Who's steering your practice?

Who's steering your practice?

If thoughts of your veterinarian stir you to feelings of mutiny, consider these tips to weather the storms at work and set a course for smooth sailing.
Jul 01, 2013

Keeping up with the ebb and flow of a bustling clinic can be a daunting task, especially with the added stress of a taskmaster captain. Veterinarians, like physicians, often carry a stigma of being difficult to work for. But what constitutes a difficult boss?

With the myriad of personality types and coaching styles, there's a vast difference between a boss who expects the best and a boss who demands the impossible. Once you've figured out which one you work for, use this advice to help carry you through the stormy days and avoid major squalls.

It's not a one-man lifeboat

Don't take it personally. This is the most important rule to follow to keep sane. Picture this: Your boss is impossible to please, so you work harder than ever, spewing forth a river of gold and rainbows in five minutes flat. Then she tells you she's more of a black-and-silver person and she wanted it done three minutes ago. Don't fret, for this isn't a battle you can win and it likely has nothing to do with you. Instead of breaking down and reaching for the isoflurane, try responding with this: "I really tried my best to do what you asked of me and I'm a little disappointed that you aren't happy with it. I hope that next time we can communicate better about what you want. In the meantime, what can I do to fix it?"

If that doesn't soften her mood a bit and you're at a loss, you have two options:

1. Take a breath and let it go.

2. Bail.

Chart your path

Veterinary teams have shared responsibilities among employees, like checking patient charts, managing inventory and administering medications, so you should always document everything you do. Be consistent about initialing and making notes in charts so you have a record of what you've accomplished and what you should or shouldn't be held accountable for. Keeping track of your work can cover you in difficult situations, and it's the best way to maintain excellent patient documentation.

Stay above board

Always be honest. When you make a mistake, own up to it. If you're consistently honest, genuine and apologetic, your boss is less likely to be upset if you drop the ball—especially since she knows you've always taken the time to be thorough and document your actions.

Say you sent a client home with the wrong antibiotic. Getting defensive and declaring that you weren't given proper instructions heightens tension between you and the boss. Own up to your flub by saying, "I'm so sorry, that was totally my fault. I should've confirmed with you first. I've already left a message for the clients letting them know what happened. Can I fill the new script for you?"

Steer clear of rocks

Consistency is always key. Once you've found your groove at work, don't change it. Get in the habit of always following the same steps in the same order every day. This will make you a more predictable employee, help streamline your methods and add speed to your work over time. Your manager will be thrilled with your organization and predictability, even if she doesn't say so.

If your boss is an unorganized mess and you spend the first 30 minutes of your mornings going through her patient charts for her, do it every morning without fail. Skipping a step that she depends on will throw off her entire day, which will come right back to you when she jabs you with underhanded comments in front of clients like, "Sorry to keep you waiting so long, my files must have been misplaced by someone … " Yikes.

Don't give up the ship

No matter how organized you are at your clinic, there's always an emergency or a strenuous client waiting around the corner. When overflowing to-do lists throw a wrench in your daily process, never put off the small stuff. Write yourself notes and remember little splashes can turn into gigantic waves if left unattended.

If your boss asks you to make a quick phone call "when you get a chance," what he really means is "right now." Imagine you're in the middle of placing a large food order and the boss tells you to call in a script to another pharmacy. You tell yourself you'll do it later but you end up forgetting about it completely. And by the time you remember, it's too late to call it in. Now you've lost his trust, annoyed a client and started a terrible chain reaction. Next time, slap a sticky note on your forehead or do it right away. Then knock out the rest of your list so you can get back to your routine unplagued.