The key to any relationship is communication. It's especially important in the veterinary practice, where lack of communication can literally cost lives. Here are some common communication issues (and ways to improve them) in the veterinary practice!
1. What do I do now?
As a technician, it can be frustrating if the Dr. will head for lunch or on an errand without leaving instructions. Am I supposed to give Metronidazole? Did he call the owner? They didn't write on the flow sheet. It's usually impossible to track down the doctor when this happens (Murphy's Law) and the techs are stuck in limbo. This can lead to missed treatments and charges. Try having lunch time "rounds" where everyone gets updated before they head off for lunch. Electronic flow sheets are awesome for this issue too. The doctor can prescribe "on the go" from anywhere without having to tell the staff instructions in person (the iPad does it for them)!
Let's face it- we can all be guilty of catty or gossipy behaviour at times. Whether it's about a client or a co-worker, it's not professional and doesn't really get us anywhere. Don't get us wrong- sometimes it's good to vent, just make sure it's not excessive or hurtful. If you have a gripe with someone, it's usually best to meet with them privately and discuss it instead of complaining behind their back.
3. Paging Dr. Smith
In the same realm as #1, it can be stressful to have to search the building for a doctor when you need to give them an update. If a patient is showing signs of a fever or tachycardia, you want the doctor to know about it ASAP. Some clinics have pagers, intercoms, or special telephone systems which can be helpful. If you have Smart Flow, make sure to use the Critical Values parameter setting!
4. How am I doing?
Feedback is crucial when it comes to managing staff, and we don't just mean criticism. It gives everyone motivation if they are acknowledged for a job well done. Staff incentives and bonuses are always nice, and a simple "Thank you" goes a long way! Try having a bucket where everyone puts in notes for a co-worker who has gone above and beyond. Maybe they helped you clean a dirty kennel on their lunch break or stayed late when they weren't scheduled. Acknowledging these extra efforts will go a long way in the eyes of your staff.
5. Back to Front
Some practices are set up to have receptionists stay up front and other staff in the back treatment areas. Other practices have techs who "do it all" including reception duties. If there is no overlap, this can lead to updates being lost in translation, or "hoarding" of information. There's nothing worse for a receptionist than a client calling for an update or walking in to pick up their animal and you not knowing what's going on with that patient. Having to track down other staff members and get instructions and/or billing info is inefficient and time consuming. Our new and improved whiteboard now has a "Tasks" section so the receptionist can quickly check what's been done and what is yet to be completed.
6. I have an idea!
Two heads are better than one. Most employees want their clinic to thrive. Your staff will have ideas with how to improve things in the hospital. New way of sending of out reminders? New and improved cleaning routine? Great! Listen to these ideas and take them to heart. It means a lot to your staff that they are heard! Regular staff meetings are a must, as they keep everyone on track and on the same page regarding protocols. This is especially important for new staff! Provide snacks or lunch and make the meetings fun! This ia a great opportunity to go through the "Thank you" bucket and acknowledge the do-gooders!
Hopefully this gives you some ideas with how to improve staff communication in your practice. Do you have any tips or tricks to improve this issue? We'd love to hear them in the comments section below!