What keeps veterinary practice owners and employees up at night?


New data shows where practice owners, managers, associates, and team members feel the pinch of working in a practice.

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) recently conducted a survey to find out what keeps you awake at night-yes, you. The results provide insights into the industry topics that will require attention over the coming months and years. To find out what is keeping you up at night, an electronic survey was administered to attendees at three conferences: the 2012 North American Veterinary Conference, the 2012 Ontario Veterinary Medical Associate Conference, and the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference. The question-what keeps you awake at night?-prompted respondents to rank their top professional concerns.

Respondents identified their position by job title and selected from a list of 22 issues the three that were the most perplexing or stressful or interfered with their ability to perform their jobs. The issues on the list were: profit margin, cash flow, budget management, gross income, staff training, staff recruiting/hiring, staff scheduling, staff relations, associate contracts, wages and benefits, associate behavior, maintaining policies and procedures, inventory management and controls, employee theft/shrinkage, marketing efforts, client retention, legal and regulatory compliance, strategic planning, exit strategy, IT, medical records, burnout, and other.

Among all respondents, the top concerns in order of importance were:

  • Staff training (31 percent)

  • Staff scheduling (28 percent)

  • Staff relations (27 percent)

  • Profit margin (26 percent)

  • Burnout (22 percent)

  • Client retention (22 percent)

Specifically among practice managers and office managers, the key issues were: staff training (42 percent), profit margin (24 percent), cash flow (13 percent), and staff relations (12 percent). The concerns of this group are reflective of their job responsibilities: achieving financial health while maintaining employee satisfaction.

Among associate veterinarians, client retention was the chief concern, with 30 percent of respondents selecting this issue. In today's economic climate, determining how to attract and retain clients is a priority for any business. Other key issues among associates included: staff relations (27 percent), staff training (24 percent), and wages and benefits (20 percent).

The issues identified by hospital administrators reflect their broad responsibilities and their focus on both personnel and financial oversight. Concern about staff relations (36 percent)-a priority among this group-is followed by issues related to profit margin (24 percent), and staff training (15 percent).

For veterinary practice owners, profit margin, which was selected by 47 percent of respondents, was the chief concern, followed by cash flow (28 percent), and client retention (27 percent), all issues related to a strong bottom line.

This snapshot of the concerns among veterinary management professionals highlights the “pinch points” within the profession. According to Christine Shupe, VHMA's executive director, the association's goal was to provide a good baseline analysis of where the profession currently is and what changes are needed. The results indicate that for any practice to function effectively, the needs and issues of a diverse group of stakeholders, those holding various positions within the practice must be addressed.

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