I’m often asked… how did you get to be so efficient?

Well, it was baptism by fire during my internship at Angell. When you have 18 in-house patients to SOAP before 7 am cage rounds, you learn to be efficient.

Some of the emergency veterinarians I work with hate me (in a loving way) because I always get out on time… for the most part. They are stuck behind doing paperwork for hours and hours, and wondering how- the-heck-does-she-get-out-on-time?

Well, let me fill you in on a few secrets of making you a more efficient, effective veterinarian.

Why is this important? Because the more efficient you are, the better work-life balance you have, the better patient care you have, the happier you make your techs. It’s a win-win-win.

Rule #1: Do doctor things
I love the technicians that I work with. A) They are super tolerant of me. B) They make my life way easier. Since I’m only on clinics two days a week, I love to brush up on my technical skills and do crazy things like:

  • Clean ears
  • Hit a vein
  • Place catheters
  • Clean up after myself

After all, I want to keep up on my skills. So the technicians I work with are super tolerant and let me do some of this. That said, sometimes my technicians will push me away and say “Go do doctor things. For real.” I’m appreciative of this because it’s all about appropriate delegation. We criticalists and veterinarians are control freaks (Hey, we can admit it), and like to do things ourselves. Well, news flash folks – you can’t do it all! You have to trust your team to do it so you really can go do doctor things. Like doing doctor things, focusing on finishing your medical records (versus just chatting with people), being an efficient typer (or splurging on Dragon® veterinary dictation to dictate your medical records), taking short cuts (like using more AAHA abbreviations in your medical records), triaging your patients more efficiently, and being more efficient with your time (e.g., don’t stand around!). And updating treatment sheets. And creating estimates and invoices. And dealing with the “I ain’t got no money” screaming pet owner in the front lobby. So stop messing around and go do doctor things. Live by this.

Rule #2: Stop chatting so much
I’m all for socialization, but sometimes I have to boot the overnight doctor out and tell them to stop talking. Go do medical records, man! Go home! Stop socializing! While I mean this in a loving way, you can’t get your SOAP’s typed up, your treatment sheets written, and all your doctor things done while you’re socializing about. This is especially important in the first 90 minutes of your shift. Go in, round efficiently, soap all your animals, type of everything for your in-hospital patients ASAP, and be efficient. When I’m super swamped, I’ll do this in the quiet doctor’s office or plug my iPhone in and blast classical music as I’m typing to drown out the overnight emergency doctor chatting. Once you’re able to tackle this important 90-minute “who-the-heck-is-in-my-hospital-must-SOAP-everyone-and-assess-everything,” you’ll be more mentally prepared for more emergencies to walk through the door. Once you’re done all this (I call it “tucking everyone away”), then you can shoot the poop.

Rule #3: Type as you go
I see a lot of veterinarians whipping through cases and keeping the waiting room empty. However, they fail to type ANY notes at all into the electronic medical record. I don’t know about you, but I can’t keep 5 histories and 5 physical examinations straight in my head without forgetting some important details. To try to recall this from memory 2-3 hours later when things “settle down” doesn’t work. Type as you go. (And learn how to type fast and use AAHA or veterinary-approved abbreviations in your SOAPs). I type in my history, physical examination (PE) findings, and client communication (CC) as a I see each case. (Granted, I’m a super fast typer). If I need to get the pet owner out of the door right away, I’ll type up the discharge first, but before I see the next case, I finish entering at least my basic history, PE, and CC (Like the way I’m testing your abbreviation skills?).


Rule #4: Triage and examine the patient immediately upon presentation
I’ll admit, I’ve got some weird rules. I want the front desk staff to bring every patient back to be triaged immediately in the ER. Why? Because I want to do my full PE in the back, while the pet owner is still registering and the front desk staff are still filling out paperwork. I can do my whole PE, create my treatment sheet, and figure out my mental plan as they are compiling a medical record. That way, I’m ready to rock and roll with the medical record as soon as I get it.

Rule #5: Don’t stand around
Waiting for the front desk staff to finish creating a medical plan or record? Waiting for your technician to knock down your blocked cat? Don’t just stand there – do stuff! (Granted, Justine Lee is rarely still…). Even if you have 5 minutes while you’re waiting around, take the time to:

  • Chug your Nalgene to stay hydrated
  • Finally pee
  • Down a granola bar
  • Let your dog outside to pee
  • Reassess your critically ill patient
  • Fill out a treatment sheet for your current waiting-to-be-seen patient (Warning: This usually jinxes it and makes the owner euthanize or not admit the case).
  • Start your discharge for your blocked cat
  • Document a client communication
  • Check your mailbox or to-do list
  • Triage your email

Hopefully, this short-list of 5 rules will help make you more efficient as a veterinary professional… whether you’re a veterinarian, intern, resident, veterinary student, or veterinary technician. Remember, the more efficient you are, the better you care for all around you.

With that, I have to go pee, post on social media, write up orders, and do CPR simultaneously.

What hints do you have? Weigh in and give us more ideas!

Signature JLEE






  1. #3— This. I’ve actually perfected the art of staring at people in the face / watching their animal / holding a full conversation AND simultaneously recording ALL of it on the exam room laptop that’s facing the opposite direction. At least once every other shift someone will stop in the middle of their story-telling because they just realized I’ve been typing the whole time.

    I often take a few minutes before finalizing my records later in the shift to clean up the narratives and spell-check the records.

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  4. Very good information dear VETGIRLONTHERUN.

    Thank you so much for all your information.

    I really appreciate your work.

    Once again thank you so much.

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