August 2022

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, Heather Carter, MPS, LVT, VTS (Anesthesia and Analgesia), shares “Actionable Ways You Can Prevent Turnover in Your Hospital.” As so many veterinary practices are experiencing turnover and finding themselves short-staffed, this is information to pay attention to! You can also check out Part 2 on this blog HERE.

Please note the opinions in this blog are the expressed opinion of the author and not directly endorsed by VETgirl.

By Heather Carter, MPS, LVT, VTS (Anesthesia and Analgesia)
Vice President of People and Culture, Partner Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center

Actionable Ways You Can Prevent Turnover in Your Hospital

Introduction

The high amount of turnover among veterinary teams has been documented to exceed the national average. As an example, a 2016 NAVTA reported that the veterinary technician community is 30-50% (Sinkevich, 2020).  In comparison, prior to the pandemic, the national average of turnover outside of veterinary medicine was 15% (North American Employee Turnover, 2020).  Post COVID, it is reasonable to appreciate that the turnover percentage of 30-50% is likely significantly higher.  As we return to pre-pandemic practices, two repeated questions are asked:

How do I prevent current team members from leaving?
How do we begin to fix such a huge problem?

Causes of Turnover

Prior to solving turnover, what are the causes?  The dynamic and intensive roles within veterinary medicine promote emotional fatigue (Chau et al., 2009), work stress (de Croon et al., 2004), and burnout (Willard-Grace et al., 2019).  These very familiar feelings are caused by lack of control in an individual’s day/schedule (Chau et al., 2009), lack of team support (Estryn-Behar et al., 2007), and when work becomes so demanding both physically and mentally, that team members perceive they are too busy to provide good quality care (Flinkman et al., 2008).  These troublesome causes are further complicated by bullying, workplace tension, lack of team cohesiveness, and poor/toxic work culture (Nei et al., 2015).  When we consider that these causes were well documented before the pandemic, we can understand how our veterinary teams serving as essential workers, providing curbside appointments, and constantly social distancing has contributed to turnover.  Additional causes of turnover are listed below in Table 1.

Solutions to Turnover

The complex causes of turnover require a multi-faceted fix. Fortunately, there are an abundance of solutions!  Two important solutions that will be discussed in detail are, 1) the practice of transformational leadership, and 2) team training.

Transformational qualities allow the veterinary leader to generate organizational commitment while enriching job satisfaction among their teams (Siyal & Peng,2018). Using this leadership style in the veterinary environment can spark the inspiration or motivation needed for a team to improve the teams’ job satisfaction. The transformational leader identifies and focuses on the desires and aspirations of each of their employees while creating an environment that is welcoming for growth and development. The combination of these factors has the ability to regenerate your team and improve a hospital’s culture.  This is achieved through a motivated and supported team who have an increase in job satisfaction.  Research shows that a team’s job satisfaction is increased when they perceive their leader demonstrating transformation‐oriented behavior.  A transformation leader can also help teams boost their self-confidence by facilitating goal achievement (Burns, 1978).   Most importantly, employees with higher job satisfaction are less likely to quit their jobs.

A trained team has the ability to save lives and demonstrate immense efficiency. Team training is also a costly and time-consuming activity.  Research supports that there is a strong relationship between availability of training, support of training and commitment to stay in a role (Rawashdeh, & Tamimi, 2019).  The accessibility to training also decreases a team members’ intention to leave their job (Yeatts et al., 2010).  Creating and supporting a learning environment in a hospital can assist newer team members in feeling secure in their role while promoting motivation.  Additional solutions to turnover are listed below in Table 2.

How to Calculate Turnover

Understanding your hospital’s amount of turnover can influence staffing and organizational decisions.  But how do you calculate it?

Annual turnover calculation

1) average number of employees = #of employees at the beginning of a time period + # of employees at the end and divide by 2

2) # of employees who left/average # of employees

3) Number from step 2 * 100= turnover %

 Example

13 employees at the beginning of January + 6 employees at the end of December/2= 9.5 (average)

7 employees that left/9.5= 0.74

0.74 x 100= 74% turnover

Summary and Answers to the Questions

Preservation and retention of the veterinary technician is critical to the veterinary profession.  The roles within our hospitals demand reliability, resiliency, and an ample hard and soft skills.  With these daily expectations, shouldn’t we institute supportive and effective solutions?

  • Listen to their concerns
  • Encourage and support goal setting and achievement
  • Support their mental health

Multiethnic Medical Team Stacking Hands

How do I prevent current team members from leaving?

  • Listen to their concerns
  • Encourage and support goal setting and achievement
  • Support their mental health

How do we begin to fix such a huge problem

  • Practice transformational leadership
  • Identify and eliminate training gaps
  • Recognize that multiple solutions will be needed
  • Understand that there are several options that do not cost any money

Resources/References:

  • Barling J, Cloutier A. Leaders’ Mental Health at Work: Empirical, Methodological, and Policy Directions. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 394–406. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000055
  • Benefits of Profit Sharing with Employees. (2016, September 29). Veterinary Business Advisors. Downloaded at:
    https://veterinarybusinessadvisors.com/benefits-of-profit-sharing-with-employees/
  • Burns JM. Leadership. New York: Harper & Row. 1978.
  • Chau SL, Dahling JJ, Levy PE, Diefendorf JM. A predictive study of emotional labor and turnover. J Organ Behavior. 2009:30(8),1151–1163. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.617
  • Deadman. The Transformative Power of Deep, Slow Breathing. The Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2018;116, 56.
  • de Croon E, Sluiter J, Blonk R, Broersen J, Frings-Dresen M. Stressful work, psychological job strain, and turnover: A 2-year prospective cohort study of truck drivers. J Applied Psychology. 2004;89(3), 442–454. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.442
  • Dossey B, Keegan L. Cognitiveaffective strategies to promote resilience and well-being. In M. Blaszko Helming, D. Shields, K. Avino, & W. Rosa (Eds.), Holistic nursing: A Handbook for Practice (2022, 8th ed., pp. 551-567). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

  1. Pingback: Preventing Veterinary Turnover: Part II by Heather Carter | VETgirl Veterinary Continuing Education Blog

  2. Hello Aisha. I am responding for Heather, here is what she has sent me:

    Team building activities can take several forms. Because the goal is to connect the team, I would ask them if there is something that they are interested in. For example, there might be a preference to do something inside vs. outside vs. remotely. I believe that incorporating them in this decision is a great start to connect the team. I would also start with a clear objective in mind- maybe the goal is to just get everyone out of the practice and let them decompress as a group. Or maybe the goal is to do something that allows positive behaviors to be reinforced after the activity is completed- perhaps completed in a staff meeting.

    Ideas to get people out of the building and let them decompress:
    Rage rooms (where you get to smash things- 10/10 recommend)
    Bowling
    Paint nights (+/- wine)
    Tickets to a game (e.g., maybe the local baseball team has a family night and tickets are affordable)
    Group yoga (I have friends who did goat yoga with their team, and it was very successful!)

    There are ample activities that can be completed in a staff meeting. Here is a link to a blog that lists 34 exercises: 34 Team Building Activities for Your Team in 2022
    -https://clickup.com/blog/team-building/

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