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Facilitating Change in Your Veterinary Practice

Little changes happen every day, whether it’s a new starter in the practice, a new bit of tech purchased or simply a new patient arriving for their first appointment. Changes happen on a larger, more general scale too as society outside of your veterinary practice moves and adapts, it stands to reason that the businesses running within that society need to do the same too. None more so that in the veterinary sector.

Some of the smaller changes happen gradually, without anyone noticing. Others are significant and require thorough planning, process management and buckets of training, input and effort for your staff.

In our 16 years working along-side vets it’s been our observation that any willingness to adapt to change within the veterinary sector is often met with and suffocated by resistance to that change.

Prior to the pandemic, there was no driver for veterinary practices to adapt their technology. Even though pet parents were evolving with the introduction of millennials into the mix, who’ve grown up with the technology, it felt like the veterinary sector were too busy to change or more than likely, they were predicting too much of a headache to change.

But the last year has brought about significant change in the veterinary sector. At the beginning of 2020, not many people would have predicted the events that unfolded let alone the knock-on effects on the industry. From dealing with a remote distributed workforces to rapid digital transformation, due to having to adjust processes to restrictions imposed, veterinary practices have had to adapt and adapt fast.

But how do you facilitate change without a global pandemic forcing your hand? The industry has shown itself more than capable of change and an ability to thrive whilst doing so, which means that the challenge now is to work out how to tap into that adaptability in a post-COVID word.

Perhaps you want to invest in new technology that will disrupt the way your team is currently working? Have you enjoyed utilising Telemedicine appointments but want to change platforms? Do your staff want to continue flexi-working but you are unsure how to implement it?

Recently, we spoke to Behavioural Psychologist Andy Edwards about the veterinary industry’s adversity to change and how practice managers and owners may be able to overcome it…

“Well, the surprising answer is that they like change. Change is actually a good and wonderful thing and people embrace change. Part of the issue here is the extent to which somebody feels as if they have been in control of, and part of, there’s a logical reason for, there’s a flexibility around the change.” Says Edwards, “the problem with change is when it is enforced rather than it is a collaborative decision. So change actually is no bad thing, it’s just the way in which that is put across to people, might be.”

He advises that Practice Managers or Owners who are frustrated with their team’s distinct lack of enthusiasm to make sure that they are encouraging, engaging, inspiring and motivating people to want what the business is going towards, rather than telling them that that’s what they’ve got to do, which of course is where you’re going to get the resistance.

Getting your team involved in the decision-making process, or even just taking the time to explain the reasoning behind it can work wonders with getting them really invested in the changes you are making. But the crucial ingredient is that they trust you.

If you are consistently coming across resistance to change you might want to look at yourself, and ask, ‘am I a leader?’, ‘do I know my staff’ and ‘do my staff trust me?’. If the answer to any of these is ‘no’ then Andy suggests monthly one-to-ones might help you turn this around:

“Now a one-to-one is your first point of call, ring-fenced quality time, looking somebody in the eyes and asking the biggest leadership question you can, which is, ‘Am I letting you down at the moment?’ Because then you start to get a sense of what that person is bringing to work or not. You can nip things in the bud. You can check on things like behaviour, as much as competence”.

This has the added advantage of meaning that you will get to know your team better, you can learn their preferences and from that – could likely predict their reaction to change and how to best present that change to them.

Change doesn’t have to be difficult. As an industry we’ve proved that we can adapt quickly, but without drastic circumstances it can be a hard sell to the wider team, it can seem too much work and too much time. Our full interview with Andy is available to listen to on Episode 5 of the Modern Veterinary Practice Podcast: “Leadership and Facilitating Change” where he goes into further detail about his experience working in veterinary practices, helping Practice Owners and Managers to address these difficulties and how to give change an opportunity to flourish. Click here for the episode or listen on your streaming service of choice.