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https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/table-of-contents-november-december-2021/
Editor's Note, Practice Management

Focusing on the 3 Rs: Recruit, Retain, and Return

"We’ve spent a lot of time talking about our workforce crisis in its many forms, so it’s time for our jobs to take on a new form for the 3 Rs to be a realistic prospect."

Simon R. PlattBVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN

University of Georgia
College of Veterinary Medicine
[email protected]

Simon R. Platt, BVM&S, MRCVS, DACVIM (Neurology), DECVN, is a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests include ischemic disease of the central nervous system, canine brain tumors, and epilepsy.

Dr. Platt is a member of the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force and a founding member of the Southeastern Veterinary Neurology Group. He has authored or coauthored more than 190 journal articles and 50 book chapters and is the co-editor of three textbooks: BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Neurology, Manual of Small Animal Neurological Emergencies, and Canine and Feline Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Management. Dr. Platt received his veterinary degree from University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and completed an internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) and residency in neurology and neurosurgery at University of Florida.

Focusing on the 3 Rs: Recruit, Retain, and Return

Have we fallen out of love with our work? Has the perfect storm of a pandemic with its many pressures, increased demands, and subjective feeling of hostility and lack of appreciation from our clients led us to explore alternate options? This is how many of us may feel, and it seems to be leading to a workforce crisis—if we are not already in the midst of one.1 

With respect to the increased workload that many experience, a market research survey recently indicated that 32% of pet owners welcomed a new pet during the pandemic.2 Appointments increased 6.5% between January and June 2021, compared with the same period in 2020, with clients asking for more services for each pet than in previous years. This led to a decreased level of practice productivity, hampered additionally by essential practice COVID policies and a high level of employee attrition and turnover.3 The situation is obviously complex with the unquantifiable effects of burnout, disenfranchisement, and mental health pressures. While we cannot do a lot about pet ownership numbers and increased client demands, maybe we can focus on the 3 Rs.

“Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.” — Kahlil Gibran

Recruitment to meet increased demands is possibly too simplistic a solution to the crisis, but it is a necessary component and will only happen if the appropriate work culture and pay structure are in place. If we have burnout, job dissatisfaction, and personal life issues ongoing, a reduced workload may help but we need to restructure the way we work personally and collectively or we will become more inefficient and lose more colleagues. Job satisfaction in part revolves around engagement and fulfilment—what do we all need to experience these feelings? This is the question that should be asked when restructuring our jobs and changing our work culture, and our leadership needs to see this as an opportunity. If we don’t restructure our daily work protocols now, this profession could be on a dangerous precipice and one that will see the loss of many dedicated, well-trained, and valuable members. 

Many of our veterinary hospitals have lost workforce, with retention policies being stressed by the experiences of the last 18 months. If this is the new normal, we need to look at what it takes to bring them back to this profession, even if only on a part-time basis—the third R cannot be excluded from the search for solutions to this crisis. Asking why they left can uncover uncomfortable truths but may highlight outside-of-the-box solutions. For example, if mental health issues are driving employees away, then employing a staff counselor may be a solution. This is not realistic for all practices but a simple reduction of workload, whether through increased staff or reduced work week hours, will not get that person to a better place in which they would consider this a job for life. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about our workforce crisis in its many forms, so it’s time for our jobs to take on a new form for the 3 Rs to be a realistic prospect. 

References

1Salois M, Golab G. Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis? JAVMA News. Published August 25, 2021. Accessed September 28, 2021. avma.org/javma-news/2021-09-15/are-we-veterinary-workforce-crisis
2Animalytix. Mid-year market update (online presentation). August 2021.
3Salois M, McClean K. Exploring industry trends of today and tomorrow. AVMA Axon. Accessed September 28, 2021. axon.avma.org/local/catalog/view/product.php?productid=154

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