Every day your job is full of surprises, whether it's the dog that's been hit by a car and needs emergency care or a tricky diagnosis of a chronic medical condition, such as renal disease, that will require lifelong care. And these medical challenges can wreck havoc on the balanced appointment schedule your receptionists work so hard to maintain. Respondents to the 2013 Firstline Veterinary Team Trends Study described how they handle schedule disruptions in figure 1.
Empower your technicians
Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member Pam Weakley, a practice manager at Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic in Battle Creek, Mich., says empowering team members to do more can also help keep the practice moving when tricky conditions slow you down. "Let go and allow team members to use the skills they've acquired," Weakley says. "At our clinic, doctors will take a medical case to the back, hand it off to technicians and ask them to perform the radiographs, blood work or diagnostics they need."
This frees the veterinarian to return to the front of the practice to start another case, while the credentialed technician performs the diagnostic workup for the doctor. "Once it's complete, the technician gives the results to the doctor to make the diagnosis and begin a treatment plan," Weakley says. "The technician then implements the plan, setting the catheter, figuring the dosages and so on." Veterinary assistants are then empowered to monitor fluid therapy, assist technicians with treatments and more as the doctor moves on to see other patients. These simple steps allow team members to work together more efficiently.
Rely on your routines
Having a routine to keep your day running smoothly is a necessity, says Mandy Stevenson, RVT, a Firstline board member and a technician at Rolling Meadows Animal Hospital in Adrian, Mo. "Obviously when illness is involved, things don't always go as planned, but having a strategy to deal with day-to-day tasks can help tremendously," Stevenson says. "When possible, scheduling properly helps keep things in order."
Consider these tips:
> Be sure to give the doctors enough time to see patients and complete any related tests or treatments. (See "Sample appointment schedule" for one approach to efficient scheduling.)
> Make sure everyone knows what their responsibilities are in practice and how to perform tasks correctly.
> Staff appropriately and work together. "Busy days in a veterinary hospital are always challenging," says Ciera Miller, CVT, a Firstline board member and technician at Metzger Animal Hospital in State College, Pa. "It's important for the practice owner and manager to employ an adequate number of staff members to handle the workload. It's also imperative that the staff be able to work well together, especially in stressful situations."
> Offer vital training and follow-up. "If everyone on your team is efficient and follows through with their work, things will get done right and this will save time," Stevenson says. "Stay focused, clean as you go and always have a sense of urgency to get your work done."