Female staff wants flexibility, experts suggest


Needs of new graduates unlike those of older generations

Red Bank, N.J- To co-owner Dr. Anthony DeCarlo, reducing staff turnover at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital means going the extra mile to keep his largely female team of 30-some practitioners and 160 employees content. Nowadays, veterinarians will no longer work seven days a week with little or no benefits. Newer graduates place more value on family and free time, he says.

So when DeCarlo set out to build his recently opened 58,000-square-footspecialty hospital - one of the largest referral clinics on the New Jerseyseaboard - he dedicated its basement to a daycare center, employee parkingand a gym. This type of construction might be unrealistic for most practiceowners, DeCarlo admits, but he says it's the small perks, not his hospital'samenities, which keep his staff in place.

"The secret is I listen to my staff," DeCarlo says. "Oneof the first things I learned was to not make your doctors work hours thatare bad for them. If you do, they won't stay. My job is to make my staffas happy as they can be so they in turn make my clients happy."

Tips for the profession

It's a philosophy that Tracy Dowdy, of Brakke Consulting, Inc., agreeswith. Newer graduates have a different mindset when it comes to work, shesays, and practices are most productive when owners try to relate. To helpensure a content staff, Dowdy offers some tips:

* Younger people want more flexibility with their schedules, especiallywomen who desire a family as well as successful careers. As veterinarians,women will be more productive and thrive if practice owners make accommodationsfor them, such as implementing job sharing or supplementing daycare. Stayopen to the possibilities.

* The majority of practice owners employ one doctor for everysix lay staff. This results in having very few men onboard and calls foran increasing amount of communication. Women speak 20,000 words a day versusa man's 10,000 words. With this type of talking going on, weekly staff meetingshave become important forums to air grievances and keep peace.

* The majority of women value time off more than money. In thesehard economic times, the small raises practice owners can afford might notmean as much as three-day weekends or a long maternity leave, especiallyin small practices where federal regulations for maternity leave do notapply.

* Daycare simply will not work in most practices because it'snot something the veterinary profession can afford. Instead, be lenient.Abusing the system will not work, but practice owners can institute laterstart times or earlier leaves. Give it some thought. Determine if not changingthe old ways of running a practice is worth a revolving door of employees.

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