Taking teamwork to a new level

Taking teamwork to a new level

Jan 01, 2004

Twelve team members filed into the architect's office. Many were wearing scrubs, some were doctors straight from surgery or nurses between appointments. They gathered around the architect's desk—crammed into a place meant to seat only six—and interviewed him.

For the second time in 30 years, Magrane Pet Medical Center won a Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition award. At left: The practices 1973 Hospital of the Year cover feature.
"The experts we worked with probably would have preferred to talk with just the owners," says co-owner Dr. Ron Doversberger. "But we wanted everyone to be involved every step of the way." Staff members jumped right in, asking about the architect's fees and strategies for staying on budget and requesting photographs of other projects the firm had designed, Dr. Doversberger says.

This scene played out many times during the 24-month planning and building process for Magrane Pet Medical Center in Mishawaka, Ind. Team members interviewed contractors, chose color samples, arranged the floor plan, and more. The result? A 2003 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award. The overall impact? A practice that all 27 team members, from doctors to kennel attendants, are happy to work in—and that clients and patients love to visit.

Award-winning floor plan
The force is with them The building process reflects a focus on teamwork that makes task forces a way of life at Magrane Pet Medical Center. "We create task forces for whatever need exists," says co-owner Dr. Kathleen Neuhoff. "Team members attack and resolve the issue, then the task force disappears. This idea stems from a team autonomy concept that we've been developing for close to 20 years, and it works phenomenally well."

In all, five crews tackled the building project, focused on such issues as site selection, design, construction, and public relations. "All staff members are invited to volunteer for a task force," says technician Jenny Sutherland. "It's great to participate, because the owners take all our suggestions seriously and appreciate input from anyone."

The lab and pharmacy, directly behind the exam rooms, become one large room with the open pass-through in the middle. This set-up gives privacy while being practical.
To get started, the owners closed the practice for the day and all employees met offsite to discuss the different facets of building a practice. "Over the next few months, we had people visiting other practices for ideas, attending the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design conference, completing a demographic study, talking with the developer, interviewing architects, and helping in every facet of the design," Dr. Doversberger says.

During that time, the task forces met weekly—or more frequently—to stay on track. Some crews were more active at different times in the process. For example, the site crew spent more time doing legwork in the beginning. As the project neared completion, the moving crew kicked into gear.