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Working in a Veterinary Clinic: How to Schedule

Updated on November 16, 2015

Scheduling in a veterinary clinic is all about strategy, your client's psychology, and the health of the patients. Keeping these three topics in mind as you create appointments is highly important to create a functional schedule.

Routine vs. Emergency: Day-of Appointments

Many times, when a client calls in hoping to get an appointment that day, there's no room on the schedule. When there is, though, you want to make sure to prioritize.

If it is an emergency (i.e. dog with labored breathing), get them into the next available time slot. If you don't have the ability to see them that day, then refer them to the nearest emergency clinic.

If it is routine (i.e. vaccinations), do NOT schedule them for a day-of appointment; schedule them for the next day or even the next week. The reasoning behind this has to do with (1) the possibility that an emergency case will call and need you more and (2) the psychology of your client. If you give a routine appointment to a client on the day that they call, they will believe they can get appointments the day that they call any day. That's not the kind of client you want to have. These kinds of clients tend to by more particular about the scheduling, rather than letting you run the schedule.

If it is an appointment for a pet that isn't quite an emergency or routine, but you want to get them in that day, then make the client feel special about being able to get an appointment the day they called. For example, tell them there "luckily" was a cancellation and you can squeeze them in, even though the time slot was perfectly open. This lets the client know that getting a day-of appointment is a rarity, and they shouldn't expect it in the future.

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Spacing Out Appointments

It's also a good idea to space out your appointments and the types of appointments so that things don't get backed up. For example, if a clinic's default is a thirty minute appointment:

Wrong.
9:00am Vaccines
9:30am Bloody diarrhea
10:00am Coughing
10:30am Vaccines
11:00am Vaccines

Right.
9:00am Vaccines
9:30am Vaccines
10:00 Bloody diarrhea
10:30 N/A
11:00am Vaccines
11:30am Coughing

By leaving empty appointment times strategically throughout the day, you leave opportunity to play catch up should the veterinarian fall behind. Doing this also makes it easier to see emergency appointments that will most likely call that day. By coupling routine appointments with sick appointments, making sure to put the routine appointments first, you're able to utilize many time slots without having a bunch of sick pets in a row, which could cause the vet to fall behind.

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Saving Time for Lunch

If your clinic has a schedule time where they don't take appointments, and employees can get lunch, then you want to save that time as much as possible. Do so by not scheduling an appointment directly before or after the "break" time.

By doing so, if the veterinarian falls behind in appointments and runs through some of lunch, you still leave yourself available time to eat and catch up on other tasks.

Having a bunch of hungry, crabby vet techs running the clinic is not going to make for a pleasant day. Do yourself a favor, and take care of yourself and your coworkers.

Remember: you run the schedule, not the client.

Clocking Out on Time

Finally, no one wants to stay at work after the clinic is supposed to be closed, so make sure you get to leave the clinic on time or shortly thereafter. This can be accomplished by not scheduling appointments right before closing. If you have to do any closing "chores" (i.e. mopping, shutting down machines), try not to schedule appointments for the last hour that you're at work. Otherwise, try to save the last 30 or so minutes before the clinic closes. This saves room for closing "chores", catching up on tasks, and any last-minute clients that walk in.

Scheduling is all about strategy, and doing so carefully can make work a much more pleasant place to be. Always remember: you run the schedule, not the client. The client can't ever see the schedule, so they don't know how busy you are or what appointment time slots are really open. Don't let the client run your clinic.

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