Veterinary medicine is increasingly taking a team approach to patient care, recognizing that a group of specialized team members (veterinarians, veterinary techs, administrative staff, assistants) with specific knowledge, skills, and competencies can work. However, a team-based approach forces veterinarians to delegate tasks to their team. This can be scary or overwhelming for first-timers, but delegating will help you better balance your life.
Here are four tips to help you master delegation.
Learn to Let Go
Veterinarians are often perfectionists and believe that if they want the job done right, they need to do it. Therefore, it can be difficult to let go or ask for help. Most states require veterinarians to diagnose, prescribe and perform surgery. However, veterinary technicians can perform most other clinical tasks. Learn to take a deep breath and let go. If the idea of delegating bothers you, start with something small and slowly move on to bigger, more time-consuming responsibilities. Wait until the final product to judge the delegation process.
If you’re wondering which tasks you should delegate, audit your day-to-day tasks for one week. Write down how much time each of your daily tasks takes, and single out the tasks that are taking too much of your time (e.g. patient reminders, customer complaints, etc.). Ask yourself some questions: Can you hand those tasks over to your administrative staff or an assistant? Is it in the animal/client’s best interest? There are also tasks in your day that require special knowledge or skills; is there anything you can hand over? If you are questioning whether to delegate, remember that your time is valuable and that delegating can help you balance your life.
Give Clear Instructions
One of the best ways to successfully delegate is to be as clear as possible about what you want to have done. How much direction you provide will depend on who you are handing a task. For example, if you were dropping your child off at a daycare center, you would probably give them any dietary restrictions and your child’s favorite belongings. However, if you were leaving your child with a teenaged babysitter, you would probably leave detailed instructions on when to feed him or her, a list of phone numbers, and other information. The same applies to how you delegate in your hospital. You can decide what kind of instructions you provide, but in any case, you need to be incredibly clear about your expectations.
Empower Your Employees
Delegation means giving your team members an opportunity to develop their own skills and abilities. By doing so, you’re creating independent employees, which will bring more value to your practice. It’s important to make sure that you aren’t dumping assignments on people. Empower your staff and teach them. Don’t give them the work off your plate that needs fixing or is doomed to fail. Let them succeed. This can promote a more invested staff, and in turn, a happier staff.
Delegation may not come naturally for you, but if you want a healthy and successful practice, mastering it is important. Simply invest your time in teaching, giving feedback and providing clear instructions to the employees you want to take on new tasks.
Laura W. Anderson is the founder and president of Veterinary Career Services.
After significant research in the veterinary job market, Laura saw the need for recruitment services specializing in the veterinary industry and founded VCS in January 1998, with the primary goal of assisting veterinary practice owners in their hiring needs.
Laura holds a Masters of Business Administration from Boston College and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have! I look forward to hearing from you.