Last month, we asked our accredited practices to tell us how they engage their teams and make the accreditation evaluation process fun. The practice to send us the winning entry was to receive $100, and their idea published in this blog and potentially in a future issue of Trends magazine.

We received a lot of great ideas, but our favorite came from Nancy Hendrickson, practice administrator of Norwalk Veterinary Medical Center. Here's what Nancy submitted to us:

What is fun about evaluation prep time?
How about a great dinner out and a concert or a Broadway show or to see an event like Cirque du Soleil?

As a team, we decided to write our thoughts on the AAHA Member Connection request to submit ideas about what we do as an accredited AAHA hospital to make evaluation time and preparation fun. After discussing this, we reached the conclusion that the goal or process of preparation for an evaluation is not really "fun" but has great value. So perhaps another way to look at it is that the value and the accomplishment is what is the "fun." Just as someone prepares to be the best mountain climber or best speed skater, the "fun" is in the accomplishment of a worthwhile goal. The word "fun"--if it means easy, relaxing, or enjoyable--may not apply, but if the word "fun" means successful, rewarding, esteem building, then it absolutely applies. So here is what we do to have fun while preparing for an evaluation:

  1. Continually incorporate new standards as they are released to avoid the "3-year rule." This makes the 90 day "march to evaluation" much less stressful. As soon as new rules come out, we incorporate them into our agenda for our meetings to determine how to comply. This is rewarding because we are going to become better and be challenged to improve. For example, we learned about the new dental protocol DE 12.2. We wrote it together. We passed around the sharpening stones and the honing oil for everyone to become familiar with. We changed the type of plastic sleeve we use to sterilize instruments in, and we changed our protocol on lubricating the dental instruments. We purchased a new book from AAHA on dental and surgical instruments that we found very helpful and learned much from. We got better, thanks to AAHA. That would not have happened without being exposed to the new rules. The "fun" was getting better and becoming more accomplished.
  2. Set a long-term goal of a special event at the beginning of your final 90-day preparation to work toward your reaccreditation that is culminated after the evaluation is complete. Deferred gratification is now the "fun" reward. We have gone to an amusement park, Broadway shows, musicals, and events like Cirque du Soleil--all of which always included a night out of dinner and camaraderie for the whole team. This makes working toward the evaluations "fun" because we know there will be a big event when we are done and have accomplished our goal.
  3. Involve the entire team. This means everyone who touches the practice, including clients, ancillary delivery people, and the practice consultant. Everyone knows what we are working toward as the weeks and days approach. Let clients know by email or newsletter or signage at the front desk. Invite them to meet the consultant to ask questions or share their thoughts. Let them know they are an important part of your team and valued and you are doing this to provide their pets with the highest quality of care. We get cookies, thinking of you, and best wishes cards and phone calls from clients wanting updates on how things are going. We have had clients give us gift cards to buy lunch for the team while we are preparing for our evaluation. Delivery drivers will ask "Did you have your evaluation yet?" Everyone needs to know that you are working hard and that it is not easy. It is not fun in that sense. But it is fun when the clients show their appreciation. At our special luncheon the day our practice consultant comes, we look forward to having a great meal together and learning more about what's new at AAHA. Our consultant is invited as the guest of honor. One of our clients asked to meet our consultant and she was so excited for weeks. She brought her guide dog and spent time with all of us at lunch. That's fun. This won't work for every practice, but it does for us. Every time we have been evaluated, we have grown and become better at caring for our clients' pets. That makes practicing veterinary medicine fun!

Thanks for sharing your ideas, Nancy and the team at Norwalk Veterinary Medical Center! It's practices like yours that make AAHA proud, and pets healthy and happy!

The team at Norwalk Veterinary Medical Center will receive a $100 Visa gift card for their winning contest entry.

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