October 2022

In this VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog, Heather Carter, MPS, LVT, VTS (Anesthesia and Analgesia), discusses how you can help prevent veterinary turnover in your veterinary clinic. If you missed Part I of her VETgirl blog “Actionable Ways You Can Prevent Turnover in Your Hospital,” check it out HERE. As so many veterinary practices are experiencing turnover and finding themselves short-staffed, tune in to learn a few takeaways on what you can do to minimize staff turnover in your veterinary clinic!

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

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

Preventing Veterinary Turnover: Part II

Last month, I wrote about an incredibly important topic to me: veterinary turnover. In fact, I’m so passionate about this area that I did my master’s research project on it and I get to focus a large part of my job on it! In part II, I wanted to give you a breakdown of some causes and solutions:

Veterinary team members leave their jobs for similar reasons. Despite what you may think, many of the solutions to turnover are not all financially based. Here are a few of the most common causes of turnover in veterinary medicine, and more importantly, what we can do about it!

woman in scrubs looking stressed and sad

Emotional fatigue
We all know how pervasive the feelings of emotional fatigue are among our teams and throughout our hospitals. How do you begin to tackle something so big?

• Take advantage of online resources out there, from group therapy sessions available online (like Veterinary Mental Health Initiative) to free meditation apps for sleep. After all, mindfulness and meditation have been shown to improve wellbeing, stress, and anxiety. (On a personal note, this app was instrumental in helping me earlier this year when I had a hard time functioning after grad school.)

• Determine your Workplace Wellbeing (e.g., The PERMAH Wellbeing Survey). The permahsurvey.com also contains many resources on how you can perform better, become more resilient, and how to “flourish” at life. Once you have results, take steps to improve your wellbeing (with 6 tested and practice steps).

• Determine your level of burnout – you can take one of several free tests for this online. One example is the Maslach Burnout Inventory. There are numerous free resources online that can then help improve your level of burnout (e.g., Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being).

• Utilize resources like training programs for your leadership and management teams that improve their ability to help individuals that are experiencing mental health concerns. For example, a veterinary burnout certification provides online courses that teach resilience, empowerment, and prevention through Get MotiVETed University. There are also a ton of free resources by VETgirl’s Chief Happiness Officer, Jeannine Moga, MA, MSW, LCSW, clinical veterinary social worker, HERE.


one red heart in the middle of a bunch of white hearts

Recognition of your team members is free. Incorporating this solution into your hospital may require a shift in your culture.

• Recognition can be in the form of all all-staff email, a social media post, a shout out in a staff meeting, or a personal thank you.

• Create an opportunity for peer recognition, which can be achieved in the break room or on the company intranet. We have a community board on our mobile HRIS app that is used frequently, giving each other impressions for recognition, which has been highly successful in my hospital.

• Encourage doctors to mention team members in phone call updates to owners.

• You can also have your team tell you the methods and ways they like to be affirmed or recognized (please feel free to email me at HCarter@PartnerVESC.com for a copy of the form I use for our teams).

wodden bloacks spelling out growth in a curve that moves upwards

Lack of career growth opportunities
The customary upward mobility in our profession is kennel assistant -> veterinary assistant -> LVT -> VTS. Alternate paths include veterinary assistant -> vet school applicant -> internship. What is available for the individuals who are interested in leadership? Or management?

• If roles aren’t available, volunteer for tasks and project work in your clinic or hospital to get your hands in and access to knowledge in the area you want to develop.

• Utilize training programs for Leadership and Management roles that have the same format as technician, vet assistant, and front desk training.

• Perform a hospital-wide Needs Assessment and determine if there are tasks/projects that can be delegated. Perhaps there is a need for an operations role, inventory management, team support, or other administrative duties.

• Create alerts on LinkedIn for jobs or roles you are interested in.

• Email or DM individuals in roles you want and ask them how they got there – I have done this countless times and it has wonderfully boosted my network and skills.

• If you’re a VETgirl member, take advantage of the leadership and practice management CE online!

A yellow road sign that says Workplace Culture on a blue sky background

Poor culture
Does your veterinary clinic have good culture? The culture is the single most important quality in our hospitals. It becomes the “thing” we are known for – good or bad.

• Remove people who are responsible for any bullying or hazing immediately.

• Spend time with team across various shifts to identify areas of negativity.

• BE PRESENT- be aware of your body language, eye contact, and active listening.

• Encourage daily huddles to set the right tone and intention for the day.

• Follow up and follow through on what you are going to do, even if the update is “no update”. This will promote trust and confidence.

• Create and distribute a confidential survey for free (e.g., SurveyMonkey, Doodle, etc.) to determine exact areas of concern. Possible survey questions include: “My manager/lead addresses my concerns promptly” or “each department/team knows what is expected of them.” Evaluate the replies and DO SOMETHING to fix it! It is imperative to generate and complete action item(s) from the survey. The following link can also be modified to your specific needs- Culture-Assessment-Questionnaire.pdf (ocmsolution.com)

• Perform a Q&A in a staff meeting to learn the exact areas of concern for your team

• Listen to your teams. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

The solutions to today’s staffing problems demand us to be creative, attentive, and open to exploring/experimenting with novel solutions.

Here is a real-life example of this creativity from a previous job:

A female

A Real-Life Case Report
After watching several talented team members quit, a specialty doctor speaks to the hospital administrator about the minimum number of team members she needs to have an efficient, safe, and productive day. She notes that, at a minimum, she needs two licensed veterinary technicians, two assistants, and one client service representative. The hospital administrator acknowledges the staffing needs, assuages her concerns, and each person resumes their day.

Later that afternoon, one of the specialty doctor’s licensed technicians meets with the hospital administrator to discuss annual performance reviews and the possibility of a cost-of-living adjustment to offset the high gas costs. This technician is personable, punctual, reliable, and can perform any task that is needed.
The hospital administrator regretfully informs the technician that a cost-of-living adjustment isn’t possible. The technician has no choice but to give notice.

Recognizing the minimum staffing needs of the doctor, what can the hospital administrator do?
1. Nothing. If a cost-of-living adjustment isn’t possible, it’s not possible
2. Meet with the technician again and convince her to stay
3. Meet with the technician again and be open to new ideas and possibilities

The answer is 3! By meeting with the technician, and working through solutions, several things are accomplished. The meeting shows the team member that their problems are valid, it demonstrates compassion, and shows that you can think critically and outside the box to resolve problems.

In the meeting, it was discovered that the technician could work different hours that would help her avoid heavy traffic. It was also discovered that there was an opportunity to work from home a day a week to manage client calls, prescription refills, and help with the appointment workflow by calling owners to obtain patient history and do discharges. The ability to be flexible enabled the technician to stay in her job while it also reinvigorated her connection to her workplace, teammates, and her hospital administrator.

Help prevent veterinary turnover by thinking outside of the box and implementing these easy steps to help care for your staff!

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