Nearly three years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a screaming halt and left us all wondering about veterinary medicine’s future. Could we ever return to “normal” after such a life-changing event? The truth is, we haven’t, and we probably never will. But, I maintain that the many professional changes and the growth have been more positive than negative. Telemedicine is no longer considered impossibly problematic, mental health has been aggressively prioritized, and flexible schedules that cater to personal and family needs are more commonplace. 

So, if we achieved so much in the past three years, what will 2023 bring? Most veterinary practices have moved beyond pandemic survival mode, and are rebuilding. We’ve proven we can overcome nearly any challenge, so let’s use the following 2023 New Year’s resolutions and continue to innovate for our teams, our clients, and ourselves.

#1: Clear the clutter

Does your practice have an attic, basement, or stock room filled with old junk? Veterinary equipment is expensive, and practice owners and financial decision makers all seem compelled to keep every broken, malfunctioning, or outdated item and turn their practice into a scene from Hoarders. The same way you clean out a cabinet or closet at home, clearing out unneeded items and organizing what’s left, such as old X-rays or files, will give you and your team that squeaky clean, anxiety-relieving, refreshed feeling—and you will more easily keep the hospital clean when clutter is gone.

#2: Consider low-stress handling

Once upon a time, pet pain management was not a universal concept. Postoperative go-home pain meds were optional, and multi-modal drug therapies were considered overkill. Now, our profession knows the huge importance of pain control for healing, comfort, and quality of life, but embracing the change took a while. The newest movement in veterinary medicine is fear free and low-stress handling, and it’s time to jump on the train, if you haven’t already. Minimizing patients’ stress not only improves their care, but also provides your staff with a better work environment, and bonds grateful clients to your practice for life. Consider a free webinar or visit the fear-free booth at your next conference to check out all the hype.

#3: Update or create medical protocols

If your practice is AAHA-accredited, you’re already familiar with the painstaking process of creating protocols for every possible situation in day-to-day practice—and you probably haven’t updated those protocols since your original accreditation. You may not even know where they are. AAHA-accredited or not, your team can benefit from the guidance and consistency of frequently updated protocols. They are not necessary for every hospital situation, but standardizing only a few things can improve training and efficiency. Let your medical staff decide on the processes that cause the most confusion, and assign one person to each topic.

#4: Focus on hiring and retention

Chances are pretty high that your practice, like most others in the country, is currently understaffed. Already ridiculous burnout rates soared during the pandemic and many staff members moved to other hospitals or left the profession entirely. You can’t single-handedly solve the veterinary staffing crisis, but you can improve your current staff retention and attract the right people to grow your practice. Consider the following ideas:

  • Hire a recruiter or management consultant
  • Increase pay or expand benefit offerings
  • Offer more schedule flexibility
  • Consider work-from-home projects or opportunities for staff—with cloud-based software, yes, this is possible!
  • Invest in staff education and training

#5: Build your digital brand

Are you still using paper postcard reminders and calling clients to confirm appointments? A few clients probably appreciate these, but they are incredibly time-consuming and outdated communication methods. Your staff can easily reach most of your current and potential clientele via email, text, your website, or social media channels, and younger generations already expect this. If you aren’t especially tech-savvy, you can surely elevate a staff member to champion these tasks and improve your digital presence, or you could hire an outside service to streamline your current processes.

#6: Implement a monthly blog

If you want to draw more traffic to your newly updated, aesthetically pleasing website, consider adding regular blog posts to improve your search engine optimization and provide clients with easily accessible educational content. You can choose topics important to your practice and staff, such as dental care, preventive screenings, or common medical conditions, or post blogs with practice updates or fun employee profiles. Over time, you’ll build up a topic library that can serve as digital or printed handouts for clients.

As a profession, we’ve been slogging through and trying to stay afloat for too long. Use these resolutions to re-prioritize, and start working toward a better clinic culture and client experience. If you’re short on time or energy, Rumpus Writing and Editing can help you update your website, create marketing materials, or post a monthly blog. Visit our website to learn more about our staff and services that will move your practice forward in 2023.