Addressing veterinary attrition through storytelling

Veterinary Visionaries (VV) is taking on another tough challenge. This time it’s employee attrition and retention — an issue too big to ignore.

Turnover of veterinarians and veterinary technicians hovers at about 25%, which means that one out of four people working in these roles are either leaving or starting a job at any given time. Even so, there is only one applicant for every 10 veterinary jobs, so practices are consistently understaffed.  

But what gets lost in these statistics is the human story, which is why Veterinary Visionaries is asking veterinary professionals to record short video testimonials that bring the numbers to life. 

What people are sharing

Virginia’s story

“What keeps me in veterinary medicine is people. It turns out that as much as I thought this profession would be all about the animals, it really is all about the people. It’s the people in veterinary medicine and the wellbeing of this profession as a whole that really drives me. How do we protect and promote the wellbeing of the people in veterinary medicine so that they can continue to do the amazing work that needs to be done to protect and promote the human-animal bond, to work toward better One Health for animals as well as the environment, and to be able to provide access to care for all the millions and millions of animals out there that really need us?Dr. Virginia Corrigan 

Kim’s story

It was a bit of a shocker what veterinary medicine was as compared to what we as children thought it was going to be—and then life crises with COVID definitely complicated that. I still love the job. I love the job because of my clients. I love the job because of my boss. … Clients, as much as I love them, they’re also the hardest part of the job.  … I would still recommend the profession, but you need to go into it with eyes wide open. It’s not all puppies and kittens and roses and sunshine.” Dr. Kim Doran 

Bethany’s story

I have been a licensed technician for 10 years now. … I’ve definitely had my ups and downs when it comes to the field. I’ve had clinics where it just didn’t fit. I do believe I’ve found my home clinic.  

One of the things I really love about vet med is the human interaction, which I know that a lot of people don’t love. But I love seeing the light bulbs go off in the clients’ heads when they finally get it. Or the excitement they feel when they come back and say, ‘It’s fixed!’ or ‘His skin is so much better!’ or ‘He’s not limping anymore; he doesn’t seem to be in pain’ or ‘He’s back to being a puppy again!’ That’s what makes it for me because that’s how I feel like I’ve made a difference.” —Bethany Ellis, credentialed veterinary technician 

Where is everyone going? 

Employee retention in vet med is about more than people leaving their jobs. They’re leaving the profession. People with empathic souls and enormous hearts, who chose to dedicate their lives to nurturing the human-animal bond, are abandoning what was often their childhood dream. Are we falling out of love with veterinary medicine? Or is it that somewhere along the way, we realize that love can’t keep us going forever?  

As Garth Jordan, AAHA’s CEO explains, we all know the dismal statistics, yet nothing is changing. How can we turn those stats into action and turn the tide for our profession? That’s the big solve for the Veterinary Visionaries 2023 Storytelling Event, generously supported by CareCredit. 

We know we’ve got problems, but love is always messy. What do our people really need to help them stay? All veterinary team members are invited to share their stories about what made them fall in love, stay in love, or fall out of love with veterinary medicine. Then, they’ll be asked what could have been done to solve their issues, rekindle their passion, or make their love even stronger. A set of data points can be powerful, but the stories behind each statistic can drive that data home. 

  

A love letter to the profession. 

The ultimate deliverable will be a compilation of content available to leaders everywhere—content that transforms data points back into people. Emotionally charged and passionate, these stories have the power to elevate awareness , inspire change, and help us reverse the employee satisfaction and retention trend.  

A profession-wide solution space. 

Veterinary Visionaries®, a collaborative effort of leading veterinary organizations working together to solve the profession’s biggest challenges, created its first crowdsourced solving campaign in May 2022. This pilot event — generously supported by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, CareCredit, and IDEXX — addressed pervasive and rapidly growing issues among veterinary teams — mental health, psychological wellbeing, and suicide prevention.  

A panel of mental health and veterinary professionals reviewed all submissions and ranked each based on systemic impact, evidence-based approach, feasibility, sustainability, and reach. A Solution Squad is hard at work creating an implementation plan based on the winning idea that will be provided to the entire profession in Fall 2023. 

 

 

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