Hi, and welcome to Simple, Interrupted, a podcast about radical veterinary change. On today's episode,
we welcome award winning international speaker and author Amy Newfield, CVT, and Dr. Sarah
Wooten, veterinary speaker, influencer and creator of Vets Against Insanity, to discuss the importance
of creating a better work culture in your clinic today and effective methods to retain new and current
staff. Welcome Sarah and Amy. It's so exciting to have you guys on the podcast today. I'd love to have
you tell a little bit about yourself and what you've been up to. Amy, if you want to kick us off.
Sure. I'm obviously Amy Newfield. I'm a VTS in emergency critical care, so I'm a lifer in the vet tech
world. I wear many different hats, but I'm the owner of veterinary team training and that is focused on
just trying to create happy cultures and happy workplace environments and just staying busy in all
things veterinary medicine.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
That's my turn. I get to talk. Okay, that's great. Hi. My name is Sarah Wooten and I am a veterinarian and
a certified veterinary journalist. And what have I been up to? Well, I've been creating games and courses
and now I have created a conference, well a CON, called Vets Against Insanity CON, and that keeps me
No kidding. Starting a conference is a crazy undertaking. What inspired you to do that?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, I just saw a lot of my colleagues not having a great time. I kind of creep on everybody and I listen
behind the scenes. What I was noticing is that we were really missing the connection and the inspiration
and vet med wasn't very fun. Right? I was like, well, let's make something where people can learn but
also have a good time and connect to each other. I guess one of our taglines is it's a good time during a
hard time. And so that's what our inspiration to create it was.
That's great. I think that we could all use a good time these days. Everybody could. A little bit more
connection in this post pandemic world, or at least in the edge of being after the pandemic. But I
couldn't imagine having a better pair to talk about clinic culture today. It's really exciting subject to dig
into. It's something that I as a technician, went to many, many classes, at many, many conferences and it
does seem like it's one of those things, it's easier said than done. Hopefully we can deliver some really
great points for folks, for practice managers to take back to their owners or for owners to bring to their
management team to get everybody aligned and get some cultural shifts going in their practices.
Well, let's kick it off with one of everybody's favorite topics. What are some bad habits in team
members or in leadership that you've noticed that contribute to a really bad culture in a clinic?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
I like to talk about management as adult babysitting because that's what it feels like sometimes,
especially recently. Some of the toxic behaviors, I'm sure Amy's going to have a long list as well, but
obviously the easiest ones are venting and gossiping, spreading rumors, being judgemental, humor at
the expense of others, which really boils down to psychological bullying. I actually experienced this
when I was a young vet. There was a super tech at one of our clinics when I was very young, and for
some reason I became her target that every day I'd go to work. It was such a great practice in every
other sense of the word, but this person, I don't know, maybe just didn't feel good about themselves.
And so they had to make me feel bad almost every day. And so that was terrible. Other toxic behaviors,
reactivity, just general reactive behavior. And actually my example for that is me when I was working at
a really high stress clinic and I would come in every day and I'd look at the list of all the things to do and
I'm like, who booked all these surgeries? Why would you do that? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I
remember my practice manager had to take me aside and go, hey, you're bringing everybody down at
the beginning of the day. And then there's substance abuse obviously.
But what I like to think, even the fact that some of these behaviors were exhibited by me, is that anyone
exhibiting these behaviors, it's helpful to recognize that these are coming from a human that's really
suffering inside and just projecting it outwards. And so I find it helpful now to recognize most of these as
just cries for help, except for one. And that's passive leadership that allows toxic behavior to continue
and a lack of accountability between team members not taking responsibility for their work, because
this leads to an environment where the sense that the leadership doesn't care and then you really lose
all your good hardworking employees.
Employees don't quit a business, they quit a bad manager.
100%. I was going to say, Sarah, you hit the nail on the head with so many. And the other ones I think
about are certainly discrimination by us, bullying, right? The favoritism. But we also have toxic behaviors
that often go missed only because they're not rooted in negativity, are quiet people. The ones with no
voice are toxic to our workplace environments. They know that there's issues, they may see that there's
a medical mistake that's been made and they remain silent. That is just as toxic as someone who
unfortunately is overly confident and believes that they can do everything and they make that medical
mistake. And so I think there's a lot of toxic behaviors that we don't necessarily think of as toxic, but at
the root cause they're causing harm to our hospitals for sure. Great point.
I think that you bring up a really interesting point there, Amy, in that sometimes the quiet folks can also
be just as damaging. And I think a lot of times in veterinary medicine we run across those extremes.
There's either the folks that are extremely quiet, don't want to stir up trouble, just want to come in and
leave every day. And then the folks who are very opinionated and everything has to be their way or the
highway, and this is the way we've always done it. How can a manager start breaking some of those
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, one way to do this is to let everybody know ahead of time, even before there's an incident in your
hospital, that there is zero tolerance for toxic behavior. And probably giving a list of actual behaviors that will not be tolerated, preferably at a team meeting, again before there's an incident. That way you
don't have that one team member sitting there going, oh my god, this is all about me, but they're not
saying my name. Right? You can couch it with, we've all been under a lot of stress and it's really
important that we create a safe space here that is free of drama so we can do our jobs. Stress that you
are here to help, not headhunt, and that if anybody needs support to come talk to you. They probably
won't, but you can still put it out there.
And then once you do that, establish a culture where employees do feel safe to come talk to you about
behaviors they're perceiving. And then if they do, you want to fully investigate those complaints. This is
not only important to maintain a non-toxic, quote unquote, workplace, but it protects you legally as
well. And if you don't take employee complaints seriously, they can actually have legal ramifications
with discrimination. As an employer or a manager, protecting yourself and your employees requires you
to act quickly.
I think the other thing is having that trusting relationship with every single employee. A lot of times
managers don't do due diligence in terms of developing out their team. And as such we lose a lot of
trust. And so when employees are struggling, whether it be someone who's too quiet or when
somebody is bullying, you don't really have the ability to modify the behavior if the employee doesn't
trust you. Trust is the root of all change in veterinary medicine and hospital situations. And so honestly,
we have to start the groundwork even before on day one when we get new hires and we can't,
unfortunately we can't wait three months, six months, 10 months to have a meeting with this person
and then that meeting only be rooted in situations that we want them to improve upon.
We really need to be touching points with every single member of our team at least once a month, if not
more, which sounds overwhelming, but if we really know our employees, then when they bobble, we
can get them back on track a lot faster.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, if you do have to talk to somebody about their behavior, it's really helpful I have found, to utilize
Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication techniques, he's an author, he wrote a book. The
reason why is because those techniques ask the person to change their behavior. And when you ask
somebody to change their behavior, they're more likely to follow through instead of telling them. Also it
forces you to drill down on specific incidents instead of attacking somebody's character or being global
in your statements. Like instead of saying, you're always angry when you come to work, you can say,
yesterday Dr. So-and-so when you threw the scissors across the room at the technician that caused
distress in that technician.
And then you can ask them, can you please stop doing that? It's helpful to get that technique under your
belt because when people agree to something, they're more likely to change their behavior in the long
I think a good pro tip in life personally and professionally is to never use always and never, like I just did.
But any extreme statements or exclusionary statements automatically are going to shut somebody off
and they're not going to want to hear what you have to say, which is tough, but it's important. Amy,
what you were speaking to earlier, setting up a coaching plan, having your team feel like they can come
to you for advice or to learn something new or to have an avenue to learn something new is so critical to
having that trust where they'll come to you with problems as well. Can both of you give some good
examples of how to start building that better work culture action items for practice managers or owners
that might want to do that?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, it's always helpful I think to involve your team, really looking at the strengths of everybody who's
involved and inviting them to become part of something bigger by leveraging their strengths. I like
utilizing strengths finder to identify that, because then you see where everybody's strengths are at. And
if you do that, you'll actually get more buy-in because they feel included, they feel important, they'll
become your champions, and then their passion and energy and strength helps bring others along and
removes it from all being on one person. That's my pro tip there.
I normally take a very systematic approach. And so the first thing is whenever we're trying to change an
issue or we have noticing that there's large cultural based issues at our hospitals, is identifying what
they think the problems are. We as leaders have an idea of what we think the issues are, but we need to
ask them because that's going to engage better buy-in. And so you can do that through engagement
surveys or one-on-one conversations, but getting everyone's opinion and then looking within those
opinions, whether it be an engagement survey or sitting down at a meeting and saying, everybody has
one to two minutes to tell me things that you think need to be improved upon by this hospital. Go.
Whatever that looks like to get that information. We pull out the trends.
One of the biggest trends that's always on there is communication. And communication comes in a lot of
forms, like teams battling other teams, front desk and the treatment area having issues. Whatever that
looks like, we have to pull out then only two, no more than three items and work on them. A lot of times
when we want to change, say get rid of gossip, a manager will sit down with their team, have a team
meeting and say to the team, hey everyone, do you admit that there's a lot of gossip? Yes, we all do.
Okay, I need you to stop. Pats themselves on their back and walks away. And then suddenly, magically
they stop gossiping. No, they don't. Right?
And so in order to create change, we need to develop out plans. I think this is where we start to see that
failure. It goes above and beyond just the one conversation. We have to sit down and we have to figure
out, how can we stop gossip? What does that look like? Can we formulate a no gossip agreement for our
hospital? Can we come up with a committee? Is there fun catch phrase or a slogan? How do we reward
those for improving the culture? And then we have to keep reminding them. Because the team did not
start off gossiping. Whenever anybody opened a brand new hospital, they were happy they joined the
hospital happy, carefree, and not gossiping. So it took months for us to get there. It took years probably
for us to get there. It's going to take a long time for us to pull back on the gossip that's so embedded in
But it really starts with just formulating a plan, revisiting that plan, every single meeting, sitting down
and saying, hey guys, what do you think about the no gossiping? How's it going? What do you think we
could do differently? Do we think we're nailing it this month? And just keep addressing it. I always tell
people that changing anything is a marathon, it's not a sprint. And so we're probably looking at an
average of a hospital really feeling the impact of change, particularly in a culture setting about nine
months to a year, which sounds a little daunting, but remember it took you a long time to get there.
We're going to do due diligence, put in the legwork and we're going to get there. It's okay. It doesn't
have to be a race. That's my recommendation.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
It's like pregnancy wait, nine months on.
For the birth of your new clinic.
Exactly. Yes, exactly. The birth of your new clinic, birth of a new culture, it's just going to take a little bit
of time. We're going to get there.
You're anywhere from human to equine with your gestation period. Like you're saying Amy, systematic
approach to it and you're encouraging the employees to have buy-in, which is so huge. But I think if
you've got a really big culture issue, you may end up finding that you have employees who are currently
there, who don't want to go along with the change, who don't want to fit the new culture, who are
really digging their heels in. How do you communicate with those folks to either get them on board or
understand that they may no longer be a good fit for the practice?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, I would say that to say that you hold a zero tolerance policy is pretty harsh, but you need to stick
to your guns with this. And so if you are still noticing this toxic behavior continuing after you've done the
legwork, you've worked with the team, you've established the values, then it's time to follow up one on
one with these people. Generally speaking I actually, I haven't owned a clinic, I've been associate at
several clinics, but I have owned a restaurant and I'll tell you what, that is a recipe, no pun intended, for
toxic behavior. Wow. The emotional intelligence. Anyways. So what we did was, is we utilized our non-
violent communication techniques.
And if we had a complaint, we would investigate it immediately, and then we would ask the employee
what can change? What are the things that we're actually looking for? Get them to agree that they will
alter the behavior, create an action plan. And then we followed up within a week, and then two weeks
after that and then a month. We utilized an EAP program. We utilized emotional intelligence training to
support them in helping them work through their stuff. HR-wise, we started with a verbal, just a verbal,
we didn't even call it a verbal warning, we just, discussion, right? And then we followed up with written
and then maybe some time off. And then if it continued after that, then it was a termination.
And it was really important along the whole process to document every single conversation. You sign it,
they sign it, they get a copy, you get a copy in case you ever end up in unemployment court because
that's where this often ends up if there isn't a clear paper trail.
I would say do all of those things, but also focus on your superstars. Too many times we're just putting
out fires and we forget about the people who are already impacted by our efforts to create that change.
And they're on board and they're doing these great things and we forget to reward them and say thank
you. And so we should certainly do due diligence, do the best we can with those who are struggling. But
the reality is we can give them all the tools and resources, but they can only be the ones who actually
make the change and decide to get on board with whatever this new concept or new culture that we're
trying to create.
If we focus on our change champions and we say, your guys are doing a great job, eventually those
people are going to weed themselves out or we're going to have to have those tough conversations.
Right? But I think oftentimes we forget to say thank you to the people who are doing a really great job,
because all we do is focus on the fires and we don't focus on just growing the people who are doing an
So create a system of accountability, let it do its work, and focus your time and energies on the folks
who are really making the difference in your business. Flipping the coin a little bit, what are your
thoughts on employer reviews?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, I think they are wonderful. I've worked at so many practices that promised to do them and then
never did them ever. I understand, as being a small business owner myself, you get busy, but you have
to remember that your human capital is just as important as the rest of the capital. I say yes with the
intent to better understand your employees, what or who they aspire to be, how you can help them be
successful and continue to learn to grow. I think these should be regular check-ins throughout the year
so that you can establish an honest relationship that's centered truly around feedback being a gift. It's
not like, here we're going to talk about all the things that you can do better. This is actually something
that they look forward to.
The once a year reviews, they more turn into all the things that the employees did well or didn't do well,
and they don't really create a sustainable model for growth and success, but at an individual level and at
a hospital performance level. I recommend more often. I also do recommend that you use the sandwich
technique, and this is where you talk about something that's positive, and then if you do have anything
that's negative, you put it there in the middle and then you follow up with some more positive. But you
do them with the aim of helping the employee maximize their success.
100%. Totally all for them. When I was a technician manager of a moderately sized specialty hospital, it's
one thing that I added in and anytime that I was a manager, I would add that in. I want to know what my
employees think of their workplace environment. Do they feel like they have a happy work life balance?
Is it a place of employment they recommend to their friends and family? I want them to be very honest.
I think one of my recommendations is, if you are doing them, accept the feedback. You asked for it. You
can't then go back and be like, you're all wrong. There's no way. What are you talking? We have a great
workplace environment here. You can't argue with the employee who feels the way that they do.
Instead your only response is, thank you so much for your feedback. I need to think about what you said.
That's the only response you can give when you ask for how they feel about the hospital or even should
you be so daring, about how they feel about you as a leader, which is super important. Your only
response can be, thank you so much for your feedback. I will think about what you said. And that's it.
Yep. Super, super important to know what your team thinks about you as a leader, but also terrifying.
How would you go about it if let's say you're a practice manager, you've started doing employer reviews
and your owners may be a little bit worried about these reviews, they may have gotten some negative
feedback? How can you broach that conversation with them to have them have that response, Amy, of
thank you so much, I need to digest this and think about it, instead of they just have a vendetta against
me or they don't know what they're talking about, or they suck at their job anyways, so how can they
talk about what I'm doing?
I think one of the biggest things that we struggle with is training for our leaders. I literally just did a quick
vlog about this, because it is an epidemic in this industry. We give people a title and we're like, God
speed. And it's based on survivability rating. You've survived for 10 years in this hospital, therefore you
deserve to be a manager, supervisor, director, whatever it is. But we don't then provide the many tools
and resources. And so the first time that you've ever learned to do a dental prophy, a spay, a neuter,
place in an IV catheter, you had no idea what you're doing. Your hands are shaking, you're like, please
let this be okay.
That should be the same thought process that happens when you receive a title in leadership role. You
should be like, oh my gosh, I don't know what I'm doing, please let it be okay. But you also need to grow
that skill and knowledge. And so I think a lot of people just assume that leaders are just created from
birth and that's not the case. And so we have to give them the tools and resources. If you're a owner of
a hospital, every single manager, from the front desk supervisor to your technician, supervisor,
manager, to your medical director, they all need leadership training. They not only need to be a great
doctor or a great technician or a great customer service representative, but they also do need to know
how to lead people. And that's a completely different skill set.
I think coaching them on how to accept the feedback is really key, because when you just say you're
going to have to accept all the negative results, that's not going to go well. But if they know that this is
part of growing as a leader and figuring out how to help them process some of the negative criticism
that they're going to receive in these reviews, that's going to go a lot better for them and go a long way.
I think it really is just education from a leadership perspective.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Yes, I would agree with everything that Amy just said. I would say that if you are a practice manager and
you are running up against a wall over and over and over again with your owner and not getting
anywhere to create this change that needs to happen, don't stay in one job just because you don't think
that you can get another one. Don't stay in it if it's not going anywhere and you've tried and you've tried
and you've tried. Also see if there's something that you could adjust in the way that you're approaching
them. Maybe they don't see the value, maybe you need to bring them some statistics or something like
the fact that the cost of disengaged workers results in 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more workplace
accidents and 60% more errors in defects. I can get you guys the sources on that. But again, if you are
finding that you cannot get anywhere, there is always a better place for you. That would be my only
feedback on that.
Sarah, I think that speaks to one of my least favorite business or clinic mottos, which is we're all a family
here. And the reality is that not only are you replaceable to your business, your business is replaceable
to you. So you can find a work home that really fulfills you and makes you happy and gives you the
accolades and the resources that you deserve as an employee.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Oh yeah. Make sure it's not a dysfunctional family.
Exactly. Usually it is, right?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
I'm not saying a thing.
Sarah, I know you focused a lot on your website about self care and not letting clients get to you and
things like that. As employers, how can you encourage a culture of self care?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, I would say the best way to do that is to obviously lead by example. Your employees are your
followers and so they're looking to you to see how to behave. And if you model a work till you die,
you're fried all the time. We still have this huge work martyr complex in our culture where it's just like, I
can never leave or it won't get done, or I have to finish it. That just really needs to go away. I would say
because the work we do is so difficult and the fact that we can be our own worst critics and we can
genuinely destroy ourselves without even the help of others, right? We really need to focus on leading
by example. And we have to focus on allowing ourselves to lead by example.
One thing I found, because I was raised by people who literally never stopped working, that's what I saw
growing up. And so that's what I repeated as an adult. I remember I actually was sitting in some
neurofeedback therapy years and years ago from just some traumatic stuff I went through. And I
remember feeling actually guilty that I was in there getting help for myself, because I should be working
or I should be cleaning something or I should be making money. And I really had to come to terms with
those voices inside my head and see that they were running my life. It's not only that you have to model
it for your employees, you have to come to terms with what you're okay with inside as far as self care.
Because obviously we really need it as a profession.
We are burning out. We have occupational burnout, we have moral distress, we have compassion
fatigue, we have all these things. And if we would just slow down and take a moment and reevaluate
how we are approaching this and our lives, maybe we could do something different.
I agree with all of that. We have to look at just creating a good wellness plan, and employees need to
know what resources are available. And I think there's this misnomer that work life balance means that
it's all on your work in order to have a good work life balance. I think we all saw the flip, if we were not
aware that work and life intertwine, in 2020 that was very much prevalent, where our work was actually
the thing that was the least stressful and our life with the homeschooling of children and the COVID,
very much breakout pandemic, that was the most stressful. And so really the two go hand in hand
because while we want to blame work for all of our stresses, it's not all of our stresses. And so if we're
unhappy in our life environment, that's going to come in and filter into our work life.
And then if we're unhappy in work, we're going to take that home. If we're delusional that we just leave
it at the door, that doesn't happen. We go ahead and we have the stress at work, but then it's very hard.
It's so easy to say leave it at work, that doesn't happen. You're going to take it home and you're going to
unfortunately usually vent or have some conversation with the people at your clinic.
Your employer will have a really solid wellness plan and it includes things like good health insurance, not just
the health insurance your hospitals already had. I want good health insurance that has wonderful
employee assistance programs, that also supports maybe discounts to the gym or therapy sessions or
great apps and has those conversation.
We want to encourage our employees to be healthy at work, right? Forget the pizzas and the donuts. On
occasion that's fine, but if that's the majority of the food that we're giving to our staff that's promoting
unfortunately very unhealthy eating habits. I know this sounds crazy, but one of the work life balances is
creating like a healthy, happy clean hospital. I love Feng Shui. You should walk into a hospital and they
say cleanliness is next to godliness. You can feel cleaner and neater and happier in a clean hospital as
opposed to you walk in, everything's cluttered, there's blood on the ground, there's rolled up, squished
up paper towel on the corner, pet hairs everywhere. That doesn't leave you feeling good. It actually
increases your stress level.
So you want your hospital to look clean. And supporting full breaks. I understand, I hear it right now
from all of the veterinary professionals, I have no time to eat. I'm so sick and tired of that. There's very
few things that actually are an emergency. If you're doing CPR, that's a legit emergency. Dog hit by a car,
sure that's an emergency. But I got to tell you, the DKA cat who's been a diabetic, who's actually fairly
stable, it can wait for its IV catheter. It surely can, it can wait 30 minutes, just go eat. The cat will still be
there. It took days for it to develop DKA. Trust me on this. Working in emergency medicine, there are
very few actual true emergencies. You're going to get to it and I want you to get to it when you're not
hungry. We want to make sure that we really support a full wellbeing program and making sure that our
employees know those resources.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Oh my gosh, can I say a little bit more on this, because I'm super passionate about it?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
One of the things I talk about in my courses, is just learning to manage your own fight, flight or freeze
response and learning to identify what that looks like in your body and in your thoughts and your
emotions. Because so many veterinary professionals I see walk around in literally chronic low grade
fight, flight or freeze because of the stress, because of other things that are coming in, there's lots of
things that can trigger it. And so it's really important to learn to actually how to calm down your nervous
system when you are actually dealing with angry clients or difficulties with coworkers or an actual
And the reason being is not only it's important for your health because if you stay in chronic fight, flight
or freeze, you're going to become like a cushionoid dog, because your cortisol's going to be up all the
time. Your hair is going to fall out, you're going to get a muffin top, it's terrible, right? I've so been there.
And it's not only important for that, but it also clouds your cognitive abilities. It clouds your ability to
make good judgements. It clouds your ability to stay mindful in the moment and not go into snap
judgment or not go into an attack or not start to doubt yourself. It's really important to be able to
develop those skills as well. That's something that I did not get until I think I was in my late 30s, and so I
lived in this chronic low grade fight, flight or freeze, not even knowing it for so long.
And so that's another really important part of self-care, is just learning how to regulate your own
emotions, understand what's going on in your own body, so that you can stay in charge of those
situations when you have a client yelling in your face, when you have a coworker breaking down in front
of you, blah, blah, blah. We've all been there. But that's just another really important piece. I think one
thing that practice managers can do is help their staff become educated on topics like this. I have a
couple of courses on this, so I think that's another really important piece that we don't talk enough
about. We're talking about it more and more, but I just thought it was really important to bring that up
Absolutely. It's huge how those three states can affect the way you interact with your coworkers, with
your clients, and even with the animals you're supposed to be treating. I'm really disappointed though
that we're not considering eating a sandwich while placing a catheter a skill, because I honed that skill
very, very well. We'll make it better for future generations though. Let them have their lunch and not
place the catheter during it. Amy, you've got a book out called, Oops, I Became a Manager: Managing
the Veterinary Hospital Team by Finding Unicorns, which I absolutely love. As an employee, what should
you be looking for in a unicorn clinic? What kind of a manager should you be looking for? What kind of
culture should you see on your working interview?
Absolutely. It's hard when you're interviewing and identifying the most perfect hospital, because usually
in a perfect interview situation, they pair you with people who love the hospital and they pair you with
employees that are going to talk nice things about it. You want to make sure that you get to spend as
much time in that hospital talking to as many people as possible. And the red flags that you should look
for when you are interviewing are anything that really is negative. When someone says, let me tell you
about this place, that's already a red flag, that there's probably some dirt and they're probably
restricting actually what they're saying to you.
So whenever we start to have employees that are sharing with us during our interviews that they're
struggling with stuff, that's a red flag. We've already got gossip, we already know there's gossipers
because they're literally gossiping to us. And so in terms of what we really look for are, are the
employees super happy? Are they walking around and is this a place that they would recommend to
their friends and family? And if you're not sure, ask them that question. Is this a place that you would
recommend to your best friend to work in? And what does that look like? Ask them what the pros and
the cons are. I would have a heavy focus about leadership, because to me there is a direct correlation, as
we mentioned earlier in this podcast, that when leadership is negative and is not performing their best,
probably the team is struggling a little bit as well.
And then I also think I just look for the team aspect in how the employees interact with each other. If I'm
a leader of a hospital and I go out on the hospital floor and it's around lunchtime and I hear statements
like, did you go get lunch? When are you going to go eat? Did you eat lunch yet? I know the team has
each other's backs and they're working out really well. When I hear things on the clinic floor such as, I
guess I'm not eating today. Well, forget it, we're too busy, forget it. I automatically know we have some
sort of culture based problem going on in this hospital, and those aren't unicorn things. I want people to
support each other. I want people to be kind.
If the vast majority of my employees are crying and not eating food, I need to reevaluate my role as a
leader and probably figure out, what am I doing wrong? Because they seem quite unhappy. I guarantee
you if they're that unhappy, the leader is probably very unhappy as well. We really want to just have a workplace environment, giving back to each other on a daily basis.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, I think it comes down to, again, some of the things that Amy was talking about, you got to check
the vibe of the place. And if you're just out and you're just starting this, you may be so focused on just
landing that first job that it may completely escape you. But the thing is, is you have to look past the
salary, you have to look past whatever, the prestige or whatever of the place, and you have to check the
vibe. Because sometimes you may be hired at the super prestigious hospital, but the main doctor is a
total asshole, right? And everyone tiptoes around that person because they're the moneymaker, right?
You want to avoid that like the plague.
You want to place where, as Amy already said, the people look happy, they are caring for each other.
The doctors, they think well of the owner, they think well of the manager. One of the last hospitals that I
worked at was in Greeley, Colorado, was an AHA hospital, Westridge Animal Hospital. And what was
great was the owner was really into Zen Buddhism. And so he decided to make it a heart centered
practice, and his wife were the owners, right? That's usually a red flag. You don't want to work at a place
where the partner, but for some reason this was that unicorn practice where they had it figured out.
They had the intelligence, the maturity, they had a practice manager, they had a team, and they
practiced full transparency about all of their business practices.
They laid it all out on the line for the employees to see, and they let the employees decide whether they
wanted to still be in this practice or not. And that was so honoring to the employees that it just elevated
the entire team. I have never seen such a team work so well. The other thing that I think is really great,
especially if you're in a multi doctor practice, is daily huddles. Look for hospitals that have daily huddles,
especially one in the morning and one in the evening. Especially if they have after hours care, because
that's when the whole team comes together and they talk about their patients. And also always one of
the doctors brings just some little thing to teach, right?
That's huge. Because that's teaching your staff, that's bringing them together. Those are the things that
you're going to want to be looking for.
I think that the whole concept behind mindfulness and self awareness speaks a lot to emotional
regulation, but also to caring for your team and caring for yourself as well. Let's say you have that
unicorn practice, you have just stated your nine to 11 months, you've gotten everything in line, you've
got a rockstar lineup of employees, but now you're looking to get more employees. How can you show
off this aspect of your practice that differentiates you so well to potential employees, either in an ad or
during phone interviews, whatever that might look like?
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Well, this particular hospital that I'm talking about, they actually showcased everything that they were
doing by applying for the Hospital of the Year award through AHA. And that was a really cool journey for
them, because the employees were all excited about it as well. That's how they did it. As far as that
goes, I don't know, Amy, what do you got?
I think you can certainly try to create a glowing ad, but the reality is, is that your employees are talking
about your hospital. And so the best way to advertise it is just to have happy employees. Everybody
knows everybody in veterinary medicine. I often think that the world of vet med is very small. The reality
is, is that if you have a toxic workplace hospital, everybody in the community who is belonging to other
practices, they know. They know because they know somebody at your hospital. And unfortunately they
also know they don't want to go work for your hospital, they also know that you struggle with X, Y, and
Z. And so the reality is, is we advertise our business and how we are as an employer through those that
we employ. That's probably the biggest way.
If we have great employees, they're going to brag about you on social media. And that's a huge win.
There's not many people bragging about their employers on social media right now. So when they brag
and say, oh my gosh, love my job, love this and that, their veterinary professional friends see that, and
that's free advertising, which gets you more people into your door to work for you. When your team is
negative, they might not be saying anything on social media and that can be just as harming, because
behind the doors they're texting their friends like, terrible workplace environment, horrible boss, that
sort of thing. Really the employees are the ones who get to pull the strings.
And when you have a toxic workplace environment, the entire veterinary community and maybe
potentially the state and maybe potentially larger than the state knows everything about your hospital.
It's very true.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Exactly. Right? We can all think of practice, I know practice out. I'm in Massachusetts, I know hospitals
not to terrify anybody, out in California, the UK, Australia, New Zealand that I would never work for.
The age of Facebook there's no limit to the communication.
You got it.
I like that though. It's really important, making your employees your biggest advocate and that starts
from the ground up for sure. Well, is there anything I haven't asked today that either of you guys would
like to share?
I don't think so. This has been wonderful. It's been a lot of fun. Thank you both. And Sarah, it's
wonderful sharing this platform with you.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
PetDesk Ep 3 (Completed 09/29/22) Page 12 of 15
Transcript by Rev.com
This transcript was exported on Sep 30, 2022 - view latest version here.
Amy, I feel honored to be here with you. I would say the only thing I would add is just a couple of
resources. I actually, I do love that Nonviolent Communication book by Marshall Rosenberg. Obviously,
I've talked about it a couple of times. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown is fabulous.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Yes. Yes, queen.
Everyone needs to be a Brene Brown fan girl.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Yes, right. And then I think I actually went to the American Medical Association team culture website
and we can stick that resource on this as well. And they have a great webpage that gets you started on it
as well, that you can adapt to veterinary medicine. And then lastly, if you don't even know where to
start with this, I recommend hiring a consultant, right? VetPartners is a wonderful resource. So things
like that would be the only thing I would add.
There's a lot of great consultants in the industry, VetPartners, Blue Hair and Consulting is another really
fantastic one. There's lots of folks out there ready to help you kickstart the change in your hospital. How
can our listeners follow you for more information or just to track your amazing careers?
Sure. I have a website, vetteamtraining.com. I also have a Facebook page called vetteamtraining.com.
And then I also have a LinkedIn, which you can follow me at Amy Newfield. So that's probably where you
can follow me and find all of the things that I do. And if I'm lecturing, it's going to be on either my
Facebook page or my website or LinkedIn. So you can hopefully one day meet me in-person.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
That would be amazing. Dr. Sarah Wooten here, you can go to my website. It's drsarahwooten.com. I
have a Facebook page, but before warned, there's a lot of pet parents on there, so just before warned.
And then I also have a LinkedIn that is more focused towards veterinary professionals. So any of those
places you can find me.
Look great. Thank you both so much for your time today. I really appreciate it and it's a fantastic
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Thank you, Mary. Thank you, Amy.
This year I'm excited to attend some great veterinary conferences, one of those being Dr. Wooten's Vets
Against Insanity CON. Let's check in with her to hear all about it. Well, Sarah, tell me more about this
Vets Against Insanity CON. I know I've played the game a lot in clinic, I've loved it. And so now it's going
to be basically like the game, but in-person.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Yes. Okay. Wow, that was really aggressive of me. I'm so sorry for anybody that's listening. That just
indicates my level of excitement about this event. So yes, we've had this Vets Against Insanity game
since about 2017 and we've had so much fun helping veterinary professionals laugh together and
connect. And my friends we've been through a really tough time the past couple of years. So we decided
to morph this game into a conference experience. And actually it's not a conference, it's a CON, it's Vets
Against Insanity CON and you don't register, you buy a ticket because that's what you do with a CON. It's
October 21st through the 23rd in Colorado. Beautiful time of year to be here. And it's at a casino in Black
Hawk, which is just this funky little mining town that got turned into a teeny tiny Las Vegas. And so
obviously we're going to be focused on having fun.
This is going to be a big vet med party. There's going to be game night. But the other thing is we know
you guys are slightly scandalous, but you're also serious veterinary professionals. So we are bringing
high quality continuing education. We've got 12 plus hours including PetDesks, very own Mary, who's
going to be bringing us a lecture on Saturday morning. I'm really, really excited about it and I hope that
we are able to invite you to come and hang out with us and have a good time. We really brought this to
our profession because we want to have a good time during a hard time. And so that's the impetus
behind this. I do hope that anybody listening, you are invited to come.
I am super excited to be there. We're going to have to play a round of Vets Against Insanity together. Dr.
Wooten, just knock it out and get it on the podcast for later. It's going to be a lot of fun. I can't wait. It's
also going to be at a casino, so not only do you get the lectures in, but you get those extracurriculars in
as well. All about the self-care.
Dr. Sarah Wooten:
Absolutely. And there is a rooftop pool and hot tub that is to die for. So yes, I hope to see everybody
who's listening there.
I cannot wait that for those views and for everything that's going to happen there. It's going to be a
really good time. I'd like to thank Amy and Sarah for being our guests on today's episode, as well as you,
our listeners. We appreciate your support and hope you'll subscribe to our podcast, Simple, Interrupted
on your favorite podcast app, and share it with your veterinary colleagues. This has been a co-
production of Evergreen Podcasts and PetDesk. Learn more about PetDesk and how we're helping clinics
guide their clients to better care at petdesk.com.
A special thanks to the PetDesk team and to all of the veterinary professionals out there. Thank you for
all that you do for our pets, as well as our Evergreen production team. Producers, Leah Haslage and
Nijah Golliday and audio engineer, Gray Sienna Longfellow. I'm your host, Mary Schwartz. Thanks for