As a student, you have probably asked yourself, “Will I be a successful doctor of chiropractic?” Many factors affect how you achieve success and one of those is time management. As a student, your day consists of school, nutrition, study time, maybe a part-time job, and perhaps a moment of social time.
When you start your practice, you can expect to replace school time with time at the office (and you will now be able to afford to eat more than pizza) and study time will be replaced with patient chart reviews and research. Your part-time job may be replaced with family obligations, community involvement, and work with your state and national organizations. And you thought you were stressed as a student!
As you can see, time management is very important and finding a balance is the key. Too much focus on one issue (such as your office) and a lack of focus on other issues (such as your family) allows an imbalance to occur. This time balance is not necessarily measured in minutes, but in the quality time you spend pursuing your different obligations. It is important to come up with a game plan to organize your time, and that starts with developing goals.
First, you must consider what you want to develop goals for. If you have goals for the office only (for example, to increase the number of patients you see a week) and you neglect goals for the rest of your activities (such as your family, hobbies, or social time), you will create an imbalance. You need to consider your priorities. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey writes, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
The average chiropractor’s day involves managing and evaluating patients, overseeing staff, and staying committed to your plan. Let’s look at each of these individually.
Managing & Evaluating Patients
Once you determine your office hours, you’ll know how many patients you can see in a day. For example, my practice is open eight hours per day; let’s say we have 20 patients scheduled in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. Mathematically, we will see five patients an hour or one patient every 12 minutes.
Now, add a new patient in the mix who needs a consultation, chiropractic examination, and radiographs. This may take an additional 30 minutes out of your day, reducing your patient time from 12 minutes to 10.5 minutes. Only 10.5 minutes (per established patient) for you to do analysis and provide a chiropractic adjustment or manipulative therapy. One small change, such as a new patient, can affect your entire day’s schedule. You have to be prepared and allot time for the “unexpected.”
Now, what is your staff doing? Yes, your staff is a vital part of your team. If you have not developed good time-management skills regarding patient scheduling, patient-communication skills, or screening phone calls, it will negatively influence your practice. You must also develop a plan for how you will delegate procedures, adapt to unforeseen walk-in patients, and deal with patients running late.
Perhaps, your answer is to train a competent staff member to assist in the application of therapies, scanning patients for the clinical need of custom-made spinal pelvic stabilizers, or taking radiographs.
A very important part of your time-management plan is being committed to it. Your staff must understand their role in successful time management, and most importantly, you – the doctor – must stay committed to your plan. If you deviate from your plan, you are inviting your staff to deviate from it as well.
Here are some excellent resources to assist you in time-management planning:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey;
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD;
The E Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber;
The One-Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard, PhD;
The Accelerator Program a 30-day program on success and lasting change by Ed Plentz, DC and Kevin Pallis, DC.
It is never too late to start a time-management program. Now, as you become a new practitioner, is an excellent time to implement an effective game plan! Most importantly, do not neglect your family, which includes yourself, by burning out trying to run the “ultimate office.” One of the most successful pioneers in our profession, Dr. Monte Greenawalt, is known for a simple saying that carries a lot of truth, “Your attitude takes you to your altitude.” Your attitude toward managing your time will be the ultimate factor in determining to how successful your practice will be.