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Jun 19, 2023 · 17 min read
Our guest in this episode is Mariel Hendricks. Mariel is the Associate of Clinical Development at Noah’s Animal Hospitals where she spends her time working with and training staff members.
What makes Noah’s Animal Hospital different
And Much More!
Thank you so much for listening to this episode! We hope you enjoy it!
How's it going everybody! Welcome back to another episode of Vet Clinic Convos. Today our guest is Mariel Hendricks. Am I saying that correctly? Mariel, Mariel?
You are! Congratulations, you're one of few.
Okay well I'm glad I get to be one of the few. I don't have the pronunciation issue but my name gets spelled wrong all the time so I know how that is.
So I guess before we kind of really jump in, do you want to kind of give your background about what you do, just kind of a little bit about who you are?
Absolutely. I graduated from Purdue's Veterinary Technology Program in 2009 with my Associates Degree. I did go on to get my bachelor's in the same program as well in 2010.
I realized during my schooling that I really enjoyed the surgery aspect of veterinary medicine, so I definitely wanted to focus my career on anesthesia and surgical assisting.
I ended up moving to Indianapolis where my first job was in general practice. I just wanted to fine tune my skills and that's exactly what I did.
I got a little bit of leadership experience in that regard as well. And after a year and a half in general practice, I got my dream job in a surgery specialty center and I became the only technician within the team to work with our specialized surgeon.
I think that's where I first began really respecting the veterinary assistants within our practice. I just learned so much from them. And I really appreciated all the support that I had gained from their on-the-job experience.
Within the last decade, I've been working with surgery, anesthesia, and having some leadership positions within my company as well.
That led me to almost an off-the-floor position within training and development.
The company that I work for has eight different hospitals. So I have a desk, but I'm not really at it a lot.
I'm at these eight different hospitals and training the medical staff, really in anything from general practice to surgery to dental radiographs, ICU, and emergency work.
So I'm kind of the jack of all trades within my company right now doing training and development for mainly recently hired individuals.
That is kind of my professional summary, I guess you can say.
Well, that's very exciting! I know just so the listeners are able to know more about it, but do you want to talk a little bit more just about where you work? It's Noah's Animals Hospital, correct?
Yeah, absolutely. So Noah's Animal Hospital has been in the Indianapolis area for 40 years now. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary.
Thank you. Yes, it's owned by Dr. Mike Thomas. He's been very active nationally. He's been a past president of the AAHA.
And I have absolutely appreciated having him in my life, especially as I've kind of navigated from on the floor to off the floor within my career.
Like I said, we have eight different facilities. We have both emergency and general practice hospitals.
And let's see, we have a development team that I'm a part of. There are three registered technicians, and we all travel to the different hospitals.
We really preface both making sure we're not really throwing those new hires out into the world, out to the wolves. And we wanna make sure that they have the appropriate training underneath their belts and that they feel supported and recognized as an individual, not just a number.
So I think that's why I really love Noah's is because we are large enough, but still small enough to where people are still, you know, have a name and are able to be approached for advice or opinions. And I think that's what has really made Noah's stand apart, at least for me.
It's been, you know, my "unicorn clinic."
So I guess also part of that is because they are having you run around to all the different locations. It's not like you're only confined to that one location. So you get to know everybody. You get to really spend time with everybody because they're having you go all around. And it sounds like that's what makes it a very tight-knit community, even though it's eight hospitals.
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Absolutely. We've got over 100 medical staff. So luckily, you know, at least splitting up into eight different practices, you get to know several individuals at a time before moving on. And, you know, eventually, you get to know everyone really well. And it's something that I really, truly embraced and loved about my job.
Oh wow. Yeah. Well, that's awesome!
I guess going from there, one of the things that I really would like to know, just jumping around here, is what advice would you give to either a vet student or just a young person who is about to enter the world of veterinary medicine? What would you say is the biggest piece of advice that you'd give them?
Also what advice do you think is common that now that you've got a lot of experience under your belt you think they should actually ignore?
Sure. Okay, so if I were to be talking to a veterinary student or a vet tech student or someone that has recently graduated, it's okay to not know everything. It's actually very, you know, common to say, I don't know, but let me find out that information and get back to you with that.
I think with veterinary students, especially when they graduate and they have that degree and that national test underneath their belt and they've got their first job, that they're supposed to know everything and they're supposed to correctly diagnose every single medical issue walking through the door.
I really do feel as if you're human, you're not going to absolutely know everything. So just being kind to yourself, giving yourself grace, having that support system, or finding that support system underneath your belt, and possibly looking for a position that creates that support system for you, or is willing to have a mentor by you as you start out in your job.
That would be my biggest advice.
You don't have to know everything. It's okay to say, I don't know. And give yourself some grace and support yourself. And again, find that support system.
It really does sound like I'm learning this more and more based on the more people I talk to. But it sounds like mentorship is very important in the veterinary industry.
Oh yes, absolutely. I truly believe that you will become more successful long-term within your career if you have that solid mentorship underneath your belt starting off.
If you are, say for example, you don't have that mentorship and you are driving a car and you're just going bump after bump after bump that can really wear you out. That leads to burnout, that leads to frustration, and that can lead to conflicts, not only in the home, but at work as well.
So really just having that sounding block to vent or to find advice for, or to run across an odd case with, I absolutely feel as if mentorship is vital to the longevity of your career.
I don't know if you're familiar with it, but isn't like, mentor vets starting to or they just signed a big partnership to help like bring formalized mentorship to the entire veterinary space with either the AAHA or
It was AVMA.
Yeah, Addie Reinhardt, who is the mentor of, or I'm sorry, the CEO and the founder of MentorVet, they just signed with AVMA to create this nationwide mentorship program and it's free for AVMA members.
So I really, really hope that everyone can take advantage of that.
Yeah, so if you're listening and you haven't checked that out, I would highly recommend checking that out, because it seems like everybody who's been a part of that has found lots of value in that.
Yeah, and they just launched their MentorVet Tech program as well.
They're doing their pilot program now and they're going to be fully functional by August.
So not only is this a program for new veterinarians, but they have since rolled out a program for new vet techs as well.
Now that second question that you had, advice to ignore, that's a question I've never had before. I love it.
I would say at least one mistake that I made within my profession is that in order to like be on good graces within the company that you work for that work a lot of hours and you say yes to everything and the balance between home life and work life gets a little iffy.
So that was a mistake that I absolutely made in my career. I wanted to be the rock star new employee that wanted to put everything towards the benefit of the clinic and yes I want everything to be beneficial to the clinic but at the same time, my sanity is important as well.
I know that now and that's something that I preach to newer veterinary technicians and newer doctors as well as we appreciate your willingness to say yes to everything and you want us to support the clinic in every way possible, but you've gotta put yourself first sometimes.
I completely agree.
Also, I think it's playing the long game. If obviously, you say yes to everything, you're not going to be able to sustain that for very long.
So the fact that you're prioritizing being around longer, you're holding on to staff longer. So even though it's probably great that your staff wants to say yes to everything, realize that, they should take some time.
And if you're in a leadership position, say a manager, a practice manager, a clinical manager, and you have employees that are wanting to work every single overtime shift, please say no to that every now and then.
I just want managers to also be aware that they have the ability to say yes and no to individuals that might be on the verge of burning out and help them with that.
Now that's definitely something that seems to be on the forefront of people's minds as of late. So that's definitely good advice to make sure to watch out for that.
Pivoting back to Noah's animal hospitals, what would you say is something unique about the eight practices? This can be how they're run or just what makes them overall unique compared to what, let's say, just the average veterinary hospital.
Sure, sure. So something I find really unique about Noah's Animal Hospitals is that they have a director of nursing. Her name is Crystal Schaeffer.
So she has the unique ability to give a voice to the medical staff that is working with us as well. Crystal, in the last several years, has also created a levels program, where, again, we're not throwing new technicians out to the wolves. We have a very set levels program where we have a set of skills for levels like the lowest level and then as the levels increase the skills get a little bit harder.
Soft skills start coming into play as far as talking with clients, dealing with difficult financial conversations, and then we have benefits attached to each level as well.
I really love the fact that Noah's Animal Hospitals put so much time and effort into making sure that both technicians on the job, trained assistants, and our doctors even, are placed in a position where they're not going to fail. They always have something to fall back on as far as a mentor on the floor or a mentor within the leadership or if they're lost within.
We've got an entire packet printed out for them that is just uniquely for them to make sure like hey, these are the kind of skills that you're needing to practice on specifically in the next three months. And then we have assessments that they take at the end of each level and they go from there. So I find that extremely unique about this corporation because we put so much time and effort into the education and the growth of our medical staff.
So y'all have your own custom, not only like workbooks to help or I guess quick guides for your staff, but you actually like do your own internal, let's say, CE, it sounds like.
Absolutely, absolutely. We have three of us in the development program, we provide every month race approved CE that's free for our employees.
So we do hands-on workshops and we do PowerPoint presentations. And if you can't make it in person, we also hold these via Teams meetings. So we want to absolutely make sure that our medical team is growing, not only personally, soft skills-wise, but technically and medically as well to make sure we're providing the best medical care for our patients.
Yeah, well, it's great to hear that y'all make training and just making sure everybody on staff is a rock star. So it's a great experience.
Absolutely. We also have specific training programs every like two to three times a year.
We hold a six-week-long boot camp for emergency employees so they can learn how to work efficiently and in a high skills environment within our emergency practices. We also have a completely free VT&E prep, which is the national examination for veterinary technicians.
We provide an eight-week course for that free of charge for those individuals wanting to take their VT&E.
We're also in the process of creating a surgery and anesthesia boot camp as well. So like I said, Noah's and the development team within Noah's puts education at the forefront.
Oh wow. Yeah, well, I mean, it's really the, I guess, the way to phrase it is you're only as strong as your weakest member. And it sounds like if y'all have a bunch of rock stars, y'all are really killing it over at Noah's. That's awesome to hear.
Switching it back to you, this is one I kind of like to just hear and maybe this will resonate with some other people, but in the past five or so years, what's a new belief, behavior, or habit that you have started doing that has most impacted your life?
Wow, does it have to be professionally or personally? Or anything?
It can be personally. It can be anything. It's just got to be you.
Okay, okay, that's my only stipulation, got it.
All right, I have put so much time and effort into myself professionally this last decade that I wanted to focus on myself personally. I am a recent single mom, so I have a lot on my plate as far as taking care of my kids, and working full time. I'm also getting my master's right now. So that actually might be part of my answer is getting my master's degree.
Not only am I wanting to make sure the employees that I am working with are gaining the education and knowledge to become better individuals, but I'm important too, you know?
So I did go back to school. I'm halfway through my master's degree program in veterinary education through Lincoln Memorial University. So I'm putting myself first. I want to make sure that I continue growing and yes, a Master's Degree is something that I added to my plate, my full plate.
Yeah, it seems like you definitely have your hands full. And how many kids did you say you had? Okay, yeah.
I have a six-year-old and a four-year-old, so they're absolutely running my life right now.
Oh yeah, it sounds like you have no free time.
Surprisingly, I love charts and calendars and timing. And I make sure to build in that free time into my schedule. So I'm on lock. My game is strong on that, I promise.
So yeah, after the kids go to bed, I'm either taking time by myself or doing my schoolwork.
Okay, so you got the scheduling unlocked.
A hobby that I just recently took up is I bought my own motorcycle.
I have always been like a car person and so I bought my own motorcycle too. So I just got done with my motorcycle lessons and my motorcycle is getting delivered this next week. So I want to do something fun.
I wanted to do something that I've always wanted to do and I have been too scared to do it.
And I'm finally realizing in the last five years or so, like, don't let fear hold you back for many things. So I bought a motorcycle. Ha ha ha.
Well, that's one way to, that is definitely one way to beat, beat out the fear is buying a motorcycle.
Absolutely. So yes, I would say putting myself first more within the last five years would be my answer to that question.
I will be really honest. I did not expect you to hit me with how big you'd be into trying out riding a motorcycle.
You know, I've kind of been an adrenaline junkie all of my life and I've jumped out of airplanes. I love roller coasters. I absolutely love being outdoors all the time doing fun stuff. So might as well just add this to my plate.
Wow, that's awesome. I really hope that the motorcycle is as exhilarating as it was when you bought it because I bet there was even a rush when you bought it.
Thanks. Maybe a touch of terror as well, but yeah.
Switching things up, I guess back to the overall veterinary industry, what trends do you kind of see and how do you and Noah's Animal Hospitals try and stay current with those and adapt to those changes?
Yeah, so nationally we are talking a lot about things that make veterinary technicians leave the field, which is one, being underpaid, two, being underutilized, and three, being underappreciated.
According to the last survey NAVTA did, those are by far the three things that are like the three main topics within veterinary technology right now.
So, Noah's has definitely embraced all three of these factors because we have since tied our pay scale to our level system. We are able to pay technicians what they deserve. I mean, to be flat-out honest about it.
And because we also use this level system so heavily, we want to make sure technicians are utilized to their full potential.
And how do you all see that, I guess, because in case some people are wondering how they can utilize technicians more, maybe if you want to touch on that, that'd be great.
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. So my recommendation would be to contact a veterinary technology school and get a skills list.
Every technology school has a list of like 150 to 200 skills that every single technician is getting signed off on and has to get signed off on in order to graduate and in order to pass their national examination.
So Purdue has been amazing. Dr. Chad Brown is the director of the Purdue Veterinary Technology Program. He has been all over the state, making sure that he is preaching the gospel about what veterinary technicians can do.
So we have been able to utilize the skills list from Purdue making sure that aligns with the skills that we allow the technicians within Noah's to do as well. We allow our technicians to do laceration repairs. We allow our technicians to choose their own drug protocols and make sure that they then just get okayed by the doctor before we get started.
We have ICU technicians that are able to create nursing care plans. Yes, we have a doctor creating the treatments. However, we have very highly utilized technicians that are able to take care of our ICU patients without having to call over the doctor for every single okay.
So we definitely make sure we understand what technicians are allowed to do in the state. I live in Indiana, so every state has different rules and regulations.
We make sure we understand completely the laws behind what technicians and assistants can do in the state of Indiana. Utilize them to their fullest potential and make sure that our levels are correct based on what Purdue has provided us skills-wise.
Yeah, well, I think that solves a big problem that I've seen in talking to a lot of people in the space of it seems like a lot of the bottleneck is actually on the doctors because it seems like they're the only ones that can do everything.
And while they obviously do a lot, it really seems like one of the ways to solve that is to just offload and delegate some more stuff out to the veterinary technicians.
So it sounds like y'all are really, really taking advantage of that and trying to do that.
Delegation is the name of the game and we have a lot of conversations about whether it's going to be a doctor-driven practice or a technician-driven practice and we really leave that up to the doctor and technician teams.
However, we do very much emphasize delegation leads to efficiency.
Yeah, that's something that I myself am trying to do more of, is I'd love to be able to delegate more out. So.
Yes, as a mom, I am also trying to delegate things on to a six-year-old as well. I'm not as successful as I am in my work environment, but I definitely agree.
I imagine that'll get easier as they get older, but yeah, that can probably be frustrating.
So that's kind of everything I wanted to touch as of right now. I have some other questions, but maybe that'll be for either another episode down the road or what have you. But is there anything else you want to say and just with some final thoughts or even just where people might be able to find you?
Sure. You can find me on LinkedIn. My name is again, Mariel Hendricks. I work with Noah's Animal Hospitals.
And I am also part of NAVTA, a national organization for our veterinary technician community. I am on the executive board for that. So you can find me on the NAVTA website as well.
You can also contact me through MentorVet. I happen to be a graduate assistant for the MentorVet program. So you can find me at Mariel at mentorvet.net too.
All righty. Well, thank you so much, Mariel, for coming. This has been another episode of Vet Clinic Convos. And I guess we will see you next time. Thank you so much.
Thank you. Absolutely.
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