They say that change is the only constant in business, which is as true in veterinary medicine as in any other industry.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to make changes as a vet.
There are a lot of things that might change within your practice.
For example, introducing new technology can be a positive change that results in improved productivity and efficiency. Or, you might need to adjust your staffing at different stages of your business, resulting in some changes in roles and responsibilities. In addition, your clients’ needs will change over time, which will force you to adapt so that you can continue serving them.
The most challenging part of making changes for clinic managers and practice owners is getting your staff (including your vets) on board.
Why Vets are Resistant to Change
People, in general, don’t like change. We prefer to stick with known processes, even if they are wildly out of date or inefficient, than to venture forward into the unknown.
So, when you’re thinking about introducing change to your clinical practice, you should be prepared to encounter resistance. This may come from all levels of staff, including veterinarians.
Some staff members may feel that their jobs are in jeopardy. For example, introducing new technology that will take over data entry and basic accounting might threaten someone currently doing that as a primary part of their job.
Other members of staff might not like the idea of learning something new. For instance, veterinarians who are not used to using software might be hesitant to start, thinking that it will negatively impact their current routine and process.
Veterinarians may also resist change because it goes against what they have been taught. The further a person is from vet school, the more resistant they may become to adopting a new way of doing things. In addition, they may worry that their clients will stop coming to see them if they need to go through a new process.
Some veterinarians are dealing with imposter syndrome , which makes them feel less competent than they truly are. Introducing a change that seems to challenge their knowledge and expertise may make them particularly resistant.
And yet, change is necessary for any business that wants to continue to grow. Therefore, anytime you need to make a significant change within your practice, you will need to go through the process of change management.
What is Change Management?
The phrase “change management” refers to the process of introducing and implementing change in an organisation. It involves announcing changes both internally (i.e., to your staff) and externally (i.e., to your clients and the general public).
Change management requires a strategy. Taking a strategic approach to change will help you have a smoother transition overall.
5 Steps to Implement Change in Your Vet Clinic or Practice
Here are some steps you’ll need to take to introduce and implement change inside your clinic or practice.
- Identify the area of improvement
Zero in on what, exactly, will be improved as a result of the change. This can’t be vague, like “implementing new software will make our practice more efficient.” Instead, it needs to be more concrete, like “when we save time on data entry and appointment scheduling, we’ll be able to serve at least three more clients a day.”
People want to know what the results of their efforts will be. If they think they will have to go through a lot of effort to change without seeing a reward, they will resist. Having a solid business case for the changes you’re proposing will help you get stakeholders on board.
- Create a roadmap
With stakeholders on board, you’ll need to have a definitive plan or roadmap for how you’re going to implement the change. This should be as specific and detailed as possible, including critical dates and benchmarks.
For example, if you are implementing new technology, your roadmap should include when the change will happen and incremental steps taken along the way. For example, when will staff be trained? Will there be a transition period when you are using two software models? What will need to be converted to the new software before you can eliminate the old one?
Get input from stakeholders here, including the people who the change will directly impact. This can help you identify any blind spots in your plan. Also, knowing that you are listening to their concerns will go a long way toward helping staff feel more comfortable with the impending change.
- Keep communication positive
Announce the change in a positive manner, even if you know it may cause some resistance and headaches.
Address people’s concerns while continuing to highlight all the positive ways the change will impact the business. For instance, increasing efficiency can increase clients and, therefore, increase revenue, which is good for everyone.
It’s better to err on the side of overcommunication rather than under-communication during a period of change. That way, nobody feels like they’re being left out of meaningful conversations.
- Address fears
Acknowledge that you understand some people may have concerns or fears about the new change. Then, keep the doors open for staff to talk to you about those fears. Sometimes, just knowing that they are being considered can be enough to ease someone’s anxiety.
- Review and improve after implementation
Once the change happens, it will need to be monitored to ensure that it is working. Get input from everyone involved with the change to find out what challenges they are facing and how you can continue to improve the process. This will help with the current situation and also make everyone feel more comfortable when changes arise in the future.
Encouraging Change in Your Practice
No matter what you’re changing inside your veterinary clinic or practice, expect to face some resistance. However, having a solid plan in place for how you’re going to introduce and implement change will help you put people’s minds at ease.
Keep the lines of communication open, and continue to monitor and improve the change after it has been implemented.