A hospital administration conducts a poll of staff members to determine workplace priorities

Editor’s note: All names and businesses in this dilemma case are fictitious, but the scenario is based on real occurrences.

All Pets Animal Hospital was a large, privately owned small animal practice. The staff consisted of 8 veterinarians and 60 support personnel, but the hospital administration had difficulty attracting new staff members. As a result, the hospital director and administrators met to formulate an effective approach to secure new staff.

Industry challenges and the changing job market had made acquiring new team members a challenge. Thus, the hospital administration decided to conduct a comprehensive poll of all staff members to determine workplace priorities. What qualities made their jobs attractive and rewarding, and what issues led to disillusionment and the desire to work elsewhere?

The results of the survey proved surprising but extremely helpful. Many things had changed in the past 2 pandemic years, including work priorities. Salary and pay scale were no longer at the top of the list. During these stressful times, other priorities had replaced the traditional criteria for veterinary job seekers.

The survey indicated the highest priorities were work schedule and staff support. Family obligations required unique schedule flexibility. Additionally, workforce shortages led to staff being overwhelmed and deprived of coworker support to maintain quality care. These issues often led veterinary staff members to look for other opportunities.

Benefits packages also ranked high on the employee priority list. Economic volatility and rising health care costs made these packages more important than base pay itself. Health care, dental care, vision care, and pension plans significantly affect day-to-day quality of life.

The question may arise: Why are current veterinary workplace priorities centered on the family unit? One reason may be that the staff salary goals have largely been met. Most well-run veterinary facilities offer similar pay scales for their workforce. A veterinarian or technician rarely leaves a position to make more money. Although signing bonuses may entice new staff, a 1-time offer unaccompanied by other criteria will lead to high turnover.

The administrators implemented what they learned and adjusted their employment packages. More importantly, they concluded that the industry’s diverse demographics and the emphasis on balancing work and family represented a healthy, positive direction for the profession.

Rosenberg’s response

I am proud to say my dad practiced small animal medicine 85 years ago.

I remember seeing him come home from work smelling distinctly of ether. Our patients and their problems have not changed much, but the profession certainly has.

The bottom line has always been, and continues to be, very important. In a profession not significantly bolstered by medical insurance, a profitable bottom line allows veterinarians to diligently treat their patients. But although monetary reward has its place, it no longer represents the center of professional satisfaction in veterinary medicine. The quote “We’ve come a long way, baby” applies to our profession.

Today’s veterinary medicine is a fulfilling discipline that should consider both clinic life and home life. If it can do this, our future will look bright.

Marc Rosenberg, VMD, is director of Voorhees Veterinary Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. Although many of the scenarios Rosenberg describes in his column are based on real-life events, the veterinary practices, doctors, and employees described are fictional.

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