Specialise in treating the whole patient and your clients will follow

By Victoria Koks

6 August 2019 5 min read


Veterinary consults and client demands are changing, and practices need to be positioning the entire veterinary team as experts in order to alleviate pressures on veterinarians.

It’s a contrary statement – why would trained professionals need to actively position themselves as the expert source of animal health information? However, as Victoria Koks has found, it’s a message that needs to be reiterated for veterinarians treating today’s pet parent willing to invest in their animal’s health but distracted by convenience outside of the veterinary industry.

Koks is Practice Development Advisor for Crampton Consulting Group and Animal Industries Resource Centre, a Covetrus™ company, and Australia’s first, and currently only, Veterinary Technician Specialist in Nutrition. Koks has dedicated over 14 years to progressing veterinary care and believes an outwards focus on refining client touchpoints plays an important role in holistic treatment.

“The idea of holistic treatment is not a new one. What is new is how practices upskill their entire team to take on the responsibility of treating the whole patient, rather than a single disease or health issue,” said Koks.

“A holistic approach, utilising well trained veterinary nurses, relies on giving your practice the means to proactively respond to changing client behaviours as well as advancements in medical technologies to deliver better patient care. There is a growing amount of competition in the veterinary industry and preventative treatments, but technology provides a missing critical link that can help alleviate pressure on practice performance.”

Veterinary staff are held to a high level of accountability from pet parents. This accountability is increasing as a natural reaction to an increasingly interconnected global environment and innovative technologies in other industries. These innovations are shaping consumer behaviours, where consumers are looking for more convenient options and premium services as spending in the industry increases.

Koks sees this as an opportunity for practices to utilise nurses’ experience and knowledge and provide a unique service through training, education, and development support to proactively recommend holistic treatments and manage client expectations.

“With the right training vets, nurses, and clinic staff can confidently position themselves to shape expectations based on preventative and treatment information that only a veterinarian or specialist can recommend.

“Practices need to implement the technology for maximum benefit of clinics, clients, and patients that focus on more than just technology – but the outcome of using that technology correctly,” said Koks, “You want your clients coming back to you for recommendations that best suit their pet, rather than something that is most convenient for them.”

Upskilling staff is also important for tackling other challenges facing the industry. Australia is following trends in the United States that suggest the current global vet shortage is expected to continue until 2024 – 2026. Rural vets may experience increasing recruitment pressures as the maldistribution of vets favouring urban working environments over rural opportunities grows. The pressures on veterinarian recruitment and retention are further compounded by an increasing number of both short- and long-term career breaks resulting from factors such as parental leave, increasing the desire for work-life balance and interest in gaining international clinical experience.

These industry pressure points lead to fluctuating staff availability, burn out, and mental health issues among veterinary clinicians. Koks has worked closely with practices in Australia and overseas on how upskilling and empowering your team, especially vet nurses, to take on tasks such as dental and nutrition consults and free up vets to spend more time on surgeries and strategic improvements to care.

“Sharing responsibilities helps create a stable environment of growth, especially in personal development and confidence for teams, to manage changing client expectations as a team head-on. In our model, I advocate for delegation of high-billing tasks to veterinarians, and high-client experience tasks to veterinary nurses.

“In the upcoming Covetrus masterclass series on Proactive Health and the Experience Economy I will be speaking about client experience touchpoints in the vet clinic, the importance of measuring key experience indicators, and identifying strategies for how the role of vet nurses can help develop trust and improve the client, and overall patient, experience.”

Victoria presented about specialising your veterinary nurses with client experience indicators at Covetrus’ Masterclass Series, Proactive Patient Health and the Experience Economy.