• 27 January 2015

Plugging the gap in support staff training

VSM speaks to Chunk Training In the years before Chunk training appeared on the scene, there was a gap in the training menu available to veterinary practices:

There was plenty of training available for professional staff – vets, nurses and managers. The unfilled gap was in the training of support staff members and in total team training.

The limited offerings available for support staff included:

• Government schemes - free, but often not relevant to the needs of the modern veterinary clinic. 

• Lectures and meetings - great, and often very relevant, but limited by cost and staff rota considerations when used to   train the whole team.

• In house training - very time consuming, and requires the ability to get staff together during a busy working day.

Chunk Training was created by Liz Watkins, BVSc MRCVS, the senior partner and training director of Watkins and Tasker Veterinary Group, a long established practice in the south west. They recognised the need for whole team to have training in everyday communications skills, alignment and client service. Now well into its second year of trading, we spoke with one of Chunk Training’s client practices who have completed a 12 week modular course in Client Care.   

Prince Bishop Vets is a large Hospital in the north east of the UK, and is well known in the profession, being home to Jacqui Molyneux, recent past president of the RCVS. 

Jacqui first encountered Chunk training at SPVS VPMA Congress in January 2014, and they have since provided Prince Bishop with training modules for 18 of their staff, overseen by their head receptionist and practice administrator, Erika.  The course is entirely online, but Chunk Training stays involved with their clients. Over the 3 months of the initial course, there was regular communication between the trainers and the practice, at least once every 2 weeks, allowing for a high degree of feedback in both directions. This benefits the practice and helps to push up the quality and content of the modules. 

I asked Erika what it was that initially attracted them to the concept of online modular training:

“One of the challenges we face in our day to day work is ensuring the consistency of advice that our staff give. If a client has a basic question about, say, neutering, or vaccination, I need to be confident that each and every staff member will give the same correct and high quality answer. I wanted to find a way to get this information across that was effective: it needed to be easily available, and not too onerous. The bite size chunks of learning provided on a regular basis suited our needs, and the fact that training is online means that we don’t have to worry about giving staff time off, with all the challenges that would entail in terms of keeping the rota running smoothly: staff can fit the training within their normal daily routine.”

What did your staff think of the modules – they are very different from any other courses available?

“The interactivity was a positive benefit. It makes students think as they learn: they can’t just keep clicking through the slides as there are questions to answer and ideas to think about. Then you have to recap the material in the quiz at the end of the module. And many modules have assignments, which force another mental revision of the material.”

What do you see as the main benefits to the practice?

“We certainly achieved an improvement in consistency. There is more confidence demonstrated by the staff when answering questions, which in turn increases the confidence and trust that clients will have in the practice. In particular, I’d mention the module ‘Is it an Emergency?’ which discusses many common symptoms, and the degree of urgency with which they should be handled. A little bit of clinical detail about the background to the symptoms helps keep interest levels up, and aids retention of facts. Our non-clinical staff found this really helpful.

“Another benefit was the feedback of ideas we get when the assignment scripts are reported back to me, with ideas on creating WOW factors, or attracting new clients.”

And what about the future?

“We have already enrolled many staff in a new module after the original course was completed, and if we employ new support staff, we have the option of starting them, too.Also on offer are modules aimed at the whole team, from managers, to vets and receptionists. These help the practice to create a true alignment within the team of advice given to clients, whether it be on insurance, collection of monies, compliance to clinical advice, or the many other areas where it is vital that the team works together to present a united front to the public.”

Veterinary Supplies Magazine is delighted to support this new and growing business, which seems to have found a way around most of the challenges confronting practice managers when looking to access training for non-professional staff.  


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