Short-Staffed Veterinary Practice? 8 Tips to Do More With Less

Veterinary Hospital Employee

By Crista Wallis, DVM

At my small animal practice in Shawnee, Kansas, we’re experiencing the same staffing issues affecting veterinary practices nationwide. With too few veterinarians and credentialed technicians remaining in the field throughout their working years, it’s tough to maintain a full team.

Combine short-staffed veterinary practices with inefficient protocols implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, and you have the perfect storm for burned out, overwhelmed, frustrated employees, not to mention disgruntled clients. 

So, how can you perform miracles by working your way through a time-consuming appointment process with a skeleton crew? Here are eight tips to help ease the burden on your team as you care for as many patients as possible.

#1: Get a useful phone system

A phone system like Weave or Schultz Technology is an incredible tool to help bolster a stretched-thin staff. These phone companies can set up a missed-call text messaging service, customize on-hold messaging, create phone tree menus, design online or digital forms that can be sent prior to appointments, and much more. You can even manage your phone system from anywhere, allowing you to listen to voicemails or record a holiday office closure message from home. Using a phone system has been a lifesaver for my team at Monticello Animal Hospital (MAH). It provides a great way to boost service when we’re short-staffed and can’t always get to the phone in time. 

Veterinary Hospital Phone System

#2: Use a veterinary practice app

At MAH, we use the Vet2Pet app for all our online communications. This robust platform offers online appointment scheduling, food and medication requests, telemedicine and teletriage services, mass email and reminder systems, virtual payment, and a plethora of other useful features.

By allowing clients to view their pet’s history and communicate online, they’ll stay off your phone lines and decrease your staff’s workload. 

Veterinary Hospital App

#3: Cross-train your staff

Train your team to handle multiple positions, which can make the difference between closing your practice or remaining open for appointments. If someone is ill and calls in at the last minute, your small team may not have another team member who knows how to perform the tasks associated with that position. 

By cross-training your team to manage various positions, you can ensure you always have coverage. Empower your kennel attendants to perform more front-of-the-house duties, like helping your CSRs weigh patients or acting as runners for curbside delivery. They can also help your technicians by holding pets for blood draws, radiographs, and nail trims.

Veterinary Hospital Staff Helping Animals

#4: Outsource your phone and triage service

Sending after-hours phone calls—or even overwhelming business-hours calls—to a company like GuardianVets can keep your clients happy and reduce your team’s workload. GuardianVets can answer client questions, schedule appointments, refer emergencies, and gather patient history for on-call veterinarians. They can also handle your follow-up or post-operative calls, freeing up a large chunk of your CSRs’ time, allowing them to be more efficient. Outsourcing some of your phone calls allows your in-clinic staff to focus on their numerous other tasks.

#5: Prioritize your schedule

When designing your appointment schedule, prioritize medical drop-off appointments. These patients can be dropped off during certain times throughout the day, allowing them to be worked into your daily flow.

Tip: Avoid drop-offs that occur too late in the day, because you’ll inevitably fall behind at some point and fail to work these patients in during your business hours. 

#6: Use telemedicine and teletriage to help with in-hospital efficiency

Telemedicine and teletriage services have been offered in human medicine for years, and veterinary medicine is finally following the trend and jumping on board with this efficient, convenient service. Knowing the type of case that’s being dropped off and having already discussed diagnostic testing with owners online can help the case’s flow. Since you already have an idea of how the case will progress by the time the pet arrives, your technicians can immediately and efficiently work up the case.

Veterinary Hospital App for Telemedicine

#7: Eliminate duplicate work

Prevent your team from performing the same tasks twice. For example, when short-staffed, it doesn’t make sense to have the technician go into the exam room to take a patient history, only to have the veterinarian follow up with additional history-taking. The technicians should take diagnostic samples (e.g., ear swabs, blood draws, radiographs) while the veterinarian converses with the client.

Tip: Don’t make reminder calls when text or email reminders have already been sent and confirmed.

#8: Have a morning huddle with your team

Before jumping into the day’s work, have a morning huddle with your team to ensure everyone knows their responsibilities for the day. If you’re short-staffed, positions may need to be added, swapped, or changed mid-shift, so go over everyone’s tasks beforehand.
Veterinary Hospital Staff Meeting
Although there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to the veterinary staffing shortage, there are so many ways you can increase efficiency and maximize your current team. One of the best ways is to rely on technology to take some of the workload off your staff. Sign up for a demo of the Vet2Pet platform to see just how many empty positions this all-in-one client engagement platform and practice app can fill.
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