The Veterinary Industry Is Changing. How Can Practices Avoid Burnout and Adjust to Meet New Areas of Need?
Recently, a global crisis—the COVID pandemic that peaked sometime in 2020—had a profound effect on people’s lives and at its peak resulted in more people staying home for quarantine or other public health measures. The result? A soaring increase in pet ownership. The side effect? A skyrocketing demand for veterinarian services. A study from Mars Veterinary Health revealed that practices have since struggled to keep up with the 6.5 percent increase in demand for appointments since the outbreak began.
Other factors, such as fewer graduating veterinarians and a shrinking workforce, have contributed additional stressors to the industry, which begs the question, "How do we adjust our practices to meet the evolving nature of the business?" The answer doesn't involve risking the burnout of our greatest asset—team members. It also doesn't involve working ourselves to exhaustion, as extra veterinary stress is the last thing we need. As lead practitioners, we must consider creative ways to change our businesses along with the changing demographics. Here are three great strategies for doing exactly that.
Spread the Responsibilities
A popular buzzword in any industry is "delegate." Sometimes the term gets confused with poor leadership, but the more purposeful and correct meaning of delegation is to empower others with tasks and responsibilities that contribute to greater efficiency for the entire team. When we hire with due diligence, place an emphasis on training and trust our team members, we can delegate more rigorously and appropriately. Team members should be empowered to make the most of their roles.
With the right guidance, veterinary technicians can take on several roles:
- Laboratory technician
- Dental services
- Nutritional guidance
- Operating room help
- Office assistance
Similarly, vet assistants can take on a variety of responsibilities, as well:
- Administrative work
- Sample collection for lab testing
- Injections and medication handling
- Post-op watch and care
- Help restraining animals during exams and procedures
When we use the strengths of our workforce to manage operations, we become empowered to focus on what we do best, which is treating patients.
Promote a Positive Workplace Culture
Besides responsible delegation, promoting a positive workplace culture keeps our team members less stressed and more fulfilled in their roles, as well as decreasing the likelihood of burnout, which is the first sign of a declining practice. With a positive culture in place, the vibe is more accommodating, and customers feel the healthy energy flowing through the office. All these effects contribute to a higher level of customer satisfaction along with employee happiness. Consider these as some of the ways we can create and nurture this kind of environment:
- Clearly articulate your practice's vision and values. Don't just talk about them—live them!
- Encourage work/life balance. Veterinary staff shortages are a reality of the current marketplace, but we can still acknowledge the universal need for personal time. Close the office for a few hours or even an extra day if needed. In the long run, our businesses will reap the rewards of more balanced team members.
- Establish exemplary communication about everything related to the practice, including regular feedback.
A positive workplace culture pays dividends in any workplace. It is especially important in an industry that is in flux with evolving needs and demographics.
When the starting pitcher of a baseball team gets tired, the manager brings in a relief pitcher—someone who not only has the skills to capably take over but who also has a fresh energy level. The same can be done in veterinary practice.
A relief veterinarian is an independent contractor. They are skilled and licensed professionals who can be called upon to fill a temporary vacancy. When we lose a team member to another business, extended sick leave, caring for loved ones or any other reason, we can sign a contract with a relief vet.
By enlisting the assistance of these professionals, we can greatly reduce stress in the workplace. Team members won't feel guilty when they need to call in sick—or worse, come into the practice when their illness might be contagious. Relief vets can also lend a helping hand during periods of greater demand, which we all could use in these changing times.
Many relief vets will come with an insurance policy that protects them for liability purposes. Insurance is often a great remedy to stress for individual clinicians and entire practices. Now, more than ever, it's a great time to have supplemental liability insurance for ultimate peace of mind. Contact 360 Coverage Pros at (833) 668-0037 today to obtain greater peace of mind.