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Rockin' the exam room (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2011

Winning teams enjoy the right combination of strong coaching and committed players. Follow this practice playbook to lead your hospital team to victory.

Is your team a Super Bowl contender? The answer depends on how players react to challenges. For instance, Mrs. Johnson is angry because her dog started limping and she's sure the courtesy pedicure you performed—two months ago—caused the problem. Mrs. Johnson also wants to return flea preventives you recommended because her friend, who's a nurse, said they were too strong. Your team's response makes the difference between a successful and struggling practice.

A winning staff is behind every first-rate practice. Like professional sports teams, the best hospital teams possess leadership, dedication, proper training, performance rewards, goals, and, most important, a fun atmosphere. Try these 10 tips to turn your team into Super Bowl champions.

1. Set team goals

Strong leaders coach winners. As practice owner, you must play quarterback, earn respect, and help players understand the game plan. Mission statements keep your team focused on goals. Review your mission statement regularly, and make changes. If you haven't written a mission, hold a contest and award prizes to staff members who best capture your practice's aspirations and commitments.

At Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa., I offered $100 for the best mission statement. The results were amazing. I combined three entries and awarded each a prize. Our mission reads: "Expectations will not be met at Metzger Animal Hospital; they will be surpassed. The team at Metzger Animal Hospital is committed to providing superior, advanced medical services coupled with exceptional customer satisfaction. We will anticipate the needs of our clients and patients while remembering to respect ourselves, co-workers, clients, and most of all, the animals we care for."

To unite your team, set one major goal annually. For example, we promoted a preanesthetic testing plan, and now we enjoy 80 percent compliance ("Run Preanesthetic Tests," July 1997). We also started an annual open house that attracts hundreds.

2. Draft good players

Football teams that draft the wrong players never win. Likewise, practice owners or managers who hire unsuitable associates, technicians, receptionists, and kennel attendants never reach their full potential. First interviews don't always provide adequate information. Check references and, if possible, ask candidates to work with team members so you can gauge skills and compatibility. You'll likely trade your new draft pick if he or she is impolite and unenthusiastic.

Football coaches don't draft a player until the candidate runs the 40-yard dash. In the same way, let your prospective employee prove his or her abilities with a 90-day trial period. Based on the assessment, keep valuable team members, or trade players who don't belong on your hospital team.