Selecting Continuing Education for Your Practice Team
Sheila Grosdidier, RVT, PHR, and Monica Dixon Perry, CVPM
With all the continuing education (CE) choices available, how does a veterinary practice get the most out of the time, energy, and money spent to receive this education? Veterinary team learning has evolved and the health care team needs targeted, meaningful training if they are to adapt to the changes in veterinary medicine and the ever-rising expectations of clients.
The Four Rs
Meaningful training is based on the four Rs: retention, readiness, response, and “revving” up your employees.
Finding, engaging, and retaining good team members is a constant challenge. Consistent CE has been shown to be a significant tool in retaining employees.1 Employees also comment on the sense of commitment they feel when their employers invest in training, which boosts morale and helps inspire passion for learning.2 As veterinary practices are being pressured to do more with less, training becomes the logical choice to ensure that employees know how to properly and efficiently do their jobs.
Have you noticed that often the team members who are the most engaged in CE are some of your best employees? Yes—there is a correlation between performance and training.3 Trained employees can better understand the purposes and goals of their respective positions as well as those of the practice. Training is also a valued reinforcement of knowledge and strengthens your team’s confidence. Identify what you need to be ready for this year by responding to the questions in Table 1.
Table 1. Is Your Team Ready?
- Do you have a comprehensive training plan for the year?
- What type of training would support this year’s practice goals?
- Identify three ways that you could enhance your practice’s services this year.
- What are your veterinarians doing that could be done by the team if they receive effective training?
Team members often make decisions based on their own reasoning. Respond to this thought process by providing training that is relevant to the business and also blended with the needs and goals of the entire team. Ask your team members what is important to them and what training would be the most helpful.
A veterinary clinic recently posed that question to their team—veterinarians and support team members alike—and the responses on the list included:
- Stress management
- How to manage personal finances
- How to demonstrate confidence.
What would be on your team’s list?
Rev Them Up
Businesses are continuing to invest in training even in this tight economy.4 Learning impacts the culture of a practice by:
- Increasing confidence
- Reminding team members that they are valued
- Building interest and integration if the method of training is correctly selected.
See Table 2 to review ten ways to create a valuable training program for your practice.
|Table 2. Ten Training Tools for Your Practice|
|2. Conferences &Meetings||
|3. Information Sharing>||
|5. Online Education||
|7. Boards, Colleges, & Academies||
|8. Standardized Training||
|9. Traditional Didactic||
Once you have determined which training tools are applicable to your team and practice, it is equally important to consider the expense factor.
Setting a Budget
Industry benchmarks give us a guideline as to how much should be allocated for your CE budget. Recent studies suggest that 0.5% of your gross revenue be applied to CE for your health care team, associate veterinarians, and management.5 It is recommended that you use your gross revenue from the previous year to determine the current year’s budget.
As a general rule, budgeting at least $200/year for each full-time employee and $100 for each part-time employee is a good start. Additional allowances will be needed for associate and management training, which can range from $750 to $1500 as a conservative guideline. Remember, this is all dependent upon what your practice can afford, and larger practices may need to offer larger allowances. This is also an investment; to calculate costs versus return see Table 3.
|Table 3. Calculating Training Costs Versus Return on Investment (ROI)|
|1. Enter number of participants_______|
|2. Enter anticipated costs and savings (ROI) below:|
|Costs||Estimated Amount||Savings/ROI||Estimated Amount|
|Administration costs (eg, set up/take down, organizing, emails)||Fewer errors|
|Communication (method to assure training is shared with the team)||Greater team productivity|
|Equipment costs (eg, computers, projectors, video conferencing)||Improved supervisory considerations|
|Facility cost||Increased compliance by client + proper implementation of client strategy**|
|Hourly wage for participants*||Nontangible benefits|
|Materials (eg, workbooks, handouts)||Other changes as a result of training|
|Meals/refreshments||Reduced team turnover & recruitment costs (able to hire from within)|
|Training fees||Savings from team members performing tasks versus veterinarians|
|Other costs (specify)||Other savings (specify)|
|Total Costs||$||Total Savings/ROI||$|
|3. Determine costs and savings per participant:|
|Total cost / total participants = Cost per participant||Total savings / total participants = Savings per participant|
|Cost per participant||$||Savings per participant||$|
|* Determine by multiplying hourly wage by total time spent (H) by all participants** Determine by multiplying amount of increase by value of increase© VMC, Inc|
Selecting Team Members
Ideally all team members (including your kennel team) should be encouraged to participate in at least one of the aforementioned training opportunities. However, helping the practice grow and thrive may require periodic exceptions to this rule of thumb. For instance, if a veterinarian would like to become certified in acupuncture, this training allows the practice to offer more comprehensive services; however, it may also require exceeding your budget for CE.
Other factors that should be considered when developing your practice’s continuing education policy are as follows:
- Check your state laws (wage and hour division) regarding compensation for travel and participation in CE events. Some states require no compensation, while other states require that you pay for the event as well as pay employees for the hours they would have worked had they not been attending CE.
- Present tuition repayment agreements for CE events that cost more than your typical training budget allows. These agreements map out expectations and requirements if employment ends within three years of attending the CE event.
- Establish team requirements/expectations upon completion of the CE opportunity. It is recommended that team members provide a one-hour presentation to the practice team, summarizing:
• What they learned from the training
• Suggestions regarding how to implement that training to benefit the practice and team.
- Establish whether employees will be evaluated on their willingness to participate in CE during their annual performance reviews. Some practices require that team members attend at least eight hours of continuing education within a 12-month period.
- Create a career development plan for each team member outlining the year’s training plan. This plan is mutually agreed upon during the yearly evaluation.
- Develop a system to track CE hours, such as how many CE hours are required for veterinarians and credentialed technicians annually and deadlines for submission of these hours, since each state has different regulations regarding CE requirements.
Continuing education can be a valuable investment if you are methodical about your approach. It will boost your team’s morale, give them the opportunity to increase their knowledge base and experience, and ultimately provide the best care for the patients in your practice.
CE = continuing education
- Allen DG. Retaining Talent–Society of Human Resources Managers Report, 2008, shrm.org/about/foundation/research/Documents/Retaining%20Talent-%20Final.pdf
- Whitehead M. Businesses Invested in Employee Training During Downturn. Birkhead Associates, 2008.
- Cosh A, Hughes A, Bullock A, Potton M. The relationship between training and business performance. Research Report RR454. University of Cambridge, 2003, p 4.
- 2010 State of the Industry Report. American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), 2010.
- Benchmarks 2011: A Study of Well Managed Practices. Lenexa, KS: Veterinary Economics, industrymatter.com.