In today’s world, there are a multitude of options and opportunities to obtain a certificate in a certain subject. Many years ago, I received a certificate for customer service training, one for learning about Hill’s pet foods as a nutrition councilor, and several others of which I never bothered to keep track.   However, I am also a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager or CVPM. Many in the Veterinary industry recognize the CVPM title, but don’t truly appreciate what is involved in accomplishing the certification and its maintenance. I know this because young managers frequently contact me to ask about it and on occasion, industry partners also ask.

I thought I would share the actions needed to apply and hopefully increase the value and worth of this title to those in a position to hire or engage these talented individuals. In addition, knowing what is required can help managers better prepare themselves for this significant career goal.

Step one requires that an applicant for CVPM has managed a practice and been responsible for a list of 30 important management tasks.  Quoted from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association website, “To fulfill the active employment qualification, candidates must have been responsible for twenty-six (26) of the thirty (30) duties enumerated in the application for a minimum of three years, they include: staff (development, maintenance, computer training, communication, interaction, records, safety, benefits, payroll); accounts receivable; income reconciliation; credit policies; accounts payable; inventory; financial reporting; budgeting; purchasing; fee setting; patient medical records; medical knowledge; hospital medical logs; client service; client communication; client interaction; client grief protocol; client education; client education programs; client/patient/staff comfort; professional liaison; and community involvement”.  A detailed list is available on the website. Candidates also must have actively managed a Veterinary practice for 3 of the past 7 years prior to application. Real world experience is a requirement.

Then there are the 18 hours of college-level business courses needed to apply. These classes can be in business management, accounting, higher math, public speaking, psychology, economics, and similar topics and must be approved by the VHMA before application. You must send original college transcripts to the CVPM liaison for approval. If there is any question whether a course qualifies, the team at VHMA is always helpful and excellent guides for the process.

Next are four letters of recommendation from either employers, former employers, or industry professionals who have observed the performance of the CVPM candidate in a manager role and will vouch for their proficiency.

Finally, there is a proctored exam of questions based on the CVPM recommended reading list. These questions range from understanding profit and loss statements, managing inventory turns, Human Resources, safety compliance rules, labor law, and practice marketing. To give an idea of the required study behind the examinations, here are the books recommended to be read and from which the test questions are created:

Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Practice Management Consult (3rd edition)
Author: Lowell Ackerman, DVM, DACVD, MBA, MPA

The Complete Veterinary Practice Regulatory Compliance Manual (6th edition) *
Author: Phillip Seibert, CVT

The Effective Marketing Manual – Attracting, Creating, and Retaining Loyal Customers
Author: J.D. Stowe, DVM

Financial Management of the Veterinary Practice
Authors: Justin Chamblee, CPA, MAcc and Max Reiboldt, CPA

Front Office Management for the Veterinary Team (2nd edition)
Author: Heather Prendergast, BS, AS, RVT, CVPM

Inventory Management (2nd edition)
Publisher: Patterson Veterinary University Bookstore

Law & Ethics of the Veterinary Profession
Authors: James Wilson, DVM,

Practice Made Perfect: A Guide to Veterinary Practice Management (2nd edition)
Authors: Marsha Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM and John B. McCarthy, DVM, MBA

Along with the Standards for AAHA Hospitals; Standard Abbreviations for Veterinary Medical Records; VHMA Code of Ethics; and Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, AVMA

Adding this specific Veterinary management knowledge to the already obtained college-level classes truly increases education and comprehension on many levels for these CVPM hopefuls. Gaps are filled because of the study required to pass the test. Even experienced managers will find topics they may not have encountered in their work. They need to be aware of the tools available if a problem arises and the rules required to be followed to protect their team and their business.

The last prerequisite is that the candidate has received at minimum 48 hours of continuing education courses through a college, university, or relevant professional organization. Not only do they have to have this CE prior to being allowed to sit for the CVPM exam, but once they pass, they must acquire 48 hours of business-related CE every two years. This is more continuing education than many State Veterinary Boards require of licensed DVMs and CrVTs!

So many times, a practice owner will promote a great client service person or Veterinary technician to the manager role, either not realizing the knowledge and skill level needed to truly run a successful practice or not being willing to invest in a CVPM to take the reins. Unless the owner is willing to provide training and coaching, they are setting these newly minted managers up for poor performance, especially if they have no prior management experience.

That is not to say there aren’t some outstanding non-CVPM managers who have self-educated and “boot strapped” their way to proficiency. Still, when hiring a CVPM, practice owners now understand the level of knowledge and skill needed to get and keep the certification.

Currently, there are slightly over 1,000 CVPMs. Some are consultants and some are DVM practice owners who understood the need to gain this knowledge to better run their practice, but most are actively managing hospitals or have leadership positions in groups. Although the number is debated, it is often stated there are around 35,000 Veterinary practices operating in the United States. Having a high-quality manager with deep expertise can certainly go a long way to solving many of the issues Veterinary medicine currently faces. Practice owners should encourage their team leaders to set CVPM as an attainable goal and they should also accommodate the salary appropriate for a manger at this level.  Great managers pay their own way in efficiency, effectiveness, and culture.

When surveyed about the reasons they are leaving the profession, CrVTs, CSRs, and even DVMs list poor compensation as a priority. On the other hand, even more frequently, they site poor leadership and bad managers who improperly handle situations as their greatest frustration. Just as in all job categories there are rock star CVPMs and those who are good at studying and testing, but have less stellar skills in the real world. Still, with the information they have learned, the odds are greater that they will lead a practice more successfully than those managers who have not had the opportunity to learn all of the material. In addition, CVPMs are required to continue to learn and keep up to date on the latest laws, technology, trends, and management techniques. They are invested mentally and financially in their craft.

Hopefully, this article will encourage managers or those aspiring to management or practice ownership to set a goal to become a CVPM. Along the way, if they want to pick up a certificate or two, the good news is that many of those do qualify for CE credits towards the CVPM prerequisites. Besides, knowledge—whether certified, certificate, or just for your own edification—is always important and valuable. Successful leaders are always learning!

Debbie Boone, BS, CVPM, has worked for the Veterinary profession for more than 35 years as a manager, consultant, writer, and speaker. She enjoys using her expertise to improve workplace culture and the well-being of Veterinary professionals. Debbie hosts The Bend, a vodcast which invites guests to share stories of managing unexpected change. Her newest book, Hospitality in Healthcare, is now available at all major booksellers.