Kaylynn Daggett is the vice president of growth initiatives and program management at MWI Animal Health.Read Articles Written by Kaylynn Daggett
Workforce shortages, busier practices, high turnover rates for veterinarians and veterinary technicians, and the pandemic have combined to decrease hospital productivity. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average productivity of veterinarians fell by nearly 25% in 2020. All those factors resulted in more stress and anxiety for veterinary professionals, leading to a growing risk of burnout.
What can you do as a veterinary practice owner to make your hospital more efficient and help ease the burden of all the challenges, especially when your staff isn’t operating at full strength?
Play to Your Team’s Strengths
The AVMA notes that more-efficient practices are more likely to utilize their veterinary technicians’ entire skill sets than less-efficient practices. If you’re not sure how to make the most of your technicians, ask them directly. What do they do best? What skills or training do they have that they aren’t using? Is there anything they’re asked to do that doesn’t require their training? Using your technicians to their full ability will improve efficiency and increase their job satisfaction.
Also, give non-medical tasks, such as cleaning examination rooms, scheduling appointments, answering phones and other office work, to non-clinical staff. This frees up your clinical staff to focus on the work they’re trained to do. Get your team’s input on which tasks they enjoy the most, where their strongest areas lie, and where their passions lie.
Create a Culture of Support
It’s clear how important a healthy workplace is to staff well-being. A stressful work environment might lead to health issues such as heart disease and even death. Stressed employees also are less engaged in their work and less loyal, resulting in increased turnover.
Cultivating a supportive, positive team culture can make a huge impact on your staff’s stress levels and their loyalty to your practice. Here are some ways to foster this kind of environment.
- Remember that as a leader, you can significantly impact your staff’s well-being. Find resources if you need help sharpening your leadership skills.
- Regularly make it a point to talk to each team member individually.
- Consider having a designated room where team members can go when they need a few minutes to recharge. Furnish it with energizing and stress-relieving items such as comfortable chairs, water, tissues and snacks.
- Make sure your team is aware of support resources specifically for veterinary professionals, such as Not One More Vet (NOMV) and NOMV Support Staff (NOMVSS). Those two groups and BetterHelp have teamed up to give veterinary professionals a free month of online counseling.
- Encourage your team to use mindfulness and meditation apps to help them relax, cope with stress and sleep better. Popular paid options include Calm and Headspace, which have plans you can purchase for the entire team. Among free apps to try are Smiling Mind, Insight Timer, MyLife Mediation, Healthy Minds Program and UCLA Mindful.
Invest in Technology
Choosing tools that meet your practice’s needs and increase your efficiency is a game changer. The technology you use has a huge impact on everything from your clients to your team to your revenue stream. The right tools increase client retention, engagement and compliance and streamline processes for your staff, resulting in happier clients, happier staff members and, hopefully, happier veterinary practice owners. For example:
- Preventive care plans: Ensuring that clients remain compliant with medications and stay on top of the health services their pets need is often a challenge for veterinary practice staff. On the other hand, preventive care plans make it easier for clients to follow through with recommended procedures. Solutions on the market make setting up a preventive care plan seamless, enabling practices to grow their services and business without the burden of plan administration.
- Telehealth: Tools such as online triage, consulting, communication, and remote monitoring let you expand your practice’s reach and meet your clients’ needs. You can see more patients in the same amount of time, and telehealth reduces the back and forth between your team and clients. Staff members then have more time to focus on the clients and patients who are in the clinic.
- Digital curbside check-in: No more clients crowding in your waiting room. This tool lets them check in from their mobile device. You instantly get the patient’s complete medical history and updated information, freeing your phone lines and saving time.
- Client-engagement platforms: These tools offer multiple customizable solutions. Leveraging them maximizes your practice’s productivity and efficiency. Less time spent on scheduling, communication and decision making means more time for work-life balance. Options include: automation and management of your client communications via email, text or postcards; a retention calendar to schedule appointments and keep client information updated; a patient portal for clients to access information, request appointments and refills, and update information; analytics to make data-driven decisions and pinpoint opportunities and insights in your practice; and a client-loyalty reward program.
Taking a proactive, hands-on approach to mitigating the tremendous obstacles facing veterinary practices will help increase your hospital’s productivity, improve your team’s well-being and stress levels, and keep your staff engaged and motivated.