Team appreciation in action: How one practice sparks chain reactions of positivity  

Want to find special ways to show team appreciation? At K. Vet Animal Care, they adjust job roles to keep good people—and they work hard to have fun.

By Jen Reeder

This April when parts of America could see a total solar eclipse, the staff at AAHA-accredited K. Vet Animal Care in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, took a break to gaze at the celestial event through special glasses that practice leadership had purchased for them. 

This is just one example of the way team appreciation is baked into the culture at K. Vet Animal Care, which seeks to support the team in small, large, and even life-changing ways. 

Creating the space for the right people 

Take hospital coordinator Beth Zaccari, RVT. She first worked as a veterinary technician over 25 years ago, including several years at K. Vetwhere she created the practice’s OSHA programbefore leaving to start her own wellness company. It thrived for over a decade until 2020, when she faced a breast cancer diagnosis.  

Zaccari underwent a double mastectomy with full lymph node dissection on March 6, 2020at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.  

“The world shut down the following week, and I went through nine months of chemotherapy,” she said. “Then I went through a full month of radiation therapy. At one point in time, I couldn’t put my arm down on my side because I had third-degree burns and multiple reconstruction surgeries.” 

During her battle with breast cancer, she lost her business. So at the end of 2021, when she was having a hard time both physically and emotionally, she reached out to K. Vet Animal Care’s owner, Alex Kintz Konegger, DVM, MSTCVM, to see if there was any remote work she could do 

Dr. Konegger showed her appreciation for Zaccari’s past contributions by finding projectsfor herstarting with overhauling the OSHA program, since the practice had grown from 10 to over 40 employees and expanded into a much larger building.  

Zaccari also developed a formal, structured training program (she’s currently building a platform to which she can upload team meetings, CE, and other resources) and pursued AAHA accreditation, which the practice achieved in March of 2024. (K. Vet Animal Care gave every member of the team matching shirts with the AAHA logo to celebrate.) 

“I’ve moved into a capacity where they need me on administrative work completely,” she said. “I am really lucky and really grateful that they were able to provide me with work that I could do from home when I was recovering from surgery and whatnot.” 

Now she enjoys paying it forward by supporting the next generation of veterinary professionals as part of a leadership team that offers CE, support, and appreciation. 

“It’s an environment where we’re encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone and to learn more and to challenge themselves. It’s fun watching the younger staff grow as people and as technicians,” she said. “Our practice is phenomenal. The practice owner has a heart of gold and she really wants everybody to succeed. She wants to see them happy and to feel fulfilled in what they do.” 

For her part, Dr. Konegger feels it was an obvious choice to find a way for Zaccari to come back to work in a less physically demanding role. 

“I like smart people. And when somebody smart wants to come back to the industry, I think it’s very well worth the brainstorming of, ‘What can we do to make this work for everybody involved?’ It would be a hardship for me to turn down somebody as smart as Beth is,” she said. 

She noted that Zaccari’s work building a formal training program helps provide a bridge to the next generation that wants mentorship, guidance, goals, and structure instead of how she was trained: sink or swim. 

“This is a versatile field,” Dr. Konegger said. “We are evolving. . . . Create the space, create the safety, create the support, and I feel people will always surprise you.” 

Support for switching career lanes 

It’s that sort of sentiment that helps create loyalty in employees like Sam Atchison, CVT and inventory manager at K. Vet Animal Care.  

When Atchison joined the practice in 2014, she felt passionate about surgery, and leadership let her do that exclusively. When her interest shifted to digital dental, the practice supported her with “a whole bunch” of CE and labs to learn more.  

“Then as I progressed, I felt like the technician portion was getting hard on my bodyas it doesso when our pharmacy technician retired, I let them know that I was interested in taking over the position and there was no question,” she recalled. “It was like, ‘Sure!’” 

So over the past decade, she’s tried to repay that support and appreciation by spearheading fun team appreciation events, from the solar eclipse viewing party to activities inspired by life as a single mom. 

“Most of my ideas come from stuff that I’ve done with my own child throughout the yearsjust silly little things that we as adults don’t really get to do anymore,” she said. “Everybody finds them fun, and they bring back good memories of their childhood.” 

For instance, she’s planned Easter egg hunts, Thanksgiving “turkey hand” art contests and stocking decorating contests (clients vote on the winners).  

Each year for National Veterinary Technician Week, the team chooses a theme; for the beach-themed year, they tie dyed towels on a picnic table and received beach bags embroidered with their initials. on a picnic table and received beach bags embroidered with their initials. 

In addition to a weekly lunch sponsored by the practiceand a homecooked meal from one of the veterinarians each weekthey’ll enjoy random fun events like a recent “Dip Day,” when every member of the team brought a different dip (think sausage, honey mustard/dill, taco, and brownie dips) and shared them for lunch. One member of the staff buys little plastic animals and hides them around the practice for the rest of the team to find. 

Atchison says staff shouldn’t expect practice owners and managers to plan little team appreciation events “so if technicians want to do something fun for the team, they shouldn’t hold back.” 

Such camaraderie to offer big and small team appreciation makes Zaccari thrilled to work at K. Vet Animal Careand grateful to have been welcomed back into the fold despite her physical challenges from battling breast cancer. 

“It’s so good to be part of such a fantastic team,” she said. “Everybody contributes: It’s our whole team.” 

 

This article is part of our Stay, Please series, which focuses on providing resources (as identified in our Stay, Please retention study) to retain the 30% of all veterinary professionals considering leaving their clinical practice. Here at AAHA, we believe you were made for this work, and we’re committed to making clinical practice a sustainable career choice for every member of the team. 

 Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors. 

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