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Customer Spotlight: How the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Transitioned to Instinct

Customer Spotlight: How the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Transitioned to Instinct

Like any hospital-wide change, implementing new software in a veterinary practice can have many complex moving pieces.

Here at Instinct, we’re often asked how our hospitals make the software transition a success—and as stress-free as possible. Although no two hospitals are the same, hundreds of go-lives (what we call the software onboarding process) have shown us the crucial steps for ensuring the transition is low-stress and effective. We sat down with the Director of Emergency/Critical Care Services at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM), Leslie Wereszczak, LVMT, VTS (ECC), and the IT Manager, Charles Lambrecht, to talk about how they applied these steps for a smooth go-live with Instinct's platform.

About UTCVM 🎓

UTCVM (est. 1974), based at the university’s Knoxville, TN, campus, educates veterinary professionals in small and large animal medicine and serves as a vital resource for companion and livestock animal care in Tennessee and surrounding states.

The college is well known for being a pioneer in veterinary social work. Its VSW certificate program trains veterinary professionals in compassion fatigue and conflict management, the link between human and animal violence, animal-assisted interventions, and animal-related grief and bereavement.

Related Article: How Veterinary Teaching Hospitals Use Instinct

The UTCVM + Instinct Relationship

UTCVM began looking into Instinct after Lambrecht and others learned about us at the North American Veterinary College Administrators conference. They knew they needed to upgrade their manual treatment sheet processes in a way that would significantly improve patient care.

After years of working with paper treatment sheets and exposure to software initially meant for human medicine, Instinct’s fresh perspective was an immediate draw.

The official onboarding process kicked off early in 2022, and UTCVM officially went live with Instinct Treatment Plan in September 2022.

Related Article: How the Instinct Team Onboards New Veterinary Hospitals

Early Stages

Planning and committees

At a large institution like UTCVM, planning for a substantial transition like new software starts early.

Wereszczak and Lambrecht worked with their teams to holistically tackle the onboarding process. They each held weekly meetings, sharing and evaluating product lists, getting input from the staff using them, and keeping track of the process using Instinct's roadmap.

“The Instinct roadmap was super helpful,” Wereszczak noted. “It was a central source of information and communication for everyone.”

The roadmap is designed to enable the Instinct team and hospital admins to easily document, communicate, and make adjustments throughout onboarding together.

How the Instinct process stands out

Wereszczak shared her thoughts on the most helpful resources Instinct provided during the onboarding process. She said that access to Dr. Paige, Instinct’s implementation expert, was especially critical.  

“She was patient,” Wereszczak said. “We felt overwhelmed initially, but Paige was supportive and encouraging. I never sensed that she was getting stressed.”

That’s one of the many benefits of having veterinary professionals and university-experienced people leading the Instinct onboarding and support teams.

“Every time I wonder if [you’ve] thought of this, I realize that you already have.”

Setting Teams Up for Success

Informing teams early

Early in the onboarding process, the primary UTCVM teams who’d be using Instinct were informed of the decision and given the opportunity to share their needs. This allowed Instinct’s team to work with UTCVM leadership to build Instinct product lists, product groups, and automatic billing setups in a way that would truly benefit the teams who’d be using them.

It also reduced anxiety leading up to the go-live. Speaking from personal experience, we in the veterinary industry are often fairly change-averse, a sentiment echoed by Wereszczak. Knowing a transition is coming is half the battle. Giving your teams a sense of control and input in the process makes a huge difference.

Getting staff buy-in

Positivity is contagious! Once a few team members are enthusiastically on board with a change, it’s easier for anyone hesitating to take the leap.

Wereszczak knew early there’d be plenty of positivity because plenty of staff, veterinarians, and even interns had already used Instinct at other practices. Their rave reviews and encouragement made the transition easier for team members who were reluctant.

Emphasis on pre-training and using resources

When asked what they felt had the most significant impact on their success, Wereszczak and Lambrecht agreed it was access to training resources.

“We loved the training videos: short, succinct, to the point, and covering really valuable information,” Wereszczak said. “Plus the live training sessions, which the Instinct team was flexible about scheduling and catered to each department.”

“The fact that you have live support at all times, too, made everyone more comfortable with the change,” said Lambrecht.

Calm and confident leadership

Instinct can support hospitals through huge transitions with resources and access to our team, but hospitals with great leadership in place truly flourish.

From onboarding to go-live and beyond, Lambrecht, Wereszczak, and their respective teams have created an environment where team members are empowered to share and address issues calmly and rapidly.

Controlling caseloads and bolstering staff numbers

A lesser-known piece in the puzzle of go-live success is the need to exercise more control over a variable that significantly impacts staff stress: caseloads.

During the go-live period, the UTCVM team brought in an extra floating staff member to reduce the workload on each team member.

While we understand the ebb and flow of emergency and specialty cases (some of us put a lot of stock in full-moon lore related to medical cases), planning to bump up staff numbers, limit cases, and divert if necessary is something Wereszczak mentioned really helped their team.

“More hands and fewer cases made using the new system much easier,” said Wereszczak.

Wereszczak also recommends reducing caseloads during the go-live week, so teams can focus on getting up to speed on the software without being stressed about the level of care they’re providing; according to Wereszczak and Lambrecht, this “immediately increases buy-in and makes the transition so much more positive.”

Caring for the oft-neglected night crews

One question we ask every time we onboard a hospital is, What support does their staff need? Of course, we cover much of this with live training and ample learning materials. Still, we never want to forget about veterinary medicine’s sometimes most-neglected staff—the night shift!

Every time a hospital onboards with Instinct, an early conversation covers hospital hours and staff shifts. Second and third-shift workers frequently get left out of decisions, so the Instinct team strives to be present physically and virtually to the night owls who care for patients long after the sun has set. The UTCVM team observed that the Instinct support team’s presence into the late night hours made their night shift feel just as important as the day shift.

“Having that camaraderie and familiarity, it’s really comforting to know the people you’re working with actually know what’s going on at our hospital,” Wereszczak said.

Wereszczak and Lambrecht shared particular accolades about the “Instinctuals” they regularly interacted with.

“Paige was so patient and supportive, and she really helped us through onboarding. Shanna, Katherine, and Meridythe are a dream team. The go-live went so well with them leading. Everyone was accommodating and helpful, and willing to work with us. They gave us a positive outlook, brought so much energy, and had a great balance.”

Advice for future Instinct hospitals

For hospitals considering a change, Wereszczak said, “Make your lives easier—take the plunge.” UTCVM is still early in on using Instinct, but with a smooth transition, they're already managing daily workflows more efficiently than ever. We at Instinct encourage you to consider these key points when you decide to go live with Instinct:

  • Prepare your teams for change by telling them early and promoting buy-in.
  • Form a confident and organized leadership team to guide the process.
  • Use our resources—we love sharing them!
  • Plan for go-live with extra staff and reduced caseloads when possible.
  • Make teams of superusers who can maximize learning and support your staff on-site after go-live.

UTCVM is not unique in their onboarding success. Instinct currently supports nearly half of U.S. vet schools and over 350 hospitals, with more hospitals seeking Instinct out every week!

If you’re on the fence about using Instinct Treatment Plan or our complete EMR platform, reach out and request a demo.