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3:34 AM   April 17, 2014
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Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR
Staff Safari
Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR, is a 20-year veteran of the veterinary industry and has worked all support positions in a practice. She was certified as a veterinary practice manager in 2006 and is founder and current president of the Veterinary and Emergency and Specialty Practice Association. Dobbs owns interFace Veterinary HR Systems LLC of Appleton, Wis., and blogs weekly for

April 15, 2014
The Tax Man
Most everyone dreads today’s date on the calendar, at least if you have taxes that need to be paid to the federal and/or state government. ... More»

March 24, 2014
Human Resources: Why Should I Care?
If you are NOT a member of your practice’s management or leadership, you may be asking yourself this question: "Human resources? Why should I care?”... More»

February 27, 2014
Hindsight IS 20/20
Personally, well professionally, I’ve never really liked dealing with eyeballs... More»

January 23, 2014
Hobby Hoarder
One method of coping with compassion fatigue and burnout is having a hobby that you can enjoy outside of work (and even better, away from caregiving)... More»

January 2, 2014
A New Year, A New You
Happy New Year! I really hate this time of year, because it’s supposed to be a time to assess the past year, and change things for the better in the new year. I have much more success if I apply this logic: I once listed all the good things I did over the past year and then turned them into resolution form and backdated them.. ...More»

November 27, 2013
Working for a Living
When I present on compassion fatigue, we get to a part that talks about emotional and financial satisfaction. ...More»

October 28, 2013
Hospice: The Last Hope
At the last big conference I attended, I spent some time meandering through the exhibit hall and seeing what was new out there in the veterinary profession ...More»

October 9, 2013
The Silver Lining
Recently, my community was blasted with a windy storm pushing gusts of over 80 mph ...More»

August 28, 2013
The Mystery is Solved
In my last blog, you heard about my Mickey, who was sickey. Well, the mystery has been solved!...More»

July 19, 2013
Are We Giving Enough?
Back on the "other” side of the exam table, I sit with my tabby boy, Mickey ...More»

May 31, 2013
Our Part in Pet Loss & Grief
In my last blog, I shared more information about the Veterinary Social Work Summit, and two of the four pillars of that master’s program at the University of Tennessee: animal-assisted therapy and the link between human and animal abuse ...More»

May 15, 2013
The Veterinary Social Work Summit was a Success!
In my last blog, I shared information about the Veterinary Social Work Summit. Now, the event has happened, so I wanted to give an update ...More»

April 30, 2013
Veterinary Social Work Summit?
You haven’t heard of the Veterinary Social Work Summit? Well, you’re not alone ...More»

April 30, 2013
Blowing the Whistle
On my Yahoo! home page recently, there was a story about a dentist who was raided by the health department ...More»

March 21, 2013
The bigger person and customer service
Now I’m not one to usually complain about the customer service I receive out and about … well, I don’t usually complain to the person or boss of the person who has treated me rudely ...More»

February 27, 2013
A Lesson From Spam
So any of us who have email are familiar with the word "spam,” although I’m not certain where we came to identify this "meat” product with unwanted emails ...More»

January 23, 2013
Inside or Out for Veterinary Management
When it comes to management within the veterinary profession, I’ve traditionally only seen two ways of doing things: either taking a person already IN veterinary medicine and teaching them the management, OR taking someone OUTSIDE of veterinary medicine and teaching them about our profession....More»

December 19, 2012
The Royal Treatment: Making Sure Patient Information Remains Private
So the big news lately is the pregnancy of Kate Middleton, and her subsequent health issues. But then a different story flooded the airwaves when two radio DJ’s posing as the Queen herself asked for an update on Kate’s condition...More»

November 28, 2012
The Power of a Caregiver's Tone of Voice
I bet you didn’t realize that everything you say does, to whoever hears it. As caregivers, our words are even more powerful than "regular” words...More»

November 13, 2012
The Deadly Flea Bath
You may have seen it: the news story that came out recently about a cat that was dropped off for a flea bath and was euthanized instead...More»

October 30, 2012
The ‘Younger Generation’and Work Ethics
Many of us are familiar with the "younger generation,” which means a lot of us are middle-aged! At times we notice a general lack of work ethics in this generation...More»

October 19, 2012
Moving Into Practice Management
At IVECCS this year in San Antonio, I presented a talk for technicians who are interested in moving into a management or leadership role in their respective practices...More»

October 16, 2012
No Excuses When It Comes to Client Service
So this is the last entry about my saga with my daughter’s dentist, and yet again, I learned something new about client service on THIS side of the exam table...More»

October 2, 2012
Vet Practice Hits Prime Time
So I was drawn to it, like a moth to the flame, realizing all the while that I could be burned…and indeed, wings singed, here I am to report my journey through the new show, Animal Practice...More»

September 24, 2012
Treat Your Clients Like Friends
Well, you’ve probably figured out that now I’m on the "other” side of the exam table, as a pet owner rather than as a technician, and it’s been quite an eye-opening experience...More»

September 14, 2012
When Veterinary Clients Fear for Their Pets
So I’m lying on the bed this morning, appreciating a quiet moment with my daughter and our dog Georgia as they both wake for another day. As before, I notice that Georgia’s breath is, well, less than pleasant...More»

September 7, 2012
Don't Overlook Customer Service Basics
If you read this blog with any frequency, you know I love to take lessons from "real life” and apply them to veterinary medicine...More»

August 31, 2012
When the Boss is the Problem
It is not uncommon after giving a presentation for me to be approached by support staff that fully admits that the problem in the veterinary practice is the boss...More»

August 24, 2012
Companioning a Colleague After the Loss of a Pet
Having a good friend who focuses on hospice and end-of-life, the topic of pet loss comes up often. Add to that the euthanasia of my dear Rosy, and grief and bereavement has been a discussion that has been close to our hearts...More»

August 17, 2012
Taking Pride In Your Work
As we all know, veterinary medicine is a passion, a calling, but it is also a business...More»

August 10, 2012
Saying Goodbye to Rosy
FoxyKats Scarlet Rose was her full registered name, but around here for the last 14 ½ years she’s just been Rosy...More»

August 3, 2012
Front Office Frustrations
The other day, we needed to order more heartworm, flea and tick preventive for our Cavalier named Joy...More»

July 27, 2012
When Veterinary Professionals Learn From Each Other
Let me tell you about a remarkable discovery I witnessed. Recently I returned from a trip to Australia...More»

July 13, 2012
Promoting Employees to Middle Management
To be, or not to be...friends; that may be the question, but when one of the team is promoted to management, the answer is not easy...More»

July 6, 2012
The Personal and Professional Roles We Play
We’re likely all familiar with the saying "don’t bring your work home” and the opposite remark, "leave your personal problems at the door when you come to work.” These phrases, or some facsimile of them, assume that we can compartmentalize our lives...More»

June 29, 2012
Drawing the Line at Work
There’s a saying goes something like "no good deed goes unpunished.” This seems like a cruel twist of fate, doesn’t it...More»

June 19, 2012
Don’t Drink, and Dog Paddle?
We’ve all done it, I bet even you…we have all dressed up a pet at least once in our lives...More»

June 12, 2012
Time to Find Another Job
A student from my VSPN class on compassion fatigue asked a question, and got me to thinking...More»

June 1, 2012
Homer’s Odyssey
Don’t cringe, this book from high school English is not about to haunt you again! Here’s this story...More»

May 25, 2012
Think For Yourself
If you have a large enough practice (typically 10-12 people or more), then you likely have some type of management person on the team. This could be a hospital or practice manager, maybe an office manager, or a supervisor...More»

May 21, 2012
A Walk In Their Shoes
The topic of employee pets came up recently in one of the courses I’m teaching, and I wanted to share my thoughts...More»

May 11, 2012
Who Rescued Whom?
When I saw this magnetic paw print at the local pet shop, I couldn’t resist buying one and sticking it on my car…because in my case, I truly feel that my little rescue dog rescued me...More»

May 4, 2012
Let Staff Play, and They Will Stay
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of joining a large veterinary practice on their annual retreat...More»

April 27, 2012
The Place To Be
As a veterinary practice manager, and now as a human resources consultant, I focus on helping practices be the place that pet owners want to bring their pets. That’s pretty obvious, for many reasons...More»

April 20, 2012
Expose Yourself!
My daughter, Katie, loves drama, so we put her in many acting workshops with a company called KidStage. They learn a short play or skit over eight weeks and then perform for the parents...More»

April 13, 2012
Caring Can Be Complicated
Undoubtedly, some of you are involved in caring for animals that dedicate their lives to laboratory testing or research. For some, this is a complicated subject. But let me assure you...More»

April 6, 2012
Is It Who Pulls The Trigger?
Due to the recent disturbing report of Nick Santinos’ suicide after euthanizing his pit bull, Rocco, I have reissued this blog from last year...More»

March 30, 2012
Is This Town Too Small?
Remember the old westerns, where the good guy (or bad guy) would say, "This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.” Something similar is happening in veterinary medicine...More»

March 26, 2012
Fabulous Feline Fling!
It was a few mornings ago. I walk into the kitty palace, the room in which my four cats nap and eat, and the first thing I notice when I open the door is green plant material on the floor...More»

March 16, 2012
Update on Hospice Patient
For those of you following my blog, you know that my 14-year-old Somali cat is currently in hospice care for suspected infiltrative GI lymphoma. We were given a rainbow of hope when we started Prednisolone...More»

March 12, 2012
Cats From Hell?
So are any of you watching the show My Cat From Hell on Animal Planet? What a show! At first I was skeptical...More»

February 24, 2012
Hey Boss, Listen Up!
As I make my way across the country, I’m always asked by at least one person, "How do I get my boss to listen?”...More»

February 17, 2012
Negotiation Fatigue
Anyone involved in presenting financial estimates, or treatment plans, to clients in the veterinary practice has been exposed to "negotiation fatigue.” You’ll recognize the circumstances...More»

February 13, 2012
The End of a Moving Walkway
Hopefully there have been times in your life when you feel as though you’re sailing along, not a care in the world, everything is hunky dory and going swell. Just as you’re becoming comfortable with this carefree spot, WHAM...More»

February 6, 2012
Don’t Sweat the Petty Stuff…
My daughter, who is now 11, is at that age where the only reality is the present, the now, the minute she exists within...More»

January 27, 2012
Find Fear, and Provide Support
As many of my readers know, my 14-year-old cat Rosy (the red Somali), is now a patient of our local home pet hospice that was founded by my amazing friend and fellow veterinary technician, Valarie Hajek-Adams, CVT...More»

January 20, 2012
Stop Expecting Failure
Recently I was in a hotel in Orlando, not really "watching” television, but it was on in the background. Along came a commercial for inventors...More»

January 13, 2012
Back to Practicing Medicine
In case you haven’t noticed, the veterinary profession is changing…dramatically. But then change is nothing new to us...More»

January 6, 2012
Knowing What to Expect
As veterinary professionals, we all understand the concept of diagnostics, the search to find out what is wrong with the animal so we can treat the problem, and give the pet owner some idea of what to expect in the future...More»

January 3, 2012
Thou Shall Not Judge…Your Client
We’ve probably all been there, standing across an exam table from a client who doesn’t seem too enthused about sticking a pill, squirting a liquid or cramming a capsule down the mouth of their pet...More»

December 22, 2011
Rosy Gives Me a Lesson in Trust
Her name is really Foxycats Scarlet Rose, but for 14 years we’ve called her Rosy for short. She is a red Somali, purchased from a breeder in Oklahoma. We were living in Texas at the time, and made the road trip up across the state line to pick up the little red ball of fur...More»

December 16, 2011
Caring Beyond Life
Have you ever thought of your pets and how you would care for them beyond life? No, not beyond their life, as in how you would say goodbye and choose final arrangements, but beyond your life...More»

December 9, 2011
Time Out for a Laugh
There is one sure-fire way to release stress and combat compassion fatigue—humor! Our profession tends to do a good job with this. In fact, our sense of humor is sometimes absurd, sometimes rather gross, but always funny...More»

December 5, 2011
A Fresh Start
We went to see Les Miserables last weekend…did you know they sing every word in that production? For those of you who haven’t seen the musical play or movie Les Miserables, the basic plot surrounds a man in the late 1800s/early 1900s who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving newphews and nieces...More»

November 28, 2011
Thanks & Giving
So we all know what last week brought, the opportunity to eat yummy side dishes that we only fix once a year, even though they are our favorites...More»

November 18, 2011
Beyond the Street Value
Interesting tidbit in the AAHA NEWStat email this week: pet owners in Texas can now claim sentimental damages for the loss of their dog, according to a recent court decision...More»

November 14, 2011
I read an article once about how important and insightful dreams can be, and it recommended writing them down as soon as you wake up. I thought I’d try it...More»

October 31, 2011
Trick or Treat
Since I’m writing this blog on Halloween, it only seems appropriate that I choose a topic that relates to this holiday…although my daughter, Katie, doesn’t understand how it can be a "holiday,” yet she has to go to school today...More»

October 28, 2011
Hamster Medicine
So last week during my introduction of Mouser the Chinese Dwarf Hamster, I asked you to remind me to tell you the story of Jonathon’s near-death experience...More»

October 24, 2011
Hamsters in Heat?
My family and I really love dwarf hamsters…okay, me especially. They are much friendlier than the big Teddy Bear hamsters I remember from my childhood (and friends that had the little biting critters)...More»

October 21, 2011
Working for the Person, Not the Practice
When we leave a place of employment, we typically are leaving The Boss, not the practice. When we stay, it’s because we "feel the love” from the person who is key to motivating us and developing our talent. ... More»

October 11, 2011
Me? First Class?
How many VetMiles have you put in during your career, and do you feel that the accumulation of that experience, those hard-earned miles, makes you special? Of course it does! ... More»

October 7, 2011
The Truth Behind The Price
Here’s the deal. You work in a veterinary practice. You make, let’s say, $14 per hour. You see clients and patients coming in, buying services and products, and leaving money behind. ... More»

September 21, 2011
Dogs Not Allowed
Designing veterinary practices with separate entrances so the species don’t mingle in the lobby is a relatively new idea. This is good for two reasons ... More»

September 19, 2011
We all work incredibly difficult positions within veterinary medicine, and it helps to network with others who understand our professional lives. Veterinarians have had professional associations for a long time. ... More»

September 2, 2011
The DNA of a Pet Owner
A more recent development is DNA testing of canine mixed-breed dogs.Who in the world would spend money on DNA-testing a mutt? Well, my laughing ceased when Georgia came into our lives. ... More»

August 19, 2011
Meeting Expectations
The only way for us to meet expectations is to either live up to what our clients already expect, or educate them on what to expect. While I don’t usually talk about my family of origin, a situation arose ... More»

August 16, 2011
Burning Logs to Prevent Burning Out!
We all know how intense this veterinary profession can be: the long hours, hard cases, demanding clients, difficult bosses, and just too little time to get too much done, without making too much money doing it!  ... More»

August 5, 2011
Compassion Fatigue and Teaching
Last week I had the privilege and honor of speaking about compassion fatigue at the Association of Veterinary Technician Educators (AVTE) meeting in Cincinnati. I was excited to bring awareness of ... More»

July 29, 2011
"Pay or Kill” Policy?
At the AVMA conference in St. Louis last week I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Alice Villalobos speak about Veterinary Ethics. It was very compelling stuff, and my colleagues and I joked that ... More»

July 25, 2011
"Is It Who Pulls The Trigger?
You may have heard it before. The reasoning that guns do not kill people, the people who pull the trigger do the killing. That’s pretty black and white in this instance—a gun sitting in a drawer or under a pillow isn’t going to  ... More»

July 15, 2011
"Awake” Bumps in the Road
Like many of you, I took to the road for a summer trip to see family…all the way from Wisconsin down to Texas. Yes, it was a long two days each way, but we made the time pass faster by ... More»

July 12, 2011
Times, They Are a’ Changing
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been working in veterinary medicine for over 20 years. Besides the fact that that makes me feel old (well, older at least) it also gives me a perspective on veterinary medicine that newcomers do not have.  ... More»

July 1, 2011
An Altered World View
A few weeks ago, I attended the First Annual Compassion Fatigue Conference in Kingston, Ontario. It was fabulous, and the event was a huge success! It was hosted by Francoise Mathieu ... More»

June 24, 2011
Tears for King Kong
Have you ever seen the old King Kong movie that starred "newcomer” Jessica Lange? I caught it somewhere in a hotel, and it was really lame: the special effects, the acting, just not very impressive. So this morning when  ... More»

June 17, 2011
Pause, Then Make A Move
This may be a sad reflection of my childhood, but one year I received as a gift from my mom a deck of playing cards and a book of 100 Games of Solitaire. I learned how to play many of them, but my favorite was  ... More»

June 10, 2011
Choosing to Notice
Over the weekend, I attended a lovely event outside in the open air. We were thankful that we had beautiful weather, even for a Wisconsin early summer, as it was mild with a nice breeze and abundant sunshine.  ... More»

June 3, 2011
Putting the Cat on the Roof
You’ve probably heard the saying, "Letting the cat out of the bag.” So what in the heck is, "Putting the cat on the roof?” Well, I learned this concept from an internist I had the pleasure of working with for many years. The first time I  ... More»

May 27, 2011
The Power of a Question Mark
How much power does a question mark have, you may ask??? Well, start using one this week and see for yourself! Each time you are tempted to tell one of your teammates to go get this, go find that, help over here, come back  ... More»

May 20, 2011
Making It Fun (Or At Least Bearable!)
Like most of you, I entered veterinary medicine because "I love animals!” Really, I do. And being in this profession has allowed me to interact with furry critters of all sorts. Some are wonderful to work with and seem to have ... More»

May 13, 2011
Certified Veterinary Assistants?
It’s likely you’ve already heard that NAVTA is in the process of developing and approving a program for certified veterinary assistants. After 20 something years in the profession, I found this interesting. ... More»

May 6, 2011
Habitat Enrichment
When my daughter was younger, we decided to show her the magic of life in various forms by raising containers of critters. We purchased several habitats for this type of learning adventure, complete with a postcard to ... More»

April 29, 2011
The Truth About Client Service
Last Friday, I attended a workshop at our local human association on compassion stress. During the workshop, there was a point made that I found applicable to veterinary practice as well. Basically, if we don’t provide quality client service, we won’t  ... More»

April 22, 2011
A Perk of the Job?
Every time I run into this topic, whether I’m managing or consulting, it’s a tough one…the "right” or ability for employees to bring their pets to work with them. There are so many battle grounds, and such high emotions surrounding ... More»

April 21, 2011
Enabling the Disabled
Although some may think I’m crazy (and I can’t really argue), I enjoy the subject of Human Resources. Mainly, I like to help people do their jobs better, and enjoy their jobs more. But there are a lot of other aspects to the broad ... More»

April 8, 2011
Skeletons in the Closet
Call me crazy, but even though we already had 11 pets in the house (1 dog, 4 cats, 2 rabbits, a guinea pig, a dwarf hamster, and two fish.) we were on the lookout for another dog to join us, to make a nice even dozen! No, really we were looking  ... More»

April 1, 2011
Faith in Humanity
A woman brings in a sick puppy and doesn’t want to spend the money to treat it for Parvo, but decides instead to euthanize and just get another puppy…and you wonder if she’ll even bother to vaccinate against  ... More»

March 28, 2011
Loyalty Lives On in the Rubble
The news at the front of most peoples’ minds these last weeks has been the tragedy in Japan, as it becomes compounded on almost a daily basis with new facts emerging. You can’t log on to the computer without seeing  ... More»

March 18, 2011
Got Attitude?
Does your practice have anyone on the team with a bad attitude? (For some of us, the question might be, do we have anyone on the team with a good attitude!) Do you manage that person with the bad attitude?  ... More»

March 16, 2011
My Favorite Compliment
My first serious job in veterinary medicine was at a small, one-veterinarian practice in a strip mall center. Oftentimes, I was the only other person in the facility besides the owner-veterinarian, so ... More»

February 28, 2011
Routine Does Not Mean Ramble
My daughter sees a dentist who specializes in treating children. Walking into his practice is like walking into a play zone, with a large screen TV in front of real rows of theater seats, a rainforest motif in the lobby, and a huge jungle ... More»

February 18, 2011
Wicked, or Not?
The stage musical Wicked has been around for a while, but I only just saw it for the first time recently. For those of you who aren’t fans of the stage, it’s basically the story behind the scenes of The Wizard of Oz. It goes back to when ... More»

February 4, 2011
Not Another Question!
Not Another Question! Do you hesitate to answer the question, "Where do you work?” or "What do you do?” When you answer, truthfully that is, do you get plagued with questions about the better diet for a dog, or how to treat fleas, or what about that itchy patch ... More»

January 28, 2011
Propofol in the News
Propofol "popped” into the mainstream news in conjunction with Michael Jackson’s untimely death, and I imagine many of us in the veterinary profession let out a groan as we anticipated the news that was just recently released in ... More»

January 21, 2011
Ode to Moses
Yesterday evening I was involved in a discussion about Quality of Life, a topic that all of us in veterinary medicine must address at some point, with some patient…sometimes multiple patients, multiple times a day depending on the type of practice.  ... More»

January 10, 2011
Who’s Hands Heal?
When I attended the International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine (ICCVM), I was delighted to meet Suzanne Kurtz, one of the authors of "Skills for Communicating with Patients.” ...More»

January 3, 2011
But Do They "Love Animals?”
My dad can’t seem to believe that I can survive without reading the daily newspaper. It was kinda funny. When I lived in Houston he would call and ask. "Did you know a hurricane is coming your way?” ... More»

December 27, 2010
Who Will Own The Future?
In my work as a consultant, I have the opportunity to meet many veterinary professionals in various positions. One of the trends I’m seeing is that veterinarians, who are now associates and do not have any ownership in the practice in which they work, really don’t have any desire to ... More»

December 20, 2010
Open Your Books
This past week I taught the Finance Management module of the Webster Veterinary Management University for Emergency/Specialty Practice. As we discussed fee setting and income centers, there was one thing we all agreed upon—the practice team should understand and have a basic knowledge of ... More»

December 13, 2010
Too Old To Tech
Maybe it’s my age, perhaps as I get older people I meet feel comfortable telling me their fears of getting older, but it seems to me that I am hearing a lot of people talk about how their bodies will not be able to do this work forever. Wrestling Rottweilers, tangling with tabbies, getting back up from ... More»

December 6, 2010
What do YOU call your front office heroes?
As I travel around to various clinics and conferences, I’ve seen an interesting phenomenon taking place over the last few years in veterinary medicine. The people who were once called "receptionists”—those hard-working, always pleasant, standing (or sitting) in the line of fire people at the front desk—are no longer called "receptionists” in many places. ... More»

November 4, 2010
Proven To Be True
This week I attended the International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine (ICCVM) in Calistoga, Calif. It was an eye-opening experience, not just because of my first exposure to fields of vineyard grapes—this is Napa Valley after all--but also due to my first exposure to the breadth of research, education and clinical application on the topic of communication in our profession ... More»

November 1, 2010
Scary Advice to Pet Owners
A colleague of mine has a Google alert set for "pet hospice.” In case you aren’t familiar with Google alerts, basically you receive an e-mail every day of anything new on the Internet that contains ... More»

October 25, 2010
Wanting to Write?
Recently I was interviewed by a student of veterinary technology. His class was exploring all the different paths a veterinary technician could take with their career, and he chose writing ... More»

October 11, 2010
Let’s Show Support, Not Scorn
A good friend who is a veterinary technician at an emergency practice mentioned the other day that she hoped she wouldn’t have another shift like the one she’d just finished. More»

October 4, 2010
My Wake-Up Call
Are you the type of dedicated employee who hates to call in sick to work? Do you worry about the load it puts on others, what they may say in your absence, and the work you won’t get done when you stay home? Is it almost better to go tough it out at work while feeling ill, rather than ... More»

September 28, 2010
Flying High
My work frequently requires me to travel by plane. As I was cruising through the Denver airport a few days ago, I heard the chirping of birds. Yes, there were birds inside the airport, and in fact I’ve seen birds in quite a few airports. ... More»

September 13, 2010
Your Piece of the Pie
I spent last week in Tennessee visiting practices. I was introduced to a somewhat unusual business model that I thought was interesting. The employees were paid directly from the "pot” of money that the business brought in over the last pay period. Now that sounds pretty ordinary, every business brings in money and then distributes to their employees a portion, but this practice literally added up the revenue and then split it based on percentage ... More»

August 31, 2010
New Kids on the Block
I recently was invited to host the VIN/VSPN rounds on the topic "Earning Respect When You’re the New Kid on the Block." The talk essentially addressed new graduates from either vet school or tech school, but I also considered any new hire a "new kid” whether they’ve been in the profession awhile or not. Really, anyone new to the team in a particular practice has a period of assimilation ... More»

August 24, 2010
A Vacation for the Mind
While I was visiting practices in Tennessee this month, I was asked a question I didn’t know the answer to: How many days do you have to be off work before your mind stops thinking of BEING at work? I can draw only on my experience and ... More»

August 5, 2010
Cognitive Dissonance: Something’s Wrong, but What?
This past week, I spoke at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) conference in Atlanta, Ga. Even more importantly, I attended a track on the human-animal bond that really has me thinking. Brian Forsgren accepted the Leo Bustad Companion Animal Veterinary of the Year Award, sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc., and selected by the ... More»

July 29, 2010
The Key to Compliance
Recently I’ve been exploring compliance in the veterinary profession. It seems to me that the key to getting pet owners to act on our recommendations boils down to the concept of WIIFM—"What’s In It For Me?” Not to say pet owners only care about themselves … in fact, maybe a better concept is WIIFMAMP—"What’s In It For Me, And My Pet?” The 2009 ... More»

July 22, 2010
Life Full of Promise
As I watch my kitten exploring my desk, which is truly an adventure because it’s not very tidy, I am amazed once again at how little Thomas O’Malley views the world (yes, that’s from the alley cat in Aristocats!). It’s all one great big amusement park, full of excitement and promise … even though we would look around and notice the danger that ... More»

July 16, 2010
A Pet for Everyone
The best way to fight compassion fatigue, which is quite simply the wear and tear on our emotions as we do our work, is to have compassion satisfiers. These are the reasons we wake up in the morning, pull on our scrubs, and head off to the practice or facility where we work. For most of us, at the top of that list of satisfiers are the animals we ... More»

July 9, 2010
Acts of Patriotism
The Fourth of July has come and gone for another year. Many of us celebrate the Fourth with cookouts and hot dogs, swimming and fireworks … and perhaps, a sunburn to boot. But beyond the fun (and pain), there is the American flag that waves with pride and reminds us of what the holiday is all about. It amuses me how we can say whatever ... More»

July 2, 2010
Technician: New & Naive
I was talking with a friend of mine, who just happens to be a veterinarian. She was describing an incident that happened in her practice. A new technician fresh out of tech school and first day on the job took the owner aside on her second day and pointed out the fact that his practice was not providing standard of care medicine. The surprising ... More»

June 25, 2010
Random Acts of Kindness
Some people look at "random acts of kindness” in a little different way, as "paying it forward.” Regardless of the terminology, how often do you see this happening in your daily life? Have you experienced a random act of kindness? Recently I pleasantly experienced someone "paying it forward” for me … as I pulled up to the drive-in window of Starbucks ... More»

June 16, 2010
The Benefit of the Doubt
You wouldn’t know it by looking at us, but we are a very suspicious bunch in veterinary medicine. Well, we must be, because it is rare that we give each other the "benefit of the doubt” as it were. It seems so much easier for some of us at least to suspect the worse of each other, rather than lead with the idea that there is an honest, friendly reason ... More»

June 10, 2010
Paycheck vs. Personal Ethics
Someone I know, although not in the veterinary profession, is struggling with this dilemma—is the acquisition of a paycheck worth sacrificing your personal ethics? We all have standards, what some call morals, a sense of what is right and wrong. So what do you do when you discover the people at the top of the organizational chart are lying ... More»

June 3, 2010
Veterinarians—Masters of Denial
As I travel across the country, increasing awareness of Compassion Fatigue in veterinary medicine, I am still concerned that few veterinarians admit they have compassion fatigue. Often they say, "my team definitely has this issue,” but rarely do they believe they are susceptible themselves ... More»

May 26, 2010
Blurring the Line Between Homeless and Helpless
My research into compassion fatigue has led me out of the veterinary practice and into the world of shelter medicine. I recently finished a book called Bridging the Bond: The Cultural Construction of the Shelter Pet. It was an amazing glimpse into a world I have been near, but never inside. Although I have worked in settings where I was required to participate in ... More»

May 20, 2010
Veterinary Social Work…Huh?
This past weekend, I was fortunate to attend the second Veterinary Social Work Summit hosted by the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Social Work. I did not know exactly what to expect, and I was surprised by the variety of topics this Summit addressed. The four subcategories of veterinary social work include: the link ... More»

May 13, 2010
VTS: Internal Medicine vs. Clinical Practice
For those of you who have been reading this blog o’ mine, you may recall that I addressed the topic of the newest Veterinary Technician Specialty (VTS) of Clinical Practice. At the time I will admit that I was naïve, and to stimulate the conversation I threw out my first perception of this new VTS in clinical practice. Since the appearance of that blog, I have ... More»

May 5, 2010
The Rat (or Hamster) Race

You must always be moving in some direction or else you will get left behind or run over. Are you moving, or just sitting still? And, are you on the right track, or just aimlessly moving forward with the momentum of the events in your life? If it’s not a path or track that you’ve chosen, then it probably isn’t the right track for you. When you reach the destination, if you ... More»

April 29, 2010
Discovering Needs

Among my travels while sharing my lectures, I have the opportunity to speak to veterinary professionals on improving client communication. One point I like to make clear is that too often, we don’t really know WHY our client is complaining. This can be particularly true of common complaints, such as client wait time. It is my suspicion that often our clients ... More»

April 22, 2010
Pavlov’s Dogs: The Untold Story & Lessons Learned

We are all likely familiar with Pavlov, his dogs, and his experiments that proved the existence of conditioned reflexes. Basically he demonstrated that if you ring a bell each time prior to feeding a dog, the dog becomes trained that after the bell sound, comes a tasty bite of food. Soon the bell itself will initiate salivation in preparation ... More»

April 15, 2010
Hospice—The Gift of Hope

A very dear friend of mine, Valarie Hajek-Adams, CVT, has introduced me to the concept of pet hospice over the last few years. She created a home hospice service for pets here in our region and shares stories of hope with me. But hospice is often misunderstood in our profession. The hope is not for a cure, not for a recovery and not ... More»

April 8, 2010
Veterinary Technicians – How Special Are You?

In 1994, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) Committee on Veterinary Technicians Specialties was formed. Since that time, it has given full or provisional recognition to many specialty academies including emergency and critical care, anesthesia, dentistry, internal medicine, behavior, zoo medicine ... More»

April 1, 2010
Leaving Burnout Behind (AKA Compassion Fatigue Follows)

In my research on compassion fatigue, I have discovered that a term we hear more often, burnout, has many definitions but typically revolves around the work environment. The work environment includes everything about the job: the location, the scheduled hours, the pay, the morale of the team, the quality of management, etc. We ... More»

March 26, 2010
Marketing to Your Team

My head is full of memories from AAHA as I make my way back home from Long Beach—on three different planes, but nonetheless a good time to reflect. It was a great conference with friendly audiences, helpful people, and lots of sympathy for my gimpy broken ankle, which was sweet and appreciated. I couldn’t move fast, but I ... More»

March 18, 2010
Blurring the Definition of Compassion Fatigue

One of the topics I am most passionate about discussing is compassion fatigue, no pun intended. I even have a Google alert set for "compassion fatigue” so I can see new information as soon as it hits the internet. It’s been interesting, and a little frustrating, to see how the definition of compassion fatigue can be twisted and turned ... More»

March 12, 2010
When You Should Be "Fancy”

Recently I was home, and all dressed up to go do something related to "work.” My nine-year-old daughter glanced at my attire, hair-do, and make-up and said "Mom, why do you have to get all "fancy” in a tone that suggested she was disgusted that I felt the need to succumb to society’s opinion of what a woman should look like ... More»

March 4, 2010
The Problem with Celebration

I love the winter Olympics. There have been years when I’ve just been glued to the television soaking in those winter sports, but more often there are years like this one, when I’m too busy to do anything but pop into the Olympic news that makes the Yahoo! headlines each day. Imagine my surprise when I saw the slide show of the Canadian gals celebrating ... More»

February 25, 2010
When the Boss is Too Nice!

While speaking at WVC, it seemed like nearly every topic I addressed regarding employee performance was concluded by at least one, sometimes more, people coming to me and remarking that their practice owner was "too nice” to discipline or terminate problem employees. Many of these attendees were in a position of some responsibility, such as ... More»

February 18, 2010
CE: Teachable Moments Beyond the Event

So here I am at the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. It’s my first time at WVC, although I’ve been to Vegas a few times. The first time was with my family of origin many years ago, and my mom proceeded to show us her favorite lucky slot machine at each casino we visited…then she found out they rotate the machines, and her luck ran out ... More»

February 11, 2010
Can You Tell That to My Boss?

Recently I was in New Orleans for the Veterinary Specialists in Private Practice conference (VSIPP). (By the way, Who Dat? Won the Superbowl!) My colleagues and I discussed an important concept when it comes to any type of continuing education. Here’s the scene. You’re a manager, technician, receptionist, or any position in the hospital except the practice ... More»

February 5, 2010
Technician Utilization, Again

When I spoke at NAVC in Orlando last week, I had been asked to speak on the topic of technician utilization. My first response was, "seriously, are we STILL talking about this? Is this still a problem now, twenty years after I joined the profession?” As you can guess, the answer is yes. So when the audience shuffled into the NAVC ballroom, I began by saying how ... More»

January 29, 2010
The Tiger Woods’ Lesson

So I know what you’re thinking, there are probably several lessons we can learn from Tiger Woods’ recent fall from grace. But it occurs to me as professionals in veterinary medicine that there is one lesson in particular we can learn. Tiger Woods is not unlike hundreds of other people who are unfaithful to their mate, but the problem for him was that he was already representing ... More»

January 21, 2010
Speaking of Compassion Fatigue

It’s been a busy week here in Orlando at NAVC, the largest veterinary conference in North America. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to present three "briefs” on compassion fatigue. Briefs are barely a glimpse into a topic, where the material is presented in 10-12 minutes, then allowing time for a few minutes of questions. This was my first time speaking on the ... More»

January 15, 2010
Long Hair, Revisited

One of my recent blogs was about the little fella serving an in-school suspension due to the unacceptable length of his hair. Well, I saw an update today. Turns out the school tried to relax its policy but the family won’t budge. The mom did put the little boy’s hair up in a high ponytail (and admitted using gel to keep it up), but that was as far as they would go. The ... More»

January 7, 2010Long hair revisited
Resolve to Move Forward

Welcome to 2010! With the New Year come new resolutions, the ritual of setting goals for the year that we intend to achieve (without admitting that we are rarely successful). What will your resolution be this year? Perhaps you want to lose that extra 15 pounds, or spend more quality time with your kids, or finally move out of mom and dad’s house. Whatever you ... More»

December 31, 2009
Buying the Experience

Although perhaps I should be, I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a Starbucks junkie. When I made the move to this smallish town years ago, it might have been this comment that sealed the deal, "well, we’re big enough to have three Starbucks!” So I make the trip to one of those three locations quite often. As I made my way through the drive-in of the nearest Starbucks ... More»

December 23, 2009
The Drama of Long Hair

Like many people these days, I don’t read a paper in print. My news pops up as I enter my Yahoo! email accounts and the top story of the hour comes into view. If I think it’s an interesting story, I click in and read a bit. Last week there was a story of a male student who was suspended for long hair. This isn’t an uncommon scenario, but what was interesting is that this ... More»

December 18, 2009
The Frontlines of the Battlefield: Who is the Real Enemy?

Ringing phone lines, jammed printers, buzzing fax machines, barking dogs, and growling clients…the team at the front office must handle them all, and usually simultaneously. It’s a wonder they can keep their calm and make it through one day, much less come back again and again to the veterinary practice to repeat the process on a daily basis. What makes ... More»

December 11, 2009
Homegrown or Imported?

As I participate in discussions of veterinary practice management with various people, I always find it interesting when the topic turns to "homegrown or imported” managers. That is, the difference between someone who has "grown up” in veterinary medicine and moved into a management position, versus someone who has learned management out in the "human” world ... More»

December 4, 2009
The View from the Other Side of the Exam Table

Most of us have been in veterinary medicine so long that we’ve forgotten what the view is like from the other side of the exam table. Yet it is essential that we remember how it looked and felt when we were the client. That view comes into focus from the first "hello” to the last "goodbye.” Let me give you a real-life example of an ugly view that ... More»

November 25, 2009
Stepping Out of Line in Cyber Space

Today, computer keyboards have replaced typewriters, the delete button has replaced correctable ribbon, and the World Wide Web has replaced the phone for much of our daily communication with others. All this technology has its advantages, yes, but the convenience of having 24-hour access to information and acquaintances can create some ... More»

November 19, 2009
Secret Santa Stockings

If you haven’t noticed, the holiday season is upon us. Two radio stations in my hometown are already playing holiday music, and some stores had their holiday items already shoved behind their Halloween décor ready to move up come November 1st! Chances are your practice has some type of holiday gathering or activity planned. After all, it is the ... More»

November 13, 2009
Don’t Let Fear of Flying Hold You Back

Sipping my mocha frappucino, I watch as hundreds of people move past me at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, one of the busiest airports in the U.S. I wonder where they are all headed. This airport connects thousands of people daily to the next step in their lives. Do you know where you life is headed as a veterinary professional? What plane will you ... More»

November 5, 2009
Fight Compassion Fatigue with a Few of Your Favorite Things

In my exploration of compassion fatigue, I have found one thing to be true above all others—we simply must take care of ourselves. To withstand a career of compassionate giving, which I’m certain describes all of you in the veterinary profession—we must stop and recharge our batteries from time to time. This is easier said than done, in our ... More»

October 29, 2009
Technicians—Use Us, Or Lose Us

A good friend of mine has been a credentialed veterinary technician since 1972. In her 37 years in this profession, she has seen a lot of changes and some things that have not changed. We had lunch the other day and stumbled upon a common topic of conversation for two veterinary technicians: fully utilizing technicians in the veterinary ... More»

October 22, 2009
The Triangle of Care

The Triangle of Care is a concept that came to me during my years of being on both sides of the referral equation: as a technician in general practice that referred patients to specialists, and then as a manager in a referral hospital. The triangle consists of three points: the general practitioner or family veterinarian, the specialist or emergency clinician ... More»

October 16, 2009
The Ties That Bind

As practice owners exercise their right to use an "exit strategy” from the practice they nurtured, heading off to a well-deserved retirement, where does that leave us that remain behind and our clients? I had the pleasure of speaking to the Michigan Association of Veterinary Technicians this past weekend, and the question ... More»

October 9, 2009
Playing Hopscotch with the Org Chart

Do you remember playing hopscotch? There are those numbered boxes, one on top of the other, sometimes two in horizontal row, stretching out in front of you on the sidewalk. You throw a rock on to the next numbered square, and hop along the trail of boxes, skipping the one with the rock in it. Hopefully you have the picture. This may be a fun ... More»

October 2, 2009
AVMA: Leading the Way in Ethics

When I decided to take the certified veterinary practice manager (CVPM) exam offered through the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, I had to become intimately familiar with all of the resources on the recommended reading list. One of these was the "AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.” I had never read these ... More»

September 25, 2009
The Moment I Knew!

This past week, I gave presentations on Compassion Fatigue to a team that is like ours in veterinary medicine, only different. The only difference is that their patients do not have fur; the audience was the staff of an assisted living and nursing home complex in a nearby town. I began by explaining how we have something in common: when I worked ... More»

September 17, 2009
Management? Not Me!

Last week in Chicago, I spent a good portion of my time at the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium. I was there to staff the exhibit booth for the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Practice Association. We had many people stop by and ask, "What’s this?” So I would explain that we are a network of professionals ... More»

September 10, 2009
Weary Hearts

Now that we’ve walked through the flames of burnout, we arrive at the frozen wasteland of compassion fatigue. Whereas the wick of burnout is lit by WHERE we work, compassion fatigue is more a reality of the work we DO. You can escape burnout by changing employers, or finding a better fit for your work ethic and values. You cannot outrun compassion fatigue ... More»

September 2, 2009
Dowsing the Flames of Burnout

The house is quiet. Even all eight of the animals are sleeping, while I’ve been up half the night thanks to my cold medicine … don’t you just love when antihistamines and decongestants combine? Everyone is blissfully sleeping, while I sit here on fire. I’m wallowing in the topic of burnout. While I have been developing presentations on compassion fatigue ... More»

August 26, 2009
Agree to Disagree

Have you ever disagreed with your boss? Whether it was the practice owner, the hospital manager or your immediate supervisor, it can be tough when you disagree. Even disagreeing a minor disagreement can complicate your relationship. So how do you speak your mind, but keep your job and, more importantly, maintain the respect of your ...  More»

August 19, 2009
It’s Lonely at the Top

To be a manager, or not to be a manager; this is the question. Before you answer, though, you need to know one thing—it’s lonely at the top. Really, you’re not at "the top,” and that’s part of the loneliness. Whether your position title is practice manager, hospital administrator or any number of management type titles, you act under the direction ...  More»

August 13, 2009
Heroes of the Front Office

Some of us, me included, feel that we were drawn to veterinary medicine by a "calling.” The veterinarian was called to complete an education in order to help heal animals. The technician was called to be the right hand person to help that veterinarian heal animals and provide nursing care. But are front office team members called to take their place at the reception ...  More»

August 7, 2009
The Meerkats: Always on Alert and Causing Trouble!

Now that we’ve had our snack, let’s get back on the bus and on with the Safari. As we near this next exhibit, you’ll notice quite a few little animals scurrying around, popping up, bopping down, and basically running about in a rather chaotic manner. These are meerkats, and they are a particular breed of veterinary technician. These little guys and gals like ...  More»

July 29, 2009
Customer Service in Good Times and Slow Times

We’ve made our way through a few of the wildlife exhibits here on the safari, and it may be time for a snack. So let’s stop for a minute at the concession stand. While we’re waiting in line, I have been pondering a question I was asked not long ago. Due to the slowdown in some veterinary practices, the focus has turned to the delivery of excellent client service ...  More»

July 21, 2009
Lost in Back: The Elusive Kennel Assistant

Our next stop on the Staff Safari is the prairie dog mounds; let’s see if we can catch a glimpse of these crafty critters. The kennel assistants in your practice may be the lowest paid and perhaps the youngest persons on the team, but their work is essential to the care and comfort of your patients. Given the laborious task of feeding, cleaning, bathing and ...  More»

July 15, 2009
Bad Boss, or Porcupine in Disguise?

Do you have a boss who is driving you crazy? Does he or she seem to be a porcupine weaving their way through the staff on the floor, ready to eject quills at a moment’s notice when they boil over suddenly? Have you told them they’re ...  More»

July 9, 2009
Welcome to Staff Safari

Welcome to the Staff Safari!  Our tour bus is provided by, and I am your tour guide. Our safari will make weekly stops at a variety of habitats, so let me introduce you to just some of the wildlife we will see along ...  More»


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