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Helpful tips for spring cleaning your veterinary hospital

  • March 29, 2017 4:25 PM EDT

    The first day of spring has arrived, which means winter will soon be a distant memory.  For many of us, this also means “spring cleaning”, or the chance to get rid of things we no longer use or need in order to make space in our lives.  Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home, says that “outer order contributes to inner calm”.  This is a common realization that she (and many others) have had and is surprisingly not emphasized by many positive psychologists or other wellness advocates.  I can attest to the feeling of serenity that occurs once I’ve cleared the clutter from my apartment or cleaned off the top of my desk – it’s almost as if I have more space to breathe and accomplish what I need to do.  Ultimately, that messy desk or house might seem trivial, but getting control of that space or area of your life can have tremendous benefits for your emotional and environmental well-being.  Essentially, getting control of your stuff can help you to feel more in control of your life. 

    Clutter-cleaning expert and best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Marie Kondo says “Many people get the urge to clean up under pressure, such as just before an exam.  But this urge doesn’t occur because they want to clean their room.  It occurs because they need to put ‘something else’ in order.”  I’ve experienced this myself after a chaotic event has ensued in the ER.  For example, I recall when a dog came in to the hospital after being hit by a car and then arrested.  After performing CPR and other life-saving measures, the owners decided to euthanize the dog.  After our team debrief, I found myself madly rushing around the ER to “clean up” the mess.  One of my technicians said to me “we’ll look after that, go get your records done” and I remember saying “I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else until this space is clean again.”  In a way, cleaning the ER was a way of calming my mind and regaining order after what had been an intense experience.   

    If your clients walk into your waiting room and see pamphlets or magazines everywhere and a cluttered shelf of food or other merchandise, they’ll feel the same inner chaos that you and your staff feel when you walk into your cluttered office or break room.  Here are some pointers to help you tidy up at work:

    • Get rid of unnecessary pamphlets, posters, or other things in the clinic and ensure that information and items are kept to a minimum so as not to overwhelm clients and staff. 
    • Never label anything in the clinic as “miscellaneous” – if there isn’t a specific space for something, it should be thrown away.
    • Be aware of freebies, swag, and give-aways from conferences that can accumulate and become clutter.  Find a use for these items or give them away – better yet – don’t take them in the first place. 
    • Rather than spending time filing papers or finding places for things, ask yourself if you really need them or if they can be discarded. 
    • Sometimes clutter sticks around at work because it’s not clear who it belongs to or who might be using it (e.g., outdated textbooks or journals).  Ask around and see if anyone wants or uses these things and then throw them away.
    • When several people use one area of the clinic (e.g., the kitchen) and no one person is responsible for keeping it clean, people tend to become messy and careless.  Establish a system (e.g., assign people to clean specific areas or enforce people cleaning up after themselves) so that common areas can be kept tidy and clutter-free.
    • Get rid of unnecessary paperwork.  Are there piles of printed journal articles or proceedings or other notes that could be scanned and electronically filed or simply recycled?  Consider the consequences if you do not have it and need it (i.e., could you find it on VIN or somewhere else online).  

    Marie K. Holowaychuk, DVM, DACVECC is a small animal emergency and critical care specialist and certified yoga and meditation teacher who also has an invested interest in the health and well-being of veterinary professionals.  She organizes Veterinary Wellness Workshops & Retreats for veterinarians, technicians, and other veterinary care providers.  To sign up for newsletters containing information regarding these events and veterinary wellness topics, please click here.  More information can be found at