Veterinary Team Brief archived content and Social Media Calendars are accessible on For more information about accessing Veterinary Team Brief content, click here.

Team Training on New Protocols

Brenda Tassava, CVPM, CVJ, VLCE, VetSupport, New Orleans, Louisiana

August 2018|Peer Reviewed

Sign in to Print/View PDF

Team Training on New Protocols

Studies of learning strategies1-4 and ways to strengthen the veterinary vocabulary point to one critical step—practice. Every veterinary practice must have standard operating procedures (SOP) and protocols to guide team members and provide consistency as they do their jobs.

However, when training the team to perform a new skill (eg, blood smears), adding a written protocol is not enough. To learn effectively, the team also needs to practice the skill. A well-organized Lunch & Learn is an excellent way for a new technique to be introduced, learned, and practiced.

An effective Lunch & Learn involves more than an introduction and a demonstration over lunch. No team member will leave lunch feeling confident about performing a new skill without actually performing the skill him- or herself.

Many managers have been taught the various learning concepts (see Facts About Learning Styles) and have incorporated them into their training methods, but a 2018 study showed that adjusting training methods to accommodate specific learning styles does not always equate to improved learning.2 When introducing a new protocol, managers need to understand the importance of incorporating practice of the new skill into the training.   

Here is how to hold a Lunch & Learn to effectively introduce a new skill—in this case making a blood smear, although any new skill can be taught this way. The training session will include visual demonstration as well as a plan for team members to practice the new skill, which will be added to the veterinary practice SOP.

Facts About Learning Styles

  • The Visual, Auditory, Reading, and Kinesthetic (VARK) Questionnaire: In the early 1990s, New Zealand School Inspector Neil Fleming developed the VARK survey, which sorted people into groups to determine their learning styles (ie, who learned best visually, through auditory or heard information, reading, or kinesthetic [ie, hands-on] experiences).
  • Learning styles are not relevant to improved learning: A 2018 study found that students who adjusted their study habits to reflect their learning style, without practicing the new skill, did not improve their performance.2 Another study in 2017 found learning preferences had no correlation to memory or improved learning.3
  • Visual learners perform better: According to the authors of an article published in 2017, all visual learners perform at a higher level than those with other learning styles, and training should focus on strengthening everyone’s visual word skills.4


Because providing written protocols can help overall learning, provide clear, concise, step-by-step written instructions that include the equipment needed to make a blood smear. The instructions should include photos or sketches with each step to give learners the visual and written stimuli needed to introduce the new skill.

Before the lunch, create a video of a skilled team member explaining each step as he or she performs making a blood smear. The video can be used later when training new team members or when current team members need to brush up on their skills or cross-train.

The Lunch

Interactivity and engagement are key for a successful Lunch & Learn. Do not make team members sit through a slide presentation during or after the lunch—that is a recipe for snoozing, not learning. 

  • Always start the lunch with a quick team builder (eg, asking team members to share their favorite Netflix binge) to break the ice and get everyone talking and smiling. The team likely will learn something new about at least one team member. 
  • Next, distribute the written protocol and play the video. Allow time for questions and answers, as well as time to practice. Blood samples can be collected from resident practice pets, blood donors, or the pets of team members who volunteer them. One of the best practice approaches is for team members to partner with each other or form small groups, which will help them learn more effectively through collaboration and discussion.5 Team members who use the collaborative learning approach tend to retain information longer than if they work individually.6
  • Give each group the necessary equipment and enough time for each team member to perform each step at least twice.

At the end of the lunch, give each team member a set of slides and set the expectation that he or she will practice making blood smears as often as possible for the next week. Frequent practice will help team members build both technique and confidence.

Following the Lunch

Learning by practicing over regular, spaced intervals (eg, 50 slides divided by 3 slides per day or session would equal approximately 16 sessions) has been shown to be more effective than learning by cramming,7 so team members should practice at least 3 slides per day and complete the learning in about 3 weeks. Continuing to practice even after the technique has been mastered is beneficial because that builds muscle memory (ie, the ability to reproduce a particular movement or set of movements without conscious thought), which enhances efficiency,7 so even the most adept veterinary nurse can benefit from the week of practice.


Practice, practice, and more practice using this easy 3-step method will allow team members to hone their skills and build their confidence in performing new techniques. Setting out the methods for learning and practicing a new skill in the practice SOP ensures consistency among all team members. Finally, performing a skill such as blood smears in a consistent manner that is efficient and effective ensures good patient care and good business practices.

1 Include the steps for actually practicing a new skill when adding the skill to the veterinary practice’s Standard Operating Procedures.

2 Be aware that no matter a team member’s learning style, a hands-on, visual experience will ensure more effective learning than a lecture and demonstration.


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

Material from Clinician's Brief may not be reproduced, distributed, or used in whole or in part without prior permission of Educational Concepts, LLC. For questions or inquiries please contact us.

Clinician's Brief provides relevant diagnostic and treatment information for small animal practitioners. It has been ranked the #1 most essential publication by small animal veterinarians for 9 years.*

*2007-2017 PERQ and Essential Media Studies

© 2018 Educational Concepts, L.L.C. dba Brief Media ™ All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy (Updated 05/08/2018) Terms of Use (Updated 05/08/2018)