by Bash Halow, CVPM, LVT
You know, sometimes all the team spirit, cupcakes, and casual Fridays in the world aren’t enough to keep team morale up. Sometimes you just need a good ole, hospital-wide project to pull everyone up by their boot straps, get the blood going, and rally the troops. That something is accreditation, or in our case, RE-accreditation, by the American Animal Hospital Association and we were very honored to achieve it at Cobble Hill Animal Clinic on April 1st, 2014
This is my fifth time going through the process. In my career, I’ve helped 2 practices earn their certification and three others become re-accredited and in my opinion no better practice-growing enterprise exists. Here are three reasons why every practice should look to AAHA to build a workplace that’s safe, productive, happy and valuable.
#1 Goals Are Good, Winning is Better
Ever notice how we always refer to our employees as a team, but we never really know what game we’re playing, when it ends, or whether or not we’ve won? Think about it. Our daily game is too often ‘get through the day’ and when it’s over…who knows if we were victorious. Giving your team a formidable and worthwhile task (like making sure that your practice has examined 900 ‘standard’ hospital criteria) and then leading them to accomplish that task will be one of the most memorable milestones in your practice’s history.
#2 Accomplishment Feels Great
As Marilyn Tam for the Huffington Post writes, “(your company) needs a defined mission/reason for being. Work and life have meaning when we feel what we are doing creates worth and is in alignment with what we value”.
So true. Every successful accreditation process begins with a team meeting on what the standards are and who’s going to fix what. Team members love it. They get a clear list of things you want them to accomplish, they have a reliable resource to turn to when they have a question (you are assigned an AAHA consultant who helps you by phone or email whenever you need it) and they have a chance to complete a job at the hospital that’s unique and valued. Doesn’t this sound like a place you would like to work?
#3 They Are Called Standards For A Reason
You make mistakes at your practice, admit it. We all do. As you work through the accreditation process, you’ll recognize that the American Animal Hospital Association has thought of EVERYTHING that goes wrong at practices and provides you with ‘standards’ that are really ingenious solutions to minimize errors and improve patient and client care. It’s simply impossible to go through the process and not be better for it. It forces you to look at your employees, your workplace culture, your patient care, your diagnostics and so forth, then to make changes that will positively advance you towards your Mission Goals.
This year, if you’re looking for a recharge at the hospital, skip the bake off and undertake a job that your capable team is all too eager to accomplish. Download the AAHA accreditation standards, pass them out to your employees, and allow them to become the veterinary team they know they can be.
How Long Will It Take?
Here’s a timeline of Cobble Hill’s journey to greatness and accreditation by the American Animal Hospital Association:
January 2011: Newbie Cobble Hill Animal Clinic Owner, Jeanne LoBasso, attends the NAVC conference and stops off at the AAHA booth for more information on her practice’s AAHA membership. A representative there discusses the benefits of accreditation and get’s Jeanne’s wheels turning. Jeanne returns to the practice, reviews the accreditation standards, and contemplates a strategy to move forward.
June 2011: Still unable to wrap her head around a way to accomplish what seems like ‘an overwhelming amount of criteria’, Jeanne turns to a colleague in the industry who gives her the idea to use the whole team’s effort to accomplish the accreditation goal.
July 2011: Jeanne holds her first AAHA accreditation meeting with the entire team including the associates. She divides the employees into small, working groups and passes out one or two of the accreditation sections to each group. She allows the groups to use the meeting time to read through the material. At the end of the meeting, all the groups come back together to discuss a pathway forward. They outline an action plan and set a follow-up meeting date.
August 2011: The groups have made tremendous progress. Some have begun working on the training manual, others are adjusting medical protocols, and still others are working on making changes to the workplace itself by building fire evacuation signs or by making changes to the isolation room. At the meeting, each group gives an update on their progress. By the end of the hour, it seems like everyone’s head is swimming.
September 2011: Some signs of frustration. Not everyone is following the new protocol changes and some team members articulate that they’re losing their patience. Jeanne uses these stumbling blocks as a jumping off point to talk about accountability and problem solving in general. She makes it a point to leave this meeting with additional action steps to keep the project on a forward course.
November 2011: A new surgery scrub sink and dental table are a great sign to everyone that the leadership means business when it comes to passing the AAHA inspection scheduled for January 2012. At this team meeting, everyone is more positive because signs of change are all around. Compliance to new protocols is vastly improved.
December 2011: Lots of positive buzz going on and lots of 11th hour changes being made. Daily you hear team members saying things like ‘we need to do it for AAHA’ or ‘remember that for AAHA…’ . Is it all the Christmas rum cake or the progress that’s improving the workplace mood so much?
January 2012: The extremely knowledgeable AAHA consultant, Rachel Schultz, spends 6 hours inspecting the practice and interviewing team members. At the end of a nail- biting day, the team is exhilarated to find out that the hospital has passed and is now accredited! Later that night, drinks are on (and in) Jeanne LoBasso 😉