Effective Time Management for Veterinary Professionals

Written by Angela Beal, DVM
veterinary efficiency

While you can’t get more time out of your day, you can maximize the time you have by adopting and incorporating better habits, protocols, and routines. Strong time management skills help you and your team get the most out of daily veterinary workflows and increase efficiency inside and outside the clinic, resulting in greater productivity and less guilt, stress, and job-related fatigue.  Make every second count—including your all-important lunch break—with these practical time management tips and techniques.

Set an intention for your day or shift

The best way to manage your time is to define how you’ll use it. Begin your day or shift with clear goals that will shape your schedule and how you will achieve each goal. List your thoughts on a notepad or your phone—the physical effort of writing or typing your goals can help make them clearer and help you plan and prioritize your day. Your team can also set daily intentions or goals to ensure everyone shares the same vision. This can be a great opportunity to check in with the staff, identify potential challenges on the schedule, and smoothly communicate for the day ahead.

Delegate, empower, and utilize your team or peers

Taking on too many tasks or responsibilities decreases productivity, amplifies stress, and likely will mean more errors or omissions. Review your most common duties and the skill level required and determine the tasks better suited to other team members. If you feel that you can’t delegate certain obligations because a team member lacks training or confidence, offer to teach certain tasks. Practice leaders can invest in their teams through targeted educational opportunities, mentorship, or in-house wet labs.

Reexamine your workflow and floor plan

Take a bird’s eye view of your practice workflows and how the team moves through the clinic. Identify and address overlapping responsibilities, unnecessary delays, and inefficiencies by revising written expectations for each clinic role, rewriting or updating standard operating procedures (SOPs), and rearranging equipment or exam rooms to optimize foot traffic and patient transport. Although some changes may seem minor or insignificant, every time you alleviate friction you free up valuable time.

Build a better schedule

Schedule design can result in significant inefficiencies, time loss, and frustration. Revisit your scheduling procedures to ensure you’re allocating an appropriate amount of time for specific tasks and appointments. This can include creating appointment types (e.g., wellness, non-well, recheck) and lengths, and designating time blocks for drop-off or work-in appointments and for veterinarians to complete charts, follow up communications, and care for hospitalized pets.

Communicate all schedule changes and policies to the entire team and clients, when applicable. Improve their understanding and minimize conflict by providing written protocols or procedures for scheduling or canceling various appointments—especially if your practice has a cancellation or no-show fee policy. These should also be posted near practice computers or phones for a convenient reference.

Incorporate automated technologies and flexible software

Technology is perhaps the most effective and easy way to find new pockets of time in your day, while staying organized and completing all necessary tasks. Cloud-based practice management software and mobile apps ensure your important information, including calendars, schedules, practice reports, and patient charts, stays synced across various devices so the most updated data is easily accessible. Automated tools, assistants, and software applications, such as online scheduling, appointment reminders, Siri and Alexa, talk-to-text dictation, and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered diagnostics, can let you and your team complete time-consuming tasks, enhance patient care and client communication, and easily and efficiently control your workday.

Commit to better communication

Consistent communication is essential in a collaborative work environment. Clear and regular updates save valuable time by confirming each team member’s responsibilities, reducing the need for clarification, and minimizing confusion, duplication, and mistakes. Regular feedback can also increase job performance by highlighting a team member’s strengths and identify in areas for improvement. Open communication creates better team collaboration and unity, allowing members to move from one task to another with no delays or concerns that something is left unaddressed. Effective client communication, including automated follow-up communications, empowers, informs, and encourages better pet ownership and care by reducing the need for frequent follow-up calls or emails. Patient outcomes are also improved, since complications or treatment delays because of inappropriate at-home care are minimized.

Set and keep boundaries

Lastly, effective time management includes setting and maintaining well-defined boundaries or limits on your day. Designating an appropriate time to start, pause, and stop allows veterinary professionals to prioritize self-care and well-being. Boundaries such as ensuring team members can sit down to eat an uninterrupted meal, hydrate, and decompress for 30 minutes, or step outside to regroup after a difficult situation can restore and provide balance. Team members will return focused, optimistic, and more productive. If you struggle to maintain professional boundaries, ask a colleague to help you stay accountable or involve the whole team and prioritize caring for one another. Time management in the veterinary clinic can feel like a constantly moving target. Your many daily obligations and responsibilities can deplete your energy, but creating sustainable systems and habits can help you control your schedule without spending more time.