You see another PTO request sitting on your desk and you are filled with dread. Your veterinary practice is already operating with a bare-bones staff as you struggle to hire qualified candidates, and you certainly do not have extras to cover a colleague’s time off—much-needed time off, you admit. So, how can you manage your team’s time off without closing down your practice?
Here are five ways to successfully manage your team’s time off and minimize your stress.
#1: Plan PTO days well in advance
The best way to avoid stress over PTO days is a no-brainer—request that staff schedule time off well in advance to ensure you find coverage. Although last-minute plans can pop up, when your team plans ahead for vacations or other time off during the upcoming quarter, you can also plan ahead for staffing arrangements. Cross-training your team as much as possible also helps with coverage, and you will not be left in the lurch when several of your CSRs schedule vacations for the same time.
#2: Rearrange your practice’s schedule
Although switching around your practice’s hours is less than ideal, that may be the only way to have enough staff to provide patient and client care. Consider closing early before major holidays, and remaining closed for an additional day following the holiday. Rotate holiday coverage, so each team member covers only one lead-in or post-holiday shift and the same person does not work every holiday.
For non-holiday scheduling issues that you cannot adequately cover, adjust your practice’s business hours and appointment schedule. If you’re short a veterinarian, schedule a block of time for technician appointments (e.g., nail trims, anal gland expressions, ear cytology rechecks, therapeutic drug monitoring). Or, if you don’t have adequate support staff and have to reschedule some surgeries or appointments, your DVMs can use that time to catch up on medical records, client callbacks, and other miscellaneous tasks that they often have to do after hours.
Post updated hours on social media pages, website pop-ups, your phone’s voicemail message, and throughout your hospital to ensure clients are well aware of the change. Also, let them know of any time changes for requesting prescription refills, picking up vaccination records, or scheduling appointments.
#3: Create remote staffing positions
You may not have enough team members to allow one to work remotely, so hire someone outside your practice. A remote employee who has veterinary experience—especially if they’re a credentialed veterinary technician—can handle a ton of tasks without stepping foot in your practice. Remote employees can be truly valuable by shouldering many of your in-clinic employees’ mundane, yet time-consuming, tasks, such as scheduling appointments, verifying refills, making callbacks, and emailing vaccination records.
Remote employees who work on a regular basis can not only alleviate your in-clinic team’s workload, but also cover vacation times. You can increase the regular remote employee’s hours or hire another, temporary worker. Remote employees are often flexible with their scheduling, and you can search from a much larger pool, because they can work outside your time zone.
#4: Outsource, outsource, outsource
Outsource every possible practice task, which will not only reduce your in-clinic team’s overwhelming workload, but also make fully covering an absent employee much easier. Consider a remote phone service to handle the bulk of your phone calls, hire a triage service to appropriately route and schedule clients, or recommend a telemedicine service that can provide clients with virtual care.
#5: Bring in relief support
One of the best ways to manage your team’s time off is by filling empty spots with experienced, skilled veterinary professionals. Many veterinarians and technicians operate solely on a relief basis, and they gain wide knowledge and skills from their variety of work and workplaces that make them an incredible asset. Whether you need to cover a team member’s vacation or parental leave, or need ongoing support until you can hire a full-time employee, bringing relief professionals on board can be a win-win.
Your skeleton crew may make granting vacation and PTO requests almost impossible, but denying your team members time off may leave you with no team at all. Instead, rely on our Veterinary System Services team to help flesh out your team and give team members—and perhaps yourself—a break. Call us to discuss our relief and professional services.