Quick ways to improve employee retention


A new AAHA study helps veterinary practices keep valuable staff

The veterinary field is currently dealing with significant employee shortages, with a scarcity of professionals in every area of a veterinary practice including veterinarians, technicians, and support staff. This shortage poses challenges for providing care to animals and negatively impacts employees’ job satisfaction. Consequently, increased staff recruitment and retention are important efforts for improving the shortage. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released the data gathered from a survey on employee retention.1 The survey collected responses from more than 14,000 individuals working in various roles within small animal practice.

The AAHA found that:1

  • 30% of veterinary practice team members are planning on leaving their current role.
    • of that 30%, half plan to leave clinical practice entirely, and once they do, 90% won’t return.
  • The economic costs of attrition range from $1-5 billion; the emotional toll is even greater.
  • New veterinary student graduates are not enough to fix the shortage alone.
Reasons for Leaving. (Graphic courtesy of AAHA)

Reasons for Leaving. (Graphic courtesy of AAHA)

The AAHA recommends that practice leaders need to listen to want their employees require to stay. Take a deep dive into understanding what’s driving people to leave and make changes that will encourage valuable employees to stay with the practice.

The AAHA stresses that retention is more important than re-hiring lost employees because it can cost significantly more to re-hire than to retain current employees and give them fair compensation. The financial burden, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, finds that staff replacement can cost as high as 50%–60% of an employee's annual salary.1,2

Garth Jordan, CEO of AAHA told AVMA News that the average turnover rate among veterinary team members is 23% every year and it is only increasing. “The results of the research outline clear solutions—for the whole team, as well as by role—to help individual practices and our industry at large work toward significant improvements in employee retention,” Jordan told AVMA News.3

Reasons for staying. (Graphic courtesy of AAHA)

Reasons for staying. (Graphic courtesy of AAHA)

The AAHA also found that most of their respondents valued teamwork, meaningful work, flexibility, appreciation for their work, and fair compensation in their job, among other factors. The authors of the AAHA white paper on this survey weighed in by stating, “Different roles can have wildly different objectives and perspectives. For instance, veterinarians likely entered the field for much different reasons than customer service representatives. The motivations influencing one team member’s decision to stay likely are different from those of the person next to them, especially when considering the perspectives of owners versus employees.”1

Michele Drake, DVM, CVA, owner of The Drake Center for Veterinary Care in Encinitas, California stated in an article on practice culture, “Achievements, big and small, deserve recognition. Whether your team has navigated a particularly grueling day or gone above and beyond for a patient, it’s crucial to celebrate the win.”4

AAHA’s full findings on retention can be found in the Stay, Please: Factors That Support Retention and Drive Attrition in the Veterinary Profession white paper.1


  1. Stay, Please: Factors That Support Retention and Drive Attrition in the Veterinary Profession. American Animal Hospital Association. February 16, 2024. Accessed March 5, 2024. https://www.aaha.org/practice-resources/research-center/white-paper-form-the-path-to-increasing-retention-in-veterinary-medicine/
  2. Allen DG. Retaining Talent – A guide to analyzing and managing employee turnover. Society of Human Resources Management. January 2008. Accessed March 5, 2024. http://researchgate.net/publication/266223246_Retaining_Talent_-_A_guide_to_analyzing_and_managing_employee_turnover
  3. Lederhouse C. Study: Fair pay, appreciation for work top factors in employee retention. News release. March 4, 2024. Accessed March 5, 2024. https://www.avma.org/news/study-fair-pay-appreciation-work-top-factors-employee-retention?utm_source=delivra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=todays-headlines-news
  4. Drake M. Culture 101: Creating a healthy practice environment. dvm360. January 8, 2024. Accessed March 5, 2024. https://www.dvm360.com/view/culture-101-creating-a-healthy-practice-environment
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