client education in the practice as well as mailing information and updates,” says Mallonee.
When you go to an AAHA-accredited practice, you know that the veterinarians and their teams are being held to a standard that keeps them current in their profession and constantly learning about the newest and best medicine. And that’s good for the practice, clients and their pets!