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Sunday hours: Worth it or the wrong fit?
When this veterinary practice owner decides to extend his clinics hours to include Sundays, its met with doubt and concern.
Adams Animal Center was growing by leaps and bounds. The practice's owner, Howard Adams, DVM, fondly remembered the days of medical challenges and fraternizing with his clients. Those days were now gone. The practice had grown to a staff of five veterinarians, 20 technicians and five receptionists.
Now, Dr. Adams was not only challenged by medical mysteries-human resource issues and the drive to maintain practice growth were also added to his very full plate. For the time being, human resource management was being handled by his very capable administrative assistants. However, the philosophy and responsibility of practice growth was his and his alone.
Dr. Adams felt that growth was closely tied to a philosophy of uncompromising excellence and reasonable risk-taking. The opportunity arose for Dr. Adams to hire a highly skilled, experienced, charismatic veterinarian. In all honesty, the staff he had in place was meeting the clinic needs at the moment. Dr. Adams thought to himself, “Do I turn down an expensive superstar because I'm well staffed at the moment? Or do I jump at the chance to bring more excellence into the practice?”
After some thought, he decided to hire the new veterinarian and make the necessary adjustments for the practice to continue growing and thriving.
In preparation for his new associate coming on board, Dr. Adams announced the addition of the new doctor to his clients via social media. He added an additional veterinarian to several of the busiest clinic shifts. And finally, he decided to implement the dreaded “S” word.
As you may have guessed, that word is Sunday. Other than 24-hour emergency care veterinary facilities, there are few practices that offer routine Sunday patient appointments.
Dr. Adams weighed the pros and cons of Sunday clinic hours before making his decision. The cons came to him quickly. There would be staff resistance. Sunday, to many, is a day of religious significance. It breaks a long-standing precedent within the profession, and the clinic would not have any downtime for maintenance and weekly “recouping.”
On the other side of the ledger, Dr. Adams felt it would provide a desirable client window for pet owners to see the veterinarian on a non-workday. Clinic revenue would increase and non-clients would be offered an option not available from their own veterinarians. At the end of the day, it would maximize clinic efficiency.
Dr. Adams felt that Sunday hours would work if they were presented to the team in a fair and reasonable manner: Team members would only have to work one Sunday per month. Additional staff, such as his highly qualified new hire, would enhance the medical excellence of the clinic. After all, the large specialty and emergency facilities have functioned successfully on this type of schedule for years. Finally, this step is a sign of growth, offers more readily available patient care and a bright future.
With all that in mind, Dr. Adams took a deep breath and did it. Adam's Animal Center would now see routine care patients seven days a week.
Was this a wise move? Will it succeed or fail? What are your thoughts? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Rosenberg's Response
In many states, certain businesses (such as car dealers) are prohibited from being open on Sundays. Respect for “the day of rest” has been a revered business tradition for a very long time. However, the 21st century has brought a change in our community dynamics. In order to make ends meet, most household adults have busy workweeks and less discretionary time for both leisure and chores. Changing demographics and diversity have added other revered dates and days besides Sunday.
I have always maintained that veterinary practice is a true mixture of competitive small business and medicine. If the profession is to continue to thrive, it must cater to both business and medical innovations. A well-thought-out Sunday opening schedule is certainly not inappropriate.
On the other hand, those who continue to respect Sunday for any number of reasons should be comfortable with their decision to remain closed without judging those practices that are conducting non-emergency care on Sundays. As Bob Dylan proudly sings, “The times, they are A- changin'.”
Dr. Marc Rosenberg is director of the Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. In his private time, he enjoys playing basketball and swing dancing with his wife. Although many of the scenarios Dr. Rosenberg describes are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors and employees described are fictional.