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Overcoming Recruitment Hurdles in Veterinary Practices

The veterinary sector, pivotal in ensuring animal health and welfare, is currently grappling with a significant hurdle: the recruitment and retention of skilled professionals. This challenge is not a transient issue but a persistent concern impacting veterinary practices from small local clinics to expansive animal hospitals.

Let's explore the multifaceted nature of this talent shortage in the veterinary industry and its broader implications.

Decoding Veterinary Recruitment Challenges

1. Scarcity of Trained Veterinarians and Technicians

There is currently an imbalance between the demand for veterinary professionals and the number of trained workers in this field. This disparity creates a recruiting war between the thousands of veterinary clinics in the U.S.

Demanding education requirements, as well as the small number of veterinary institutions, has helped create this scarcity of trained professionals. According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), there are 32 accredited (or accreditation pending) veterinary medical schools in the United States. Pair that with the roughly 126,000 practicing veterinary clinics in the U.S. in 2022 (source: Otto), and you can see why there is a shortage.

2. Burden of Educational Expenses and Student Debt

Eight years of college to become a veterinarian is a lot of student debt to rack up. The thought of having this debt hanging over them has caused some aspiring candidates to look at other fields to study or other areas of the veterinary industry to work in.

3. Issues with Work-Life Integration

Demanding schedules, irregular hours, and emergency responsibilities are part of being a veterinarian. For some younger professionals who are looking for more flexibility, they find these issues to be too much and this has led to a higher attrition rate among veterinary professionals.

4. Emotional Strain and Mental Health Concerns

Along with the physical strain of longer, irregular hours comes the mental strain. Veterinarians frequently encounter different emotionally challenging situations, such as dealing with critically ill animals, euthanasia, and distressed pet owners.

This constant strain, combined with work-life issues, can affect the mental health of veterinary professionals, leading to burnout or compassion fatigue.

5. Intense Competition in the Job Market

The numbers above show why competition is so high in this job market. Due to the other factors in this list, veterinary clinics are not only battling each other for candidates, they are also vying with corporate or specialized research jobs in the veterinary industry. These jobs outside of the clinics tend to have better hours and may not require the amount of schooling as a veterinarian, resulting in less student loans to repay.

Strategies to Tackle Hiring Challenges

We’ve discussed the problems. Now let’s take a look at different strategies vet clinics can use to take on these hiring challenges.

1. Improve Compensation and Benefits

Compensation is probably at or near the top of any person looking for a job. For veterinarians looking to find a job out of college, it will be a factor, especially with student debt looming over them.

But compensation shouldn’t be the only thing to focus on when looking to hire. A comprehensive benefits package can go a long way to attract candidates. Some benefits to look at may include:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Vacation
  • Allowances for ongoing education

Get creative with your compensation and benefits packages and be willing to be somewhat flexible when negotiating with candidates. Remember, competition is fierce.

2. Cultivate a Supportive Workplace Culture

A supportive and positive culture in a workplace is invaluable. This entails not only support from management but from coworkers as well, culminating in a workplace that employees genuinely want to come to. Candidates can see and feel a positive work culture during an interview and this can help them with their decision-making.

Some ways to cultivate this culture include:

  • Recognize the efforts of employees and teams
  • Provide career advancement opportunities
  • Promote a collaborative atmosphere among employees

The efforts made to create this type of environment will pay for itself in so many ways.

3. Offer Flexible Working Arrangements

Addressing the need for work-life balance, practices can introduce flexible working hours, part-time roles, or job-sharing options, which are particularly appealing to the newer generation of professionals.

4. Prioritize Mental Health and Wellbeing

The emotional strains that come with working in the veterinary industry can and will slowly wear away at veterinarians. It is important to provide staff with mental health support services including counseling services, stress management programs, and a nurturing work environment.

These resources will provide staff with the ability to recover from the many emotional challenges that come with working in the veterinary field.

5. Invest in Educational Partnerships and Training

Another strategy to look at is building connections with veterinary schools through internships and residency programs. These connections can help attract current and future veterinarians by offering in-house training and mentorship initiatives that can further develop and retain their skills.

6. Embrace Technological Advancements

Leveraging technology can streamline practice operations and help reduce staff workload. Look at making investments that focus on modern medical tools, efficient practice management systems, and telemedicine capabilities.

Invest not only in the technology but the training needed for employees to efficiently use these technologies.

Overcome the Obstacles

There are many obstacles to overcome when finding candidates to fill your veterinarian job openings. Clinics need to use multiple strategies to not only entice candidates to join your clinic, but also to keep them at your clinic for years to come.

If your practice is having difficulties either hiring veterinary professionals or keeping them from leaving, reach out to one of our professionals today.

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Biz Tip Topic Expert: Nathan Dreikosen, CPA

Nathan Dreikosen, CPA

Nate is a Senior Manager at SVA Certified Public Accountants focusing on the healthcare, dental, and veterinary industries. He works with practices in the southern Wisconsin and Fox Valley areas to manage cash flow, assess financial performance and growth, and evaluate expenditures. He also has experience in designing compensation models, tax planning, and providing guidance on tax implications for clients. He works with corporations, partnerships, and individuals of all sizes and ownership structures.

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