5 Ways to Manage When Your Clinic is Short-Staffed

A fully staffed veterinary clinic can run like a well-oiled machine. But what happens when one or more of your employees can’t make it into work? Being down even just one technician, for example, can make an otherwise manageable schedule seem downright overwhelming. And being short-staffed affects more than just the stress-levels of your team. It can negatively impact the client experience as well. Thankfully, there are a few proactive measures you can take to successfully navigate the challenges of minimal staff without putting a damper on your client satisfaction numbers. 

Avoid Overbooking

The easiest way to manage a busy schedule while shorthanded is to plan ahead by not overbooking appointments. This can be tricky, because you certainly want to keep that calendar as full as possible, but if you overextend yourself, you could end up in hot water when a team member calls out sick. In general, you should always block off a segment of time specifically for last minute, urgent care needs. We recommend blocking a few 30-minute windows throughout the day. That way, if there aren’t any emergencies, you’ll have a little breathing room in the event that you are short staffed.

Optimize Your Schedule

The last thing you want to have happen is for your clients to spend an unnecessary amount of time waiting to be seen. Some people may be understanding, based on the circumstances, but others may find the experience distasteful. This can lead to negative reviews and possibly even client churn. To prevent this as much as possible, make sure the day’s schedule is organized in a way that prioritizes and optimizes appointments. If there are a few routine activities scheduled, such as nail trims or wellness checks, consider asking those clients if they’d be willing to reschedule. 

Leverage Your Team’s Strengths

One of the most important reasons for getting to know your staff on a personal level is that it provides insight into each individual’s strengths. Knowing this can help you optimize your daily schedule when a key team member is absent. For instance, through cross-training and regular one-on-ones, you may discover that one of your vet techs is particularly good with people. Having that person hop on the phones to cover for one of the front desk agents could help lessen the burden without sacrificing client experience. 

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Even on a good day with a full staff, manual tasks and repetitive workflows could be slowing down your team and making your practice inefficient. Thankfully, technological advancements in things like automation can help streamline these inefficiencies, improving productivity and supporting your team when staffing is an issue. Some of the tasks you could consider transitioning from human to machine include appointment reminders, prescription refill confirmations and anything else that could alleviate some of the burden from your team. 

Make it Worth Their While

Last, but not least, you should make a point to recognize and thank your team for the extra effort they put in when duty calls. Running a busy veterinary clinic on limited staff can be incredibly stressful, but appreciation from management can go a long way toward employee loyalty and engagement. When your team knows that they will be rewarded for stepping up to the plate and pulling some additional weight, they’ll be more likely to do so the next time someone calls in sick. That extra oomph can be enough to keep client satisfaction high, even when the team is limited. 

The next time your staff pulls together to cover for an absent colleague, do a little something extra to show your appreciation. Order in lunch or take the team out to dinner. Give each staffer a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop. It doesn’t have to be much, but a little extra acknowledgement can really make a big difference in your team’s performance.

Recently lose a team member permanently? Is your practice’s rapid growth putting a strain on your existing staff? That’s where we come in! Our Dream Team Builders can help you fill those open roles with someone who will make the perfect addition to your team’s dynamic. Get in touch today to get started!