As we celebrate Thanksgiving this month, reflect on qualities that display good character of potential veterinary staff and show your team gratitude
I had a lovely conversation with veterinary practice owners at last month’s Fetch Coastal conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The practice owners told me how challenging it was to hire support staff with experience and a thorough understanding of veterinary medicine. They told me they had incredibly outstanding personalities. The clients loved them, but fellow team members were frustrated with their inability to grasp certain concepts. So, the office owners decided to let these 2 team members go. My 1-word reply was “Why?!” Following that was “Were they mentored?” Unfortunately, the team did not have enough time to level up these 2 individuals. In the end, everyone lost.
In the veterinary medicine world, creating a successful practice hinges not only on the skills of the veterinarians but also on the strength of the supporting team. Although technical expertise is undoubtedly essential, the success of a veterinary practice often depends on the attitudes and values of its staff members. Finding an employee who prioritizes passion, enthusiasm, and appreciation are key considerations when hiring staff.
Many of you have heard me say this in my practice management talks: hire attitude, train aptitude. Perfect attitude plays a pivotal role in shaping the work environment of a veterinary practice. Have you ever been to a restaurant that you truly loved, yet the attitude of the server was just awful? It most likely ruined your experience! When hiring, look for candidates who display a positive and can-go attitude. This attitude can be contagious and inspire a sense of camaraderie among the team, which is essential for a smoothly functioning practice.
One of the most critical qualities to seek when hiring veterinary staff is
a genuine passion and curiosity for animals. Individuals who truly love animals are more likely to go above and beyond in their care, ensuring that every patient receives the attention and affection they deserve. However, I also appreciate candidates who are genuinely curious about how the dog’s heart works or what Cushing disease is because the curriculum in school may not have taught them that. Passionate individuals will also be more motivated to continue learning and improving their skills, making them valuable assets to the practice.
Enthusiastic team members are eager to learn and adapt to new challenges. The new veterinary assistant and technician graduates are hungry to work and be mentored in an environment that allows them to be both challenged and fulfilled. Veterinary medicine is a field that is constantly evolving, and hiring individuals with a thirst for knowledge ensures that your practice remains up-to-date with the latest advancements.
If your practice is not equipped to provide the necessary mentorship and tools needed for success, please look at available online resources. If you encourage and support their ongoing continuing education, then you will benefit from a staff that can tackle a wide range of cases with confidence. Invest in their education, and they will invest in the hospital’s mission.
In addition to hiring for attitude, fostering an environment of gratitude can have a profound impact on staff satisfaction and retention. In the
spirit of this Thanksgiving season, try to truly embrace gratitude and remain grounded. A thank-you jar is the simplest way you can show gratitude to your team; write down a quick thank-you note and throw it in the jar. For example, thanking a team member for staying late due to a long dental procedure would mean the world to them. Take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of your staff. Whether it’s a simple thank-you note, a shout-out during a team meeting, or occasional rewards, recognition goes a long way in boosting morale. When employees feel that their contributions are valued, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. When veterinary team members feel appreciated and valued, they are more likely to stay committed to the practice and provide exceptional care to your patients. Always show gratitude. As Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.”
Although attitude and gratitude are crucial, technical skills are also essential in the veterinary field. Hiring individuals with a strong foundation in these skills is essential but remember that aptitude can be trained and improved. Things like continuing education, webinars, modules, and staff training are key toward building a successful veterinary team. Some hospitals have levels within their department that demonstrate what their skill set is as a veterinary technician, for example. Perhaps this idea may be useful in your clinic.
Invest in comprehensive training programs for your staff, regardless
of their prior experience. These programs should cover not only technical skills but also communication, client relations, and practice-specific protocols. Effective training ensures every member of your team is aligned with your practice’s standards, values, mission, and vision.
In the world of veterinary medicine, the adage “hire attitude and gratitude, train aptitude” holds true. Prioritizing attitude by seeking passionate, enthusiastic individuals who love both animals and the field of veterinary medicine is foundational to building a successful practice. Most support staff members have more client interactions than the veterinarians. Finding that incredible attitude leads to practice success. Fostering a strong culture of gratitude ensures your team feels valued and appreciated, leading to improved job satisfaction and retention. Although technical skills are important, remember that aptitude can be developed through comprehensive training and ongoing education.
By hiring for attitude and gratitude and investing in training for aptitude, you can create a strong, harmonious veterinary team that not only excels
in patient care but also contributes to the overall success and reputation of your practice. This holiday season, be thankful that we are in one of the best professions on the planet. Not many can say they follow their passion, but we as veterinary professionals get to do it every day—and that is something I know I am very grateful for.