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Resolutions for receptionists, by vets and nurses, plus a better way to improve team performance in practice

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Pete the Vet

Following the theme from earlier this week, here’s the third list that was drafted in a particular vet clinic: “New Years Resolutions for receptionists”, written by the vets and nurses in their own clinic.

  1. Keep the reception area clean and tidy.
  2. Try to encourage clients to come for earlier appointments (before 6pm) as the later ones will all fill up later anyway.
  3. Make sure that the food stands are well stocked at all times.
  4. Keep the waiting room tidy, with leaflets well stocked and neat, and up to date magazines.
  5. Always update client details on computer records – no CAPITAL LETTERS, make sure that breeds, colours, phone numbers and email addresses are entered.
  6. For all booster vaccination appointments, print out the “client information vaccination” handout and give it to the client to read while they wait.
  7. Weigh animals before their consultation and record this on the computer.
  8. Write all messages on the computer system list for each vet, not on scraps of paper.
  9. Answer the phone within three rings, even if this means interrupting a real life conversation to say “excuse me a moment”.
  10. Always acknowledge new arrivals with your eyes and a smile, even if you are busy (e.g. on a phone call).

But are resolutions like this really a good idea?

There’s been some discussion about this idea amongst vets, with the suggestion that this type of scenario could easily become a type of “bitch fest”, with people using this as a way of complaining about colleagues, in a type of passive-aggressive way. The point has been made that in a typical busy practice there are far more effective ways of dealing with issues. 

The “resolution practice” was a specific, unique, set up

At this point I think it will help to add a little more context about the real life situation that this was based on (some years ago). So this happened in a small practice, less than 8 staff members (3 vets, 3 nurses, 2 receptionists), and the 3 vets were all partners who were very aware of their own "issues" - in fact, the truth was that they wrote their own self-critical "resolutions" which then went into the pot with others offered by the rest of the team.

It was a genuine attempt to make the whole team work more efficiently, and it did actually work well - everyone involved was on board with the concept and it was done in a good-humoured, "we're all at fault and we could all do better" kind of way.

Contemporary management techniques are likely to be far more effective

Having said that, I now recognise that the concept would be fraught with possible complications in most practice set ups, and it’s well worth contemplating alternative ways of self-improvement for a clinic team. An excellent summary of a more effective strategy was sent to me by Oli Robinson, Director of The Finchley Vet,  who has given me permission to repost his words here:
If the members of a team want to improve (and if they don't they do not belong in the business), then 

  1. Recognise that they are individuals
  2. Provide a mechanism for receiving and processing feedback throughout the year 
  3. Process that feedback into realistically actionable directions or suggestions (and get buy in and ownership from the staff member concerned) 
  4. If needed, support the staff member by putting in place additional systems and/or staff to allow those individuals to action those directions or suggestions 
  5. Measure whether the new behaviour is being done and the result 
  6. Feedback the results of the measuring to the staff member and continue or adjust suggestions as needed 
  7. Feedback and reward the staff member who made the suggestion and the staff member actioning the suggestion (a 'thank you' may be all that is needed)
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