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Producing a successful practice wellness portfolio

A Vets4Pets joint venture partner explains his practice’s journey to developing a wellness portfolio with a great response and uptake

04 May 2018, at 6:27pm
JAMES COOK VETS4PETS GRANTHAM
JAMES COOK VETS4PETS GRANTHAM

James Cook, VetMB, BSc (Hons), MRCVS, qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Cambridge in 2006. In 2013, he opened a small animal practice in Grantham with his wife, in a joint venture partnership with Vets4Pets. Well-being is a core ethos of the practice.

When we first opened our practice, we had strong views on wanting to “do it well”, not only for our clients, but for our colleagues too. We recognise the impact well-being can have on retaining colleagues, as well as overall client care. We wanted to ensure our colleagues felt appreciated, and learned along the way that a flexible approach is best, particularly when considering mental health. We know how important it is for colleagues to have positive mental health and wanted to understand what this meant to them.

Vets4Pets facilitated an engagement survey for the practice. The survey included key questions on well-being, which enabled us to gather valuable colleague feedback. Unsurprisingly, the results showed that we all want to improve animal welfare and feel equipped to do a good job; well-being was key to this. We used the feedback from the survey to put together our own practice wellness portfolio. 

Life coaching and profiling 

We started our portfolio this year, with two days of life coaching and resilience training for all colleagues. We also took part in a profiling exercise which helped us all to understand each other better and learn how best to interact with our colleagues. Using our colleagues’ feedback from these sessions, we then set about making positive changes for the team. 

Finances and work-life balance 

We created improved remuneration packages with superior pay and holiday benefits, including salaries benchmarked above the SPVS survey averages for our region, birthday leave, leave to perform charity work and time off to settle in a new pet or for a child’s first day at school. Our colleagues can also enjoy a workplace pension alongside company specific discounts.

Developing a positive culture

Our colleagues indicated that development was very important; they are actively encouraged to attend more CPD and wanted autonomy in their roles. We developed a practice handbook and standard operating procedures to facilitate this. We have annual achievement awards in the practice and a gratitude board where colleagues can be recognised for something they have done to brighten someone’s day. We listen We invested in a practice manager who could be there for all our colleagues, to listen to their concerns and prevent these concerns from escalating. Conducting one-to-one meetings with colleagues enables us to discuss anything that is concerning them, so we can then deal with it internally where possible and signpost to external services through our partners at The Retail Trust where necessary. 

Physical health and relaxation

Our colleagues are given an annual budget for the development of their rest room which is now equipped with music, beanbags, a comfy sofa, relaxing colours and décor and printed canvases of their pets decorating the walls. We refresh this room weekly with a buffet of free healthy snacks to encourage good nutrition. Finally, we also provide one-to-one external nutrition counselling, additional breaks for fresh air and walks, alongside meditation workshops and access to medical light boxes during the months of shorter sunlight. 

Outcome 

The response and uptake on our portfolio surprised us, with all colleagues taking advantage of the majority of our initiatives. Our colleague retention rate is one of the highest in our group, and there is a definite improvement in client experience which is reflected in a 10 percent increase in our net promoter score to over 90 percent. We recently enjoyed awards for client care and inpatient care through the Practice Standards Scheme and a highly commended award from the SPVS well-being committee.

The perception that good mental health is not achievable in our profession is, in my opinion, outdated. Too much focus is lent to articles and statistics on the problem rather than the solution. The remedy for us has been achieved by listening to what our colleagues need and tailoring our well-being offering flexibly to meet their needs. We have found that the outcome flows of its own accord, with a natural sense of willing, resulting in happy colleagues and patients. Why can’t we all do it?

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