Ever had a day when nerves get frazzled and feelings get hurt? Frequent misunderstandings among staff members make it harder to work together successfully as a team. Maggie Shilcock, BSc, CMS, President of the Veterinary Practice Management Association (UK), suggests that better understanding of what everyone at your clinic does can minimize the misunderstandings, lack of consideration, and conflict that can occur in a busy practice. To create a happy and healthy working environment, she suggests that each member of the practice have a job description. If you don't have one, you should write it yourself and make sure that the manager/practice owner confirms that this is in fact what is expected of you. A basic job description includes a job title, principal purpose, specific tasks, a description of how and when tasks are carried out, any special responsibilities, and delineation of who your boss is and who reports to you. It is also important to determine whether you are doing more than you should, less than you should, or someone else's work and whether you are happy doing it. A job description can help identify problem areas that may need rethinking.

It's important that all team members understand what their teammates do. A useful method of getting to know more about the role of others is to "shadow" them while they are working. This can also be a useful adjunct to training a new staff member and helps everyone fully understand what their coworkers do for the practice. Shadowing can be done whenever it's convenient.

Using these ideas, you will know what you are supposed to do and so will everyone else. The roles of veterinarians, technicians, and staff may or may not overlap, but communication can be more effective when boundaries are clear. Once everyone knows what is expected of them and how they fit into the practice's big picture, communication becomes more effective and conflict is less likely.

Working together.... Shilcock M. VET BUS J August:16-18, 2002.