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Issue: 64 - Apr 15, 2014
DVMs and Downtime Suggestions for Practice Growth in Slower Times
By: Marsha L. Heinke, CPA
Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc

Every practice experiences ebbs and flows in client activity. While associate veterinarians may not be able to directly drive revenue during these times, more can be done to make the most of slower days or weeks. Utilize slower times to prepare your practice for the busiest times. Downtime is the optimal time to secure client bonds and to update or enhance policy and procedures, as well as refresh staff training on policy and procedures.

The following list of suggestions aids your mentoring program for associate veterinarians, particularly younger DVMs who may not know how to prioritize downtime activities, to enhance long term practice value.

  • Optimize time on VIN: learning, reading, and researching.

    • Be self-aware. Know your opportunities for learning, and utilize this time to narrow knowledge gaps.

    • Review textbooks on site, with a focus on recent cases and broadening expertise.

    • During busier times, keep a running list of topics that you would like to research when the practice experiences a slower period.

  • Anticipate your cases, and prepare for appointments at least 24 hours in advance.

    • Research medical cases based on appointment list of presenting issues, reviewing patient history/problem list to date, and considering potential differential diagnoses, as well as related drugs and dosages.

    • Use this technique for scheduled surgical procedures as well.

      • Determine your approach.

      • Anticipate potential problems.

      • Plan for instrumentation, suture material, and special surgical needs.

      • Talk with surgical techs to plan the procedure and gain insight from their experiences.

      • Plan pain management pharmacology from premedication through patient discharge to the client.

      • Determine pharmacological agents to use.

  • Review your cases and respective medical records from the prior week for:

    • Completeness.

    • Omissions.

    • Consideration of alternative approaches.

    • Questions you have for the practice owner or your mentor.

    • Opportunities for follow-up communication with clients.

    • Adequate record narrative using “SOAP” or other framework prescribed by practice policy.

  • Review your mentor’s or practice owner’s cases for the week.

    • Familiarize yourself with how he or she works up cases.

    • Reflect on the similarities and differences in the way you practice medicine.

    • Follow-up with your mentor or practice owner if any differences necessitate discussion and clarification.

    • Develop your coaching skills to make recommendations for alternative diagnostic and treatment solutions that your peers might not have considered.

  • Evaluate the patients that are hospitalized and/or boarded.

    • Identify and suggest additional care the practice may provide.

    • Improve forms for reporting observations and recommendations to clients.

  • Engage clients at every contact point.

    • Discuss how their pets are doing.

    • Ask if any concerns or changes have come to their attention.

    • Solidify their bond to the practice through exceptional client service.

    • Ensure all questions are answered and that any points of possible confusion are addressed.

    • Share your practice email address and business card, to encourage client communication with you in event of concerns and additional questions.

  • Create additional points of client contact and education.

    • Update social media.

    • Write articles for your practice newsletter or blogs for the website.

    • Create PowerPoint presentations to use for client education.

    • Identify community opportunities for outreach such as through public libraries and schools.

  • Review the practice care guidelines.

    • Identify differences from your previous learning, and bring them to the practice manager or owner’s attention.

    • If no guidelines are in place, work to create them to help develop a common voice for the practice team.

  • Volunteer for community events or with animal-related groups.

    • Promote the practice.

    • Spread the practice name and your reputation in the community.

  • Assess staff performance.

    • Provide real-time feedback on good performance and areas for suggested improvement.

    • Determine the best way to control staff hours during downtime, utilizing old copies of employee schedules as a guide.

  • Develop concise staff training on common preventive care issues that will benefit the practice long-term.

    • For example: what should your staff know about parasites to answer client questions?

    • Cross-train your team in areas of expertise outside of their typical responsibilities.

When not working directly with clients, these or similar activities can result in improved practice profitability. Remember: the goal is to better position the practice for busier times. Downtime is the time to prepare, evaluate, and plan for future success.

At all times, challenge your associates to improve their own knowledge base and that of the staff. Increased knowledge will prove valuable to the practice, and will solidify client bonds to the practice and its expert team.


Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc.

934 Main Street

Grafton, Ohio  44044

Phone:  (440) 926-3800

Fax:  (440) 926-3801