Time Management & Vet Techs

Published on May 18, 2020 by Kyle Shelstad

Vet Techs helping a dog

Veterinarians depend on their vet techs to handle a lot of the responsibilities in a veterinary practice. Vet techs are essential members of a practice and must be detail-oriented, have empathy for pets and their owners, have excellent communication skills, and most importantly manage time effectively.

What Is Time Management?

Time management is an essential process of planning and using time most effectively. To manage time most effectively, as a vet tech, you must utilize a wide range of skills, techniques, and abilities to complete specific tasks within a set period. Productive use of time is essential in any medical practice, including veterinary hospitals, emergency clinics, and any environment which employs vet techs.

What Are the Elements of Time Management?

There are a few elements of time management that any vet tech must master, they include organization, showing up on time, keeping patients from waiting, and creating a good work/life balance.

Organization

Organization is essential for any work environment. The best way to make the most of your time at work is to organize tasks according to what must be done first through prioritization. An excellent way to organize daily duties is to batch them together. For example, going over invoices and patient statements could be done within the same time frame.

Responding to messages or phone calls should be done as soon as possible after they’re received. As a vet tech, you could also use that time to call or email clients to remind them of upcoming appointments. If similar duties are grouped together, more work can be accomplished in a smaller amount of time.

A routine makes life more comfortable at a veterinary practice. A regular weekly and monthly routine is an effective way to accomplish tasks more efficiently. Talking to pet suppliers to keep stock from getting low could be done at the beginning of the week. Ordering medications and medical supplies could be done the next day. Monthly tasks could include reconciling financial statements, organizing a marketing plan for the practice, and handling social media posts.

Showing Up on Time

A career as a vet tech is rewarding for anyone who loves animals and enjoys being around people, plus the work is challenging. A veterinary practice depends on everyone to work together as a team, and that means everyone should be on time for work. Unexpected things happen, and people are occasionally late for work. However, when you are consistently late, it has adverse effects on the practice.

When you are late for work, it keeps owners and their pets waiting to have an initial evaluation and emergency first aid, if necessary. A team member who consistently runs late gives pet owners the impression that the staff doesn’t care about their pets. Some pet owners might feel that the practice isn’t dependable or professional.

Consult with staff who may have a difficult time getting to work because they have children and might be able to work a more flexible schedule. Further suggestions include checking for road closures or leaving earlier for work when the weather is inclement. Vet techs and everyone on the staff should be told to call if they know they’re going to be late.

Keeping Patients from Waiting

When a pet owner arrives for an appointment with their pet, the first person they interact with is one of the vet techs. As a vet tech, you are essential to a thriving veterinary team and the pet owner. You are the liaison between pet owners and veterinarians.

Time management involves diplomacy on the part of the vet tech. When a pet owner calls and must be squeezed in between regular appointments, everyone on the team must work together to ensure that no pet owner has a long wait time. You can get pet owners into an examining room and take the relevant information while they’re waiting for the veterinarian and take over duties for a co-worker that may be assisting another pet owner.

You can reassure the pet owner that they’ll see the veterinarian as soon as possible. If the animal has an injury, you can assess the pet and administer emergency first aid. An asset that helps the pet owner is a veterinary technician that is calm during stressful situations.

Work/Life Balance

Work/life balance means establishing a healthy balance between your life at work and your personal life. A career as a vet tech is rewarding for an animal lover, but it can be stressful, and you never know what to expect from one day to the next. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers some helpful suggestions to establish a healthy balance between your career and family life.

  1. As difficult as it is, try not to take work home with you. When you’ve cared for a critical patient, it’s hard not to think or talk about it at home. Getting stressed over a situation you can’t control doesn’t help you or your patients.

  2. Although unexpected situations arise in any veterinary practice, try to keep work on schedule as often as possible. Some veterinarians establish a rotating schedule, so everyone doesn’t have to work late each day.

  3. Take lunch breaks. Everyone experiences the mid-afternoon slump on occasion, and that’s no exception for vet techs. You need time to wind down and relax before caring for the pets that are scheduled for afternoon appointments. If you’re fresh from your break, you’ll be more efficient. Try to have lunch outside or in a nearby park, if possible.

  4. Manage your free time away from work efficiently. Spend time with family and friends as much as possible when you’re not working. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media and plan fun activities. Set aside a block of time for errands and do them on one day. When you aren’t at work, practice self-care. Take time for your favorite activities and get outside to enjoy your day off.

How Can A Vet Tech Manage Time?

A vet tech can manage their time while assisting patients, working with colleagues, working with veterinarians, and assisting incoming calls.

Assisting Patients

When a pet owner has a question about their cat or dog, whether it’s related to nutrition or a health issue, you are there to assist. A pet owner never has to save all their questions for the veterinarian. You have the expertise to handle a lot of the same issues that the vet can.

You are usually the person that handles a discharge after the vet has seen the pet. This is another example of time management. You can handle discharges so the veterinarian can attend other clients. After a surgical procedure, dental cleaning, treatment for an injury, or a wellness exam, you will explain how to care for the pet at home.

When a cat or dog has undergone surgery, you will explain how the pet owner will care for their pet once they go home. You will discuss what unusual signs to watch for, when to call the clinic, and how to administer prescribed medications. If there are special feeding instructions, you will explain to the pet owner how and when to feed their pet.

When a dog or cat must be left at the animal hospital for a procedure, you usually have the responsibility of feeding the pet and taking them outside to relieve themselves. As a vet tech, you take x-rays, administer lab tests, and change catheters. In some practices, you may administer vaccines and handle other medical procedures. You are the person who can discuss how a pet acted during its stay at the hospital.

Working with Colleagues

Veterinary technicians are a valuable asset to the veterinary community. The occupation has evolved since its inception. You have more responsibility for caring for your patients. As a vet tech, you have nursing skills and can interpret vital signs when evaluating a pet’s condition. Collaboration with co-workers is essential in a successful veterinary practice.

As a vet tech, you must make decisions that affect the lives of pets. Co-workers should offer suggestions when they’re warranted to provide the best care. Education for you is the key. It’s not enough to do something because a vet tells you to. You should always understand why a specific procedure or medication is prescribed. Information should be shared with co-workers when it’s called for, so everyone is on the same page with treatment options.

Working with Veterinarians

As a vet tech, your role is to provide professional nursing care for pets while working under the supervision of a veterinarian. Your duties are regulated by local, state, and federal laws. While some vet techs are forbidden by law to perform surgery or diagnose medical issues, these vet techs will only handle nursing and other therapeutic functions.

One of the critical qualities you can have is excellent communication skills. When working side by side with a veterinarian, you must comprehend the instructions of the attending veterinarian and carry out instructions quickly and efficiently.

When you don’t understand instructions, you’re responsible for asking questions, so everything is clear, and no mistakes are made in caring for a pet. Veterinary technology is a constant learning process. You can be more effective in your work by asking questions. Learning about new medical techniques and treatment options helps you to be more productive and better qualified to work as a vet tech.

Assisting Callers

Part of the job of being a vet tech is answering questions from pet owners who expect accurate answers. Understanding how to talk to callers makes all the difference between a stressful situation and one that goes smoothly. Here are some tips for talking to pet owners over the phone.

  1. Most new pet owners choose a veterinary practice based on how the staff treats them. If they feel that you are concerned about their pet, they’ll think that everyone else in the practice shares their concern.

  2. The first step is to take a deep breath and smile. It may sound strange, but your attitude comes across over the phone. Answer with the name of the practice, your name, and ask how you can help the pet owner.

  3. Get the owner’s name, the pet’s name, age, and breed. Make sure you understand the information that the pet owner is conveying about their pet.

  4. Use the owner’s name at least a couple of times during the conversation. Use the pet’s name and appropriate gender. The age and breed of the owner’s pet help you to connect with them and understand the owner’s state of mind.

  5. Schedule the appointment. When the owner arrives, you should know who they are and why the appointment is scheduled. Greeting the owner and their pet makes a great first impression and reassures them. Commenting on the reason for their appointment is further reassurance to the pet owner that their pet is in good hands.

Final Thoughts

Time on the job is limited, and that applies to everyone in a veterinary practice. When you learn to manage your time efficiently, you can make better decisions. You’ll be more relaxed and in control of any situation. When you take control of the situation at work, co-workers will look to you as a leader.

Did learning about time management as a vet tech interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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