Early in the days of starting Pennridge Animal Hospital, Jen and I knew that we wanted to have a practice that centered around our core philosophy of truly caring about people and their pets. I think when we were working on growing our business, we were very focused on doing the work, and less focused on putting these values and philosophies onto paper or into words. Somewhat unintentionally, I think our actions and our personal beliefs still trickled down to the team and into the culture of our practice. But as our team grew and as our business grew, we found ourselves circling back to this discussion again and again.
Where did we want to see Pennridge go? What is our end goal? What kind of an impact did we want to make as a practice? What are the driving forces behind our work in our practice? We decided that we wanted to get our entire team involved in coming up with a way to put the feelings we had for the goals of our practice into words – so we decided to do a group workshop with the team. The task was to break into small groups and to have each group discuss words or phrases that they felt embodied what the values of our practice were, and to boil it down to their top 4-5 words.
From this exercise, our core values were born. I have written about many things related to our practice and our dog rescue, and even my mission trip to Nicaragua. However, it has occurred to me that I have never put down into words this part of our practice, and it puts words to the beating heart that is at the center of what we do and why we do it. We just did another exercise as a practice where we broke into groups and each group was tasked with creating picture representations of our core values, and it made me realize that this is something I would like to write about. So here we are – this is truly a celebration of our team and what they all mean to me.
I am still so proud that every single team that discussed the options that day came up with the same first value – COMPASSION. Compassion is the heart and soul of our practice. All decisions and interactions with our clients and patients are led with this in mind. We strive to have compassion for one another, as much as for the patients that we treat, and to use this as the driving force behind what we do. Having compassion for a person or animal is such an underrated super-power – it helps to give you focus and clarity, and in my opinion, to be a better human, let alone a better doctor. This value is fundamentally important to who I am as a person, and to what the goals of our practice are.
Number two was pretty universally UNITY. Working together is so important, and is often also overlooked. And I’m talking about real teamwork. Real teamwork, is really freaking hard to maintain. It takes work to have a team that focuses on it and strives to keep it as a central doctrine of our practice. Every member of our team – from our bad-ass doctors diagnosing and treating all manner of illness, to our nurses placing the most difficult catheters in a very sick patient, to our CSRs (customer service representatives) effortlessly juggling phones and clients and answering questions, to our multi-tasking assistants. Every member is crucial to our success as a team, and every one of them is valued as an individual and as a part of the giant team that is PRAH. Teamwork makes the dream work, as I like to say (yes, dorky, but….also true.)
WARMTH came up next. This one was a collection of words that we all talked through together to try to put a name to what we were trying to explain. Warmth is so hard to describe, it’s more of a feeling – and it’s not quite compassion, though I think they are closely related. Warmth is showing kindness to a person or animal. It’s being a light for someone in a dark time; taking an extra moment to comfort someone who is making the heartbreaking decision to let their beloved companion go. It’s catching one of our nurses with a kitten who is recovering from surgery swaddled in a big fuzzy blanket in their arms while typing up notes. It’s a CSR driving medications to an elderly client’s home on their way home from work because they know they can’t drive after dark. It’s showing unexpected kindness and truly caring about our patients. This is a value that cannot be faked, and I am honored to work alongside so many people who exhibit this value in their day-to-day lives. Just quietly going through life, being a light bringer.
Another theme that was evident within all groups was DEDICATION. Dedication to me is making sure that we are doing the best job that we can for every patient. That we are consistently showing up, and bringing our best selves to every day so that we can help make their lives better. Dedication is what makes our nurses message me on their day off to check on a sick patient that they have been worrying over. It’s also our doctors spending time outside of normal hours researching obscure diseases or symptoms to try to help one another figure out a tough case. It’s also CSRs constantly rattling off to one another what task is done, or isn’t done, and jumping in to help one another when one person is getting overwhelmed. Dedication is doing a good job because you care and it’s the right thing to do, even when no one is looking.
The final value that we decided to include on our list was impossible to capture in one word, so we ended with a phrase – ELEVATE THE STANDARDS OF PET CARE. We don’t just want to be good at our jobs, we want to excel at our jobs so successfully, that we educate and empower our clients to be the most amazing pet owners that they can be. By elevating our clients, we also elevate the lives of our patients. And isn’t that the whole goal? To keep our pets healthier, longer; so they can lead happy and healthy lives for as long as possible. The better the care that we provide, the better we can reach this end and ensure we are truly being their advocates for a long and happy life. We don’t just want to provide medical care; we want to provide excellent medical care so our patients live long and full lives.
At the end of the day, this list of values really embodies who we are at PRAH. Are we perfect? Heck no – we all make mistakes and we all don’t always show up every day as the best version of ourselves, we are human after all. BUT, we do show up and we do keep striving to grow and to succeed as a team. To work together to bring life and light to the patients that we treat, and the humans who are on the other end of the leash. I know this blog may come off a bit like a feel good Hallmark movie, with a cheesy ending….but there’s a reason they are so popular, right? 😉 We are all stumbling through this thing called life, trying to find our way and trying to connect with those around us. I think it’s important to sometimes stop and take a look at where you are and to make sure it is where you want to be. And with this in mind, I often revisit our core values. Every time I do it makes me smile and remember that I am surrounded by a bunch of like-minded animal-loving rockstars who truly care and want to make our tiny piece of this world a better place. And I honestly can’t think of anywhere else that I would rather be.