It's hard to initiate task-sharing. But once you do, you'll never go back. Here's how to get started.
1. Evaluate your employees. You'll never let team members take over tasks unless you're confident in their abilities. To learn what they're capable of,
review your training programs and make a checklist of the skills they've mastered.
2. Evaluate yourself. Even though the gods of medicine tremble at your healing powers, you're not perfect. Recognize that many people around you
are more skilled at client education, blood drawing, bookkeeping, and a host of other common chores.
3. Praise staff for trying. Foster an atmosphere that's accepting of team members' stumbles as they learn—never criticize for failing to succeed, only
failing to try. Here's a way to do this: Carry poker chips in your pocket and give one to staff members who step in and complete
nondoctor tasks when they see you performing them. At month's end, the person with the most chips wins a prize.
4. Write standing orders. List the procedures team members can automatically complete in certain situations, such as fecal exams on pets with diarrhea.
Standing orders encourage independence and improve efficiency. Post them on the wall, so you'll be forced to abide by them.
5. Write protocols. Do this for all clinic situations: outpatient visits, surgery, annual exams, and so on. Include who should be where and
who's responsible for which tasks—your only tasks should be to diagnose, prescribe, chart, and perform surgery. If the jobs
don't flow smoothly, discuss it at a team meeting rather than taking over and doing things yourself.
6. Set deadlines. First, set sacred lunch and leaving times. You'll naturally delegate work to meet them. Add deadlines as you fine-tune the
timing for other tasks. The goal is that your friend or spouse could call at any time of day and you'll be able to say when
you're leaving—and then do so.
Dr. Craig Woloshyn is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting.