Yes, the news is out – I am retiring in October! Before I fully hand over the reins, I figured I would share some thoughts about my journey.
In June of 1989, I arrived in Eden Prairie. Having just graduated from Kansas State University, I was anxious to test out my newfound veterinary skills at Prairie Village Pet Hospital (PVPH), a practice that Dr. Bob Skinner had built and opened only four years prior. The building was set back on a cul-de-sac, with new residential properties being built to the south and a clear view of Highway 5 to the north. To conform to setbacks, much of the property was actually dedicated to green space. Additionally, the city required that our predominantly brick building have a pitched roof rather than the typical flat variety. As such, when you approached the hospital, it felt more like a home than an office building, which honestly became symbolic of the ethos that we strove to create and foster. When we updated our logo, that roofline became an inherent part of the graphics, stating that PVPH is a safe haven for all who enter and we will treat you like family.
People in Eden Prairie have always loved their pets! PVPH was a full-service veterinary hospital, and the majority of our patients were families with purebred dogs. Most pets came in for wellness exams and sterilization surgeries, but we also provided boarding, grooming, and daytime emergency and urgent care. We didn't have the option to refer surgeries or diagnostics to a specialist, but strove to provide exceptional service with the resources available to us, and I think we did a pretty darn good job.
Over my career, I've witnessed a variety of developments first-hand in veterinary practice. In the 1980s, receptionists became the first voice new clients would hear and provided great client service. Similarly, local technical colleges created a two-year veterinary technician program, which quickly became an integral part of our modern practice. Helping to hold animals, assist in surgery, and perform diagnostic tests, these technicians have boosted the productivity of veterinary hospitals and doubled the number of patients a clinic can see each day.
Despite all the changes, including the emergence of larger veterinary corporations on the scene and humane societies providing vaccinations and sterilizations of their own, Dr. Skinner understood that nothing could replace exceptional client services. He invested in state-of-the-art technologies and hired a practice manager, Patti Van Arsdale, to help train and maintain a courteous and competent staff.
After working with Dr. Skinner for 16 years, in 2005, with the help of small business and home equity loans, I took a leap of faith and purchased the practice from him. With no prior management experience, I was forced to learn on the fly. Within weeks of the purchase, three veterinary technicians and a practice manager left. Sometimes that's just the way things go, but in today's market, a similar exodus would be disastrous, as trained veterinary technicians are so scarce they have earned the name “unicorns.” Luckily, I was able to keep the ship on course. I recruited three veterinary technicians, Jamila, Molly and Kelley, and a new veterinarian, and ended up making some novel management decisions at the helm. We managed ourselves, and redirected previous management costs to improve employee wages and benefits. Additionally, I made the decision that all new hires would be veterinary technicians or assistants, meaning that Mary, our lovely 30-year veteran, would be our last customer service representative hire (until COVID, when the need for telecommunications support boomed). Having everyone cross-trained to answer the phone and set up appointments allowed us to have a leaner, more efficient team who would get to know our customers, which again emphasized the family-like approach to our hospital.
Time went on and we added two more veterinary technicians. Alyssa started as a kennel assistant in 2013 while finishing her college training. Lindsey came along in 2018. Her education was actually interrupted when Argosy University and Globe University, the two major suppliers of veterinary technicians in the Twin Cities, both stopped providing programs in veterinary nursing (despite high demand for their services). Fortunately, the team has remained intact, cohesive and an extremely productive family of caregivers.
In 2015 we added Dr. Patia Hargreaves, an accomplished veterinary clinician and surgeon, to our team. She has gained our clients' trust and made an instant impact by improving our dentistry protocols and being the first responder to most rescue animals we see. Last year, we also hired an experienced practice manager, Sara Aho. Dr. Hargreaves and Sara will work hand in hand to navigate the direction of the clinic when I retire in the coming months.
It's the staff that makes this clinic successful, and I feel like it's important to shout out to all of them. It has taken years to develop a team with the level of expertise that we have, and I am so grateful that we have thrived, especially during COVID. During the pandemic, we added Elaina, our second receptionist, and the staff dug in their heels and never let the clinic shut down. We provided urgent care and accepted new clients when others couldn't. The time was right and I knew it was time to make my exit, but again, the staff and our clients are really what make PVPH so special. I'll be forever grateful to each and every one of you.
I am an anomaly. I will have started and ended my career at PVPH. I thank you all for accepting me for who I am and allowing me the privilege of providing care for your pets. Prairie Village Pet Hospital has been my safe haven for 34 years. Now it's time to explore the great, new world!
Dr. Jim Nelson
Updates can be found at pvhp.net
I am an anomaly. I will have started and ended my career at Prairie Village Pet Hospital. I thank you all for accepting me for who I am and allowing me the privilege of providing care for your pets.