Certification: Is it for you?

Certification: Is it for you?

Credentials can be a contentious topic, but we can all agree that education is essential to success—regardless of your position. Here, two practice managers share the choices behind their career paths so you can better decide your own.
Nov 01, 2008

Why I'm a CVPM

Jennifer Inbody
For me, becoming a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) was a life-changing experience. The day I opened the envelope from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) and read my passing results was one of sheer joy. Here's a quick look at common questions I hear from people considering certification. I hope my answers help you make the right choice for your career.

Q: Did your duties change after you were certified?

A: Before I became a CVPM, my job was like that of many practice managers: I managed the bookkeeping, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll; created and fulfilled the practice's marketing initiatives; managed disgruntled clients; performed some human resources duties; and scheduled the employees' work shifts. Basically, I was the go-to girl for many aspects of the clinic.

After I earned my certification, the confidence I had in my managerial abilities grew—as did my responsibilities. The practice owner respected my opinion and work even more than before. I started handling every single aspect of the business, and I reported to the owner regularly. As a result, he continually felt more comfortable focusing solely on medicine because he knew his business was in good hands.

Q: Why did you get certified for a job you already had?

A: The CVPM credentials confirm that a practice manager understands and can apply advanced business and management principles. And these principles are so important to veterinary practices. No matter how great a practice's medicine is, if the business is failing, then clients, pets, and team members are suffering. It's inevitable that successful practices will reach a point where they can't grow anymore without someone spending all of his or her time on the business of veterinary medicine. I wanted to be sure I was prepared to be that person.

Q: How did you prepare for the certification exam?

Qualifications required to apply for CVPM certification
A: The time commitment varies depending on your background. I spent about a year and a half on my certification. After reading the application and the qualifications necessary to take the exam (see "Qualifications Required to Apply for CVPM Certification"), I realized I needed to complete two college-level courses to satisfy the formal education requirements. While completing the two courses, I read the books on the suggested-reading list and created my own study guide.

As the day of the exam grew closer, I joined a study group with other CVPM candidates. I devoted more and more time each week to preparing my study guide and rereading the material. This added up to about six to eight hours of study time a week during the month before the exam.

Q: What are the benefits and drawbacks of certification?

A: Earning my CVPM has opened doors in writing, speaking, consulting, training, mentoring, participating in professional committees, and networking. It helped me earn additional job responsibilities and a higher salary. Certification has also helped me grow in the field of management, enhancing the confidence I have in my work, as well as my contributions to the profession.

While there were no drawbacks for me, there are a few areas that I hope evolve over time. One such example is that many of the 172 CVPMs in the United States and Canada transition from managing practices to consulting full time, limiting the CVPMs involved in daily practice management.

I also hope more practice owners come to understand the value of hiring a manager. At the same time, I hope more practice managers are able to build fulfilling careers. One of the most important steps to making this happen is creating an open, supportive, beneficial relationship between the owner and manager. This allows the doctor to focus on medicine and the manager to gain a higher level of work-related satisfaction.

Jennifer Inbody, CVPM, is the hospital administrator at All Creatures Animal Hospital in Granbury, Texas, and a founding partner at Lead Dog Consultants. Please send questions and comments to