With the holiday season almost upon us, we’re all looking forward to a time of rest and regeneration. We want to enter 2023 ready to run; full of new plans and ideas, renewed vigour to do better, and sufficient stores of patience and goodwill to see us through the year. Planning ahead for a good holiday season will ensure that we get the rest we need.
Unlike many other professionals, we cannot completely let go over Christmas. How we handle this period can have a huge impact on how we enter the new year – so let’s learn from others and ensure the best possible service we can for our patients while slowing the pace, if possible, and getting the rest we need.
Holiday Season Options
- Stay open throughout the season with shorter hours, perhaps working half days.
- Shorten your week from a 6-day week to a 5-day week – or from 5 to 4 days.
- Take a day or two off around the public holidays or weekends, so that you get a mini-break.
- Work longer hours on the days leading up to the holiday and on the days immediately after it, so that you can fit in all your patients before you take a period of complete leave.
How do others do it?
We asked our Onlinepethealth members how they handle Christmas. This is what they had to say:
“As a vet running a veterinary clinic, I am very conscious of our RCVS regulations. Essentially that means that we have to offer 24-hr cover or make provision for it. In reality, I would not have to attend the clinic unless something completely out of the ordinary happened. In years past, however, when I used to do horse work, I have had clients turn up at my house on Christmas day. I feel that we have a duty of care to our patients and can’t abandon them just because it’s holiday season. Their problems don’t go away. For us, we shut mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve and are back at work on the 27th, so we love the years when the holiday is tacked onto a weekend. We often find that we are very busy between Christmas and New Year, as many of our clients are on holiday and it suits them to bring patients in. Also, I find that people who live a long distance away will book an initial consult during that time and take a short holiday either side of their visit. We decorate the clinic and have cake, mince pies and a general good time.” Lowri Davies
“I usually take a day or two off before or after the national holiday. We are so busy that if I take additional time off, I end up being crazier! I do most of my shopping online, so the couple extra days off are purely for family enjoyment!” Leilani Alvarez
“I usually take the week of Christmas off – it’s my favourite holiday and it’s important to be surrounded by my loved ones. But, I don’t want to leave my patients for too long – so will work the week of new year’s, taking off just new year’s day. Most clients are also spending time with family, so caseload is usually down a bit; but, many also have time off around the holidays, so they are able to bring their pet’s in.” Carrie Adrian
“We close from 21 Dec and re-open 9 Jan. I believe our job is emotionally taxing throughout the year with lots of quality of life and palliative care cases, which can be draining. I need my staff to be re-energised and ready for the new year, and believe that a good rest over Christmas and New Year’s Day with their families recharges their spirits and is good for morale. During this time away from our patients, we ensure they understand the importance of owner compliance and home exercises. We teach them to do the exercises specific to their pet’s condition and this makes them part of the rehabilitation plan – they understand the importance of participation. It also helps them create strong bonds with their own pets because it includes loving massaging, which is always good for the owner’s spirit” Lorren Barham
“I’m away visiting family December 15–26. I’m trying to squeeze everyone in before then.” Kim Barrett
“The holiday season is nearly upon us and as usual it’s chaos! I find that in the weeks leading up to Christmas, everyone wants an appointment for their pet, as now they are off work or are trying to resolve a longstanding issue that they haven’t gotten around to yet. I usually work at full tilt until about the 16th and then, as people start going away, things slow down and I can work mornings only. I then close from 25th December to the second week in January. I need a break by then and most people are away or spending time with friends and family, so it’s usually not profitable to be open for one or two patients. Have an amazing festive season and remember to take some time off for yourselves and your friends and family. You deserve a break too! Take care.” Emmylou Rivers
“We are closed for a week between Christmas and New Year.” Liz Pask
“I close from Christmas Eve to just after New Year’s Day. My children’s nursery closes so I have no option, really. Regulars are accommodated just before I finish and as soon as I get back, if it’s weekly, etc. Any new patients or emergencies that can’t wait, I’ll arrange childcare with family and see them.” Rebecca Quigley
”We’re always closed between December 24th and January 2nd. I try to save appointments for the last few days before and after the holidays for patients that ought to have frequent treatments and avoid maintenance patients the week before and after Christmas. If I have patients that need treatment during Christmas, I’ll work a few hours if I’m not away. If I’m away for Christmas I try to refer them to someone else. I think it’s really important to have a few days off, even though it’s difficult” Sunniva Morgan
Communication is Key
As usual, communication is everything (or almost everything). Communicate a clear Christmas-period plan to your patients, so that they feel confident they’ll be able to manage their pets while you’re away. Try to remain available to them by phone, so that if problems or emergencies occur, you’re there to reassure or assist. Keeping those channels of communication open really helps keep customer relations strong when so many people are away.
Most importantly, recharge yourself! This is a season of joy and celebration, of family and love. Enjoy a time of rest and take some time (if you can) to think a little more deeply and creatively about your practice. What might you change and improve in the year ahead? Holidays are often a good time to dig a little deeper and make the changes that may be way overdue.