The VHMA and dvm360.com---organizations committed to helping practice managers grow and flourish in their careers---recently announced that Judi Bailey, CVPM, is the 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year. The award celebrates practice managers who are the backbone of financially sound, well-led and inspired veterinary hospitals and practices.
The program application process opened in early 2016 and 10 finalists were identified in the spring. Each finalist had expertly incorporated the skills and knowledge that are hallmarks of effective practice management into their toolset and applied them to lead, collaborate, problem solve, innovate and motivate. Given the high level of skill and expertise shown by the finalists, selecting one award recipient was challenging.
Judi, a hospital administrator at Loving Hands Animal Clinic, Alpharetta, Georgia, did an outstanding job of detailing her experience and demonstrated strong leadership, decision-making, team and management skills. She also established her commitment to lifelong learning and a proven ability to adapt to change.
Highlights of Judi’s accomplishments follow.
Leadership and Decision-Making
Shortly after joining Loving Hands as a Practice Manager, Judi recognized the need to convert to a paperless system. The hospital was more than 10,000 square feet and the amount of time needed to hunt down medical records was incredibly inefficient. Years earlier, Judi had successfully helped her emergency practice convert to paperless. Prior to Judi’s arrival at Loving Hands, the owner had tried unsuccessfully to go paperless. Judi did however receive the owner’s approval to move forward.
She began by researching software options and considering cost, training, yearly support fees and the cost to make the shift. Working through the financial details was not half as challenging as convincing staff of the merits of the new system.
Initially the decision to go paperless launched an onslaught of concerns, questions, fears and hostility. Despite the owners early backing of the project, she waivered when staff expressed concern. Grumbling among staff continued for several weeks and Judi finally scheduled a staff meeting to halt the spread of gossip and allow the team to voice to speak openly about their reservations.
At times Judi questioned her decision to usher in change, but stayed strong and committed to her decision. She communicated with staff and explained the importance of adapting to change and its impact on moving the practice forward. She also outlined her plan and involved the team in developing new protocols.
Her efforts helped to establish a modern, more efficient, much more cost effective means of managing patients. The team saw that Judi was committed to her decision and did not back down when challenged.
Team Motivation and Management
Judi stepped into her position and was leading a team that was unmotivated and in some cases hostile to events that occurred prior to her arrival. The damage was so deep that the team was betting on how long Judi would last. Undeterred, Judi drew on her experience and addressed the issue immediately in a team meeting, as well as individually. Her goal was to listen and help the practice carry out its vision by adhering to the practice’s core values and mission.
She identified expectations for each staff member and introduced an open door policy to voice concerns. She made it clear that she expected employees to adhere to policies and procedures and that she would not tolerate insubordination.
Unfortunately, it was necessary to “liberate" several employees who were causing discontent and disharmony among the team. A candid discussion with the owner about how her actions were negatively affecting the clinic’s culture was necessary, but difficult, and led to an agreement that put Judi in charge of hiring and firing and the owner returned to practicing veterinary medicine. Judi was committed to hiring kind, friendly, motivated and trainable staff whose personalities contributed to a more positive clinic culture.
With Judi managing, the clinic weathered employee turnover and assembled a happy and functional team. In a matter of just a few months, the atmosphere changed for the better. Judi continues to encourage staff, including the doctors and the owner, to strive for excellence and use all of the tools and resources available to become better people and better at their jobs.
Judi is committed to bettering herself both professionally and personally and encourages employees to be the best they can be.
Judi is a long-time member of VHMA, AAHA and SHRM. She earned the CVPM (Certified Veterinary Practice Manager) credential in 2014. She is an advocate of continuing education and, along with her owner, budgets to allow continuing education for the entire clinic team.
She is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. A decade ago, she founded and served as president of the Georgia Veterinary Managers Association (GAVMA). She submits articles to industry newsletters and is a strong believer in conference education.
Adapting to Change
Change is a constant challenge in Judi’s clinic. Recently, the number of new clients declined due to the opening of two area clinics and Judi strategized to turn the trend around.
To address this issue she outlined two strategies with the reluctant support of the owner. First, she reintroduced the free initial examination for new clients. Second, to ensure high compliance for routine care with existing clients, she introduced the Community Wellness Clinic, a four-hour block in the morning of the slowest revenue day, which entitled clients who purchased a wellness examination to a 50%discount on vaccines.
The promotions were rolled out with email blasts to existing clients, promoted during past due callbacks and announced on reminder cards. Judi also created a protocol and trained doctors and staff on how to make it work. Five weeks after the plan was implemented appointments were completely booked two weeks out, revenues jumped 68 percent on the slowest day of the week, clients were appreciative of the discount and compliance from past-due patients increased by 38 percent.
Judi recommends examining hospital numbers and trends to identify ideas that will not compromise a clinic’s culture, vision and mission, but will entice clients and potential clients.
VHMA’s Executive Director Christine Shupe congratulated Judi on her award and said, “I am super excited that this year’s Practice Manager of the Year Award goes to Judi Bailey, CVPM. As a certified CVPM manager, she helps to raise the standard for management professionals in the industry. As a long-time active VHMA member she is paving the way for the next generation of manager to continue to provide exceptional leadership in practice.”