Techy Staff Training: An Exclusive Look at On the Floor @Dove
In Portland, Oregon lies a unique 24-hour emergency and critical care small animal hospital doing some very innovative things. Things that you as a veterinarian, hospital manager, or technician, may find useful for your practice.
DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital is an AAHA-accredited non-profit animal hospital, which has been serving the greater Portland community since 1973.
Approximately three years ago, the team at DoveLewis launched a new project. Fueled by internal frustrations locating effective staff training resources, the team decided to build the very website they were searching for.
The result is On The Floor @Dove.
Recently named one of the Top 15 Veterinary Websites, it is a modern, high quality, and ever growing website built for veterinarians, technicians, front office staff, and practice managers. On the Floor @Dove is quickly becoming the most innovative training resource available to veterinary hospitals everywhere.
The following is an exclusive interview about On the Floor @Dove with Megan Brashear, a Veterinary Technician Specialist in Emergency and Critical Care and the current Education Manager at DoveLewis.
Hi Megan! Can you tell us about yourself and your current job?
I’m a lifelong lover of animals and accidentally fell into veterinary technology when, two years into college, I decided that I didn’t want to be a high school history teacher. I started taking animal science classes and was lucky enough to graduate with a BS in Animal Science with an emphasis in Veterinary Technology. I feel like I really found my calling in those tech classes and have never regretted switching.
I worked for a couple of years at a general practice while I was in school and got a great foundation, but was looking for something a little more exciting. Enter DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital in Portland, OR.
I was hired right after graduation and I have been here since New Year’s Eve 1999. I became a CVT in Oregon in 2000 and received my VTS in Emergency and Critical Care in 2004. At DoveLewis I have worked in many roles: as an emergency and critical care technician, as a technician manager for 8 years, and currently as the Education Manager. Here I organize and conduct in-house trainings, help new technicians with the first few shifts in the hospital, and delegate and provide medical content for On the Floor @Dove.
Can you explain On the Floor @Dove for someone who has never heard of it? On the Floor @Dove is a training website for the entire veterinary team. We provide short, to-the-point procedure and discussion videos that we film on the hospital floor here at DoveLewis.
The procedure videos range from very basic information up to surgical procedures and advanced nursing skills, as well as discussions about disease processes, patient care, dealing with clients, and management topics.
The website also provides written articles that range from case studies of patients we’ve treated to management topics and explanations of lab results. Blogs written by staff currently ‘in the trenches’ add a bit of humor and ‘real life’ to the site.
On the Floor also offers RACE approved CE lectures for veterinarians, technicians, and practice managers.
How did On The Floor @Dove start, where did the idea come from, and when did you get involved? On the Floor @Dove started during some strategic planning sessions done by the
senior leadership at DoveLewis. DoveLewis is a non-profit teaching hospital, with our founding roots in education.
In 2010 we began looking for ways to expand that teaching mission. While that was being discussed with senior management, I was talking with Avi Solomon, an ICU technician with a background in computer science, about training new technicians at DoveLewis. An intranet (don’t know this term?) for the hospital was in development and Avi and I were talking about creating videos of our technician procedure manual so that people would have a visual way to learn in addition to seeing the procedure written.
I had just gotten my iPhone and we were talking about simply filming with our phones and uploading the videos for our staff to see and to help with training.
Ron Morgan, our CEO, and Avi were chatting about the idea and both teams came together with the plan for a training website. As the technician manager at the time, I was brought in very early in the process to guide the medical content and help with the creation of various videos.
Through research, we learned that there was a gap in the online veterinary education market. No one was filming videos in a real, functioning clinic and nothing like what we visualized for On the Floor @Dove currently existed in the market. We realized that we could provide a valuable resource for veterinary hospitals. We have a large staff, we are used to teaching, and we saw an opportunity to share what we knew and what we learned.
What is the process of thinking up and developing content? Most of my ideas for content come from my own experiences. I was very green when I started at DoveLewis and at the time there wasn’t a structured training program in place. It was sink or swim.
On the Floor @Dove is exactly what I would have LOVED to use as a new vet tech: the ability to see something before I have to do it, and the opportunity to watch the video over and over again. I developed a training program to use in-house for new technicians that included a detailed list of skills and procedures.
Most of the early videos came from this list. As we got to know our audience a little better and what they needed, we started getting requests for content. We keep a list of everything our users have requested and make videos based on that.
I also have lists of AVMA-required skills for technicians in school, areas where I had problems as a new manager result in some management discussions, and cases we just think are really cool will make the site as discussion videos.
We reach out to general practices in the area known for their great patient and client care and have them help us with content that we don’t have access to (like dentistry and preventive medicine, and front desk care from a general practice perspective) which has gone over really well.
I also wander through the hospital on a regular basis and look for interesting cases or procedures going on so we can film. There is endless possibility for content!
What is the current cost structure of On the Floor @Dove? We are very aware of tight budgets at veterinary hospitals, and tight budgets of veterinary professionals. There are two ways to have premium access to On the Floor @Dove. For $349 a year, an entire clinic can have access to the website.
Everyone gets their own login and they can view the videos and CE lectures as many times as they would like. We also have a monthly subscription for $37.50/month – and again that includes the entire hospital, but some people are using the monthly subscription just for themselves.
All of the written content (articles and blogs) on the website are available for free.
As a technician, what other resources do you turn to for education in our field? I am a super nerd and have a stack of textbooks that I often refer to. I also use the Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care to stay current.
Websites like ASPCA Poison Control and Pet Poison Helpline are useful for those odd toxicities that come in, but my favorite resources are my colleagues. Asking doctors, specialists, and especially other technicians is the most helpful.
There are some great Facebook groups for technicians to meet and ask simple questions like ‘how does everyone handle this?’ or ‘we have this case in right now has anyone ever seen this before?’ and I learn so much from people in the same position as me at other hospitals.
I think we overlook our peers at times, but they have TONS to teach us!
Do you have any other favorite ways you use technology in your job? I take for granted how often I turn to the internet for everything. A client calls and their dog just ate a medication I’ve never heard of – I search for the drug so I at least know what it’s used for.
I use the internet to look up different flea meds, heartworm meds, and search for journal articles. I use my phone to take pictures of things I think will be useful in an upcoming lecture. We show clients education videos on tablet computers, such as how to use an esophagostomy tube at home. We’re seeing an increase in paperless practices as they go to using computers for everything.
Technology is amazing and it’s exciting to see it integrated into what we do every day.
What advice do you have for anyone developing a training program for a veterinary nursing team? Don’t get overwhelmed! It’s a big project to tackle, so break it down into smaller parts that are more manageable.
Start with some sort of orientation and what they need to be aware of before they start working shifts. Then address what you think is important for them to learn in the first 90 days, first 6 months, and first year.
Break it up into math, anesthesia, treatment skills, and policies. Just work on small bits at a time and before you know it, you’ll have something useful and it will really make a difference to new employees.
Or don’t reinvent the wheel and check out the technician training guide on the On The Floor @Dove website! It’s 3 levels of technician training with exams for levels 1 and 2, a math test, and an anesthesia practical exam. It will save you years of work!
What are your goals for the future of On The Floor @Dove? I want to see On the Floor @Dove be the number one website for online education for all veterinary professionals and students. More specifically, I want On the Floor @Dove to be utilized for team training to increase the standard of care in practices.
Having consistent structured training will help decrease staff turnover and I think decrease burn out as well. Tech schools are using the website and I’m so happy to see students really excited about learning and getting access to real life videos.
I want to see us continue to have conversations about training the entire staff, the importance of customer service, and increasing patient care standards and I think On the Floor @Dove is a great forum for all of that.
Any final words of advice to your fellow technicians? Just keep learning. Keep challenging yourself to get better, to learn more and stay interested in what you are doing. Burn out is real, so if you aren’t happy where you are, try to figure out why, and then do something about it. Doing something may be as drastic as finding a new job, but it’s worth it to keep yourself engaged in your job. Learning makes work exciting!
About the Author
Dr. Caleb Frankel is an ER veterinarian, author, speaker, and entrepreneur. He currently divides his time between two roles: emergency veterinarian at VSEC, a 70-doctor referral hospital in Greater Philadelphia, PA (USA) and the founder of Instinct Science, a new animal health company helping the world’s state-of-the-art veterinary practices streamline their care through medically-driven invoicing and thoughtful automation.
He served as Director of New Product Development at Brief Media for 4 years where he lead the development and launch of products such as Plumb's Veterinary Drugs and New York Vet. Follow Dr. Frankel on Twitter @VMDtechnology.