SafetyVet SafetyVet

"Solutions for the Veterinary Professions"
View Your Shopping Cart

Call us at (423) 336-1925

Effective Training Programs

Every training program is destined to succeed or doomed to fail according to the emphasis it gets from the leadership. If the practice owners show and support the message that all training - medical, safety, and procedural - is a mandatory component of employment, then the staff will take it seriously. If on the other hand, the leadership doesn't show genuine support for training programs, the staff will be unenthusiastic about anything that is perceived as "more work" or disrupting the normal day's events.

Leaders must also follow the rules that are in place for other workers. The staff will not abide by the safety rules if the veterinarian owner of the practice believes in a "Do as I say, not as I do" philosophy. This goes for attendance at required training functions also. The presence and participation of the practice leaders sends the message that the issue is important. Likewise, the leader's absence sends the message that this stuff isn't serious enough to get their attention, so it must not be important to us either.

Perhaps the best way for the leadership to support a training program is to make time in the schedule for it. The successful practices have recognized that staffing at a level barely adequate to cover the workload on an average day leaves little room in the schedule for staff improvement.

When the practice holds staff meetings or training sessions after hours or during other "non-business hours" the staff will resent the intrusion into their personal time. They also get the impression that the message (training) wasn't important enough to take time away from the routine, so it's just another one of those boring, useless meetings. However, by conducting training on "company time" the business is sending the message that the topic is relevant and important.

Finally, the leadership must create the expectation that all staff members will participate and support the training. Practice owners must not allow associate veterinarians or senior technical staff members to disrupt the timing or flow of the training. Routine treatments, telephone calls and deadlines are important, but so is training and neither should overshadow the other. Only the senior leadership of the hospital can make training as important as any other part of the practice.

Getting Started

To get started on your training program, keep a running list of all the topics you want to cover. (See the box on page 6 for ideas.) Don't try to cover all the topics at once but spread them out over several months. Assign different staff members to become the "in-house expert" on each topic; they will be the person who delivers the training to the rest of the team.

Although some standards require specific points to be covered (e.g., the personal protective equipment standard), you would generally be safe to structure the information so that it covers the following aspects in all training materials:

  • information or identification of the hazard or procedure;
  • how the hazard affects the worker;
  • what the individual worker should do to protect themselves; and
  • how to report problems or request additional information, including the location of the written plan that was developed to deal with that hazard.

Make a training schedule for the next six months or even a year and show when each topic will be addressed. Even if the practice is inspected before the complete schedule is covered, the mere presence of a training outline will often impress the inspector enough that he or she will not issue a citation!

No matter what method of instruction is used, there must be a way for employees to ask questions or provide feedback. In staff meetings and formal training sessions, that's no problem, but for individual training times (new employees, etc) the supervisor must make sure the employee understands the information by having him or her answer questions or even demonstrating the technique that was just taught. The supervisor or trainer does not have to be present during the learning phase (e.g., watching the videotape) but they must follow-up the session with personal involvement.

The main point of every training session must be concern for the worker's safety; avoid giving the impression that the training is only being done so the business will stay out of trouble with OSHA. Staff members will relate to the message better and grasp the information quicker when they feel a personal involvement. If the staff feels the practice leadership is only doing this training to stay out of trouble with the government, then they often don't pay attention. If the staff believes this is the practice's attitude toward safety, they will do just enough to stay out of trouble with you. They'll also push the limits at every chance to see exactly where you will enforce the rules.

Keep a record of all employee training. It's not enough that you provide the information and evaluate an employee's competence, you have to be able to prove it. Have an attendance sheet to pass around for group meetings and make sure everyone signs it. It's also a great idea to maintain an individual training record for each staff member. Many human resource professionals suggest keeping the individual sheets in a folder or three ring binder that is accessible to the employees. The employee and their supervisor are jointly responsible for keeping the training record current.

Just remember, the bottom line when it comes to safety training is: "the employee must be competent to perform the task or job in a safe manner."

Click here to learn how to make meetings more productive.

Make Training Replicable

If you're the training coordinator for your practice, do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • It's impossible to get everyone together at the same time.
  • While we have meetings, someone has to answer the phones and assist clients at the reception area. or we have to close the hospital.
  • As soon as we complete an extensive training or safety meeting, we add another staff member to the team who needs the same training.

In the traditional veterinary practice, training has always been done in a meeting environment and with mixed results. The problem with our traditional training programs is that they are too labor intensive to deliver. Once the session is completed, the information is no longer available for later use except maybe "note-takers" and then it's been translated and filtered. Fortunately, there are solutions to this dilemma if you plan the training delivery method as well as you prepare the materials.

By far, the best method of replicating training is to video each session! The practice should invest in a video camera with a stand or rent one for individual meetings. Set the camera up so that the "focus" of the meeting is captured on the recording. If the training is for a specific procedure which requires a demonstration, then have someone "zoom in" on the technique when the time comes. If the meeting is simply going to be more verbal than hands-on, then a wide shot of the entire room is more appropriate.

Check the sound levels and picture quality by taping a few minutes worth of "test" talking from the center of the room during the setup. Often a small external microphone plugged into the recorder instead of the built-in one will greatly improve the sound quality.

Label the video with the topic of the meeting and the date. Now if you have a new staff member join the team in the immediate future, they can watch the video and get the same "update" that the rest of the staff received. Additionally, any current staff members who could not attend the session can also watch the video when they get back to work and it's just like they were there! There is a side benefit to this process - attendance at meetings usually increases because most people would rather attend the "real-time" sessions than have to view a recorded one.

Some information does not require formal training sessions or courses. Issuing directives, reiterating procedures or simply reminding staff members of a message are all types of training that can be accomplished with memos, notes and signs. In order for this training method to work, you can't over do it with the memos and signs. As a general rule, there should be no more than two "directives" circulating or posted at a time. If there are multiple actions happening at the same time, the staff is likely to become confused and just ignore all of them. Remove old messages from the bulletin board after all staff members have seen and initialed them. This reduces clutter and gives the impression that the message is important.

Start a practice training manual. Get a three ring binder and label it appropriately. When you take down the notice or when the memo has been initialed by everyone, put it in the binder along with every handout, quiz or written information that was used in a real-time meeting. This way, there's always a record of what information was put out without a lot of extra work. By reviewing the training manual when they are first hired, new employees can get an "institutional memory" without actually having been there!. It also helps when you have one staff member who just didn't get it - they can review the handouts and videotape from the session without much additional time from the supervisor.

Be sure to establish a form of feedback for every session. That way the leadership can be assured that the message was received as it was intended. Make sure the instructor always has a few short questions prepared as a "quiz" after the session. Sometimes the instructor may want individuals to demonstrate a particular technique - like putting on personal protective equipment. Always have some method of ensuring the participants understood the training.

Of course, make sure you keep a written record of attendance for every training session conducted.



Did You Know...?

Use this list to start your training schedule and remember - your practice should add topics
that are appropriate to the given situation. The goal of many practices is to complete the list once every year.

• General duty clause-Worker's rights and responsibilities under the Act.
• 1910.38-Emergency & fire prevention plans
• 1910.95-Occupational noise exposure
• 1910.96-Ionizing radiation
• 1910.132-Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• 1910.145-Signs and tags
• 1910.15-Medical services and first aid
• 1910.157-Portable fire extinguishers
• 1910.1047-Ethylene oxide
• 1910.1048-Formaldehyde
• 1910.1200-Hazard communication (chemicals)

In addition to those standards-mandated subjects, these topics also require some training for veterinary practice workers:

• Waste anesthetic gas exposure
• Animal handling
• Zoonotic disease prevention
• Medical waste and sharps
• Personal safety/violence prevention
• General workplace guidelines (lifting, proper
dress, reporting problems, etc)
• Handling chemotherapeutic drugs
• Electrical safety

Excerpted from The Complete Veterinary Practice Regulatory Compliance Manual (6th Edition).