Solo practitioners historically make up 35-40% of the AAEP membership, and 16% of them, according to the 2016 AVMA AAEP Economic Impact Survey, have no employees. Some veterinarians practice in rural areas, but many are working in regions of the U.S. that are major equine centers. They want to be in charge of their practices and their lives.
However, without other veterinarians in their practices, these individuals often experience isolation, professional loneliness and overwhelming administrative tasks. They are solely responsible for taking care of the emergency needs of their clients, and they often feel unable to take time away from their practices.
These five strategies for solo equine practitioners can help ease their burdens.
Tip #1: Hire part-time or full-time help as soon as you can afford it. Having an assistant with you in your truck can double your efficiency. That second set of eyes can also ensure that your invoices do not have missing service or pharmaceutical items, a significant source of lost revenue. An experienced veterinary assistant can restrain horses, increasing your safety and reducing your injuries. In addition, he or she can unload and set up equipment and assist with acquiring diagnostic imaging, allowing you to spend time educating and communicating with your clients. Best of all, an assistant can help with some of the most onerous tasks of your day—driving, cleaning up, restocking and preparing laboratory submissions.
Tip #2: Discipline yourself to invoice and collect payment at the time of service. Your cash flow will improve and your capture of all the revenue for the work you do will improve remarkably. The longer a period of time that elapses between providing services and billing for them, the more inaccurate your invoice becomes.
Check your invoices at least twice yourself, and have your assistant check them. The most common missed charges are second doses (“top-off” doses) of sedation, bandages and dispensed items such as bandages or bute.
Tip #3: Schedule your calls so that they are geographically efficient. Consider having regular “Area Days” so that you train specific clients to expect you to come on Tuesdays, for instance. Then schedule accordingly. Your territory might be large, so scheduling efficiency will save on gas expenses and allow you to do more billable work in a shorter timeframe.
Tip #4: Utilize electronic medical records/practice management software. Many reasonably priced cloud-based systems now exist that can make this part of your day much more streamlined. Utilize templates for examinations and set up your codes with drop-down menus of other related services and pharmaceutical items as much as possible for easy of entry.
Tip #5: Join or organize an emergency service cooperative. Many like-minded practitioners have found this to be a valuable solution to being on call 24/7/365. The best groups meet regularly for coffee or a meal to increase collaboration and collegiality. This social contact greatly minimizes the isolation of solo practice and can improve mental health outcomes.
While solo practice can be stressful and tiring, it is also an excellent way to practice where you want, when you want and how you want. By practicing with these strategies in mind, you can improve your life as a “road warrior.”