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July 10, 2018
April 10, 2018

The Importance of Onboarding and Training

Monica Dixon Perry

Although “onboarding” and “training employees” are commonly used phrases, I am reminded how practices still struggle in this area. I just completed an onsite consultation and a new member of the practice’s technical program, one who had never worked in a veterinary practice, was working with a feline patient that was in for his annual visit. Although this employee was friendly and professional, she was not aware what Fel-O-Vac meant when seeing it listed in the patient record; therefore, she was not aware that she should have been discussing this vaccine as well as the other services that the cat should receive. Luckily, this was caught by the attending DVM and the patient was properly vaccinated.  

Within hours of seeing this occurrence, a member of the reception team was checking out a client and was asked if a check could be held for the rendered services. The receptionist was working the last three hours of her shift alone and did not know the practice’s policy on hold checks. In the end, the situation was handled, and the client was allowed to have her check held.

In both cases, I witnessed two employees trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. There were minor bumps in the road but no patient died and no client left upset or frustrated. But I observed two individuals unnecessarily placed in positions for which they were not confident how to handle situations that fell under their job descriptions. When this takes place, management has failed its team. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently in our industry. 

I cannot stress how important it is for ALL new hires to have an assigned team member to oversee their onboarding/training. I recommend the following steps to successfully transition new hires so that they become confident, comfortable, willing, able, and high-performing members of your team. 

Here are some steps to consider and implement if you feel that your onboarding and training program needs enhancing:

  1. Make sure the trainer is a member of management and/or is the strongest employee in the new hire’s department, with the ideal scenario being a department head.

  2. The new employee’s schedule should be that of the trainer for the first 30 days. This allows onboarding to be focused and intentional.

  3. There should be a structured training program. A sample receptionist phased training program is here for your review.

  4. Make sure the trainer and trainee review the training program at the beginning of each shift so that they are on the same page regarding what will be covered that day.

  5. Senior level management or the owner should sit down with the trainer and trainee at the end of every week to be sure training goals are being reached.

  6. The trainee should have the program readily available for review and discussion each moment they are scheduled. This will expedite the training phases and help the new employee grow.

  7. Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” should be the premise to all onboarding programs. Onboarding needs to be comprehensive, with daily and weekly goals. Trainers should not sign tasks off as completed until they are 100% comfortable that the trainee can perform the expected duties at their level or higher.

If you incorporate these steps into your training and onboarding programs, I am confident you will see better performing, more confident, and highly motivated employees. Haphazardly and casually training employees can be costly and could be the difference between life and death for your patients. In my opinion, onboarding should be taken as seriously as anesthetizing a patient. Committing to this foundational moment within a new hire’s employment is key!

Monica Dixon Perry, CVPM, teaches amazing practice management tools and strategies at VMC's renowned seminar, Principles of Veterinary Practice Management. Register for this seminar in an area near you.

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