We’re short-staffed and everyone’s mad—Help!

Practice owners and managers are sending “serious calls of distress” about their understaffed hospitals and unmotivated teams. Jenn Galvin offers some light and perspective from the trenches.

By Jenn Galvin

Between the hospital owners and practice managers I know in my personal life and those I know through social media, I’ve heard some serious distress calls. Everyone is desperately short-staffed and sinking deeper into the abyss as hardworking team members get frustrated and bail ship.

Finding qualified candidates who actually possess the skills we need and fit our culture? Yeah, that can certainly feel impossible. So, what on earth are we supposed to do when we can’t find the right folks, and it feels like everyone wants to throw in the towel?

Ask the staff to help solve the problem.

Gather your entire team, close the practice for a couple hours (yes, seriously), pay them to be there, and make it a party.

Discuss your hospital’s mission and ask the team for their input. What can we put on the back burner or ditch altogether without jeopardizing our mission? Let them unleash their wildest ideas, whether it’s nixing nail trims, closing early, or stopping a major service.

Encourage your staff to think outside the box; no suggestion is too crazy. Then, huddle up with your management squad and determine which changes to implement. Keep the communication flowing and adjust based on feedback. We’re a team, after all!

Stay ahead of technology.

This is a great topic to talk about during your team meeting. Can virtual care make things easier for your team? What processes in the hospital could be automated?

Welcome remote superheroes.

Not only are there already options for hiring remote employees, but consider contacting a rockstar team member who moved away. We’ve got an LVT who moved out of state a couple of years ago, and she still works wonders for us remotely. She handles client callbacks, offers phone triage, verifies prescription refills, and assists our on-the-floor team with many questions. Talk about a superhero in a digital cape.

Roll up your sleeves.

If you’ve got some ninja skills in drawing blood or handling the phone, dive right in. Even if you’re not a pro, ask your team how you can help. Heck, you can even scrub some kennels and embrace the glamorous world of cleaning up poo. There’s nothing like a leader ready to work alongside a struggling team. We’re all in this together.

Communicate with your team.

Let them know how much you appreciate their hard work. Share your plans for fixing the situation and show them that there’s a light at the end of this chaotic tunnel.

Just because you’re working tirelessly to recruit more team members doesn’t mean everyone sees it. Involve them in the process, and who knows, they might even become your recruitment allies.

Build your training plan.

Let’s face it, experienced folks are as rare as a unicorn sighting these days. So, why not hire newbies who fit your team culture and train them to become the rockstars we desperately need?

Figure out which tasks your skilled team members can delegate to others and create a training plan. Collaborate with trainers to balance their workload and delegation responsibilities.Â

Treat ’em like superstars.

Rewards, my friends, rewards! Find out what truly motivates the people you work with. Remember, everyone is unique, so customize those incentives.

And hey, never underestimate the power of time off. A well-deserved long weekend (paid, of course) can work wonders when the team is stretched thin. Sure, you’ll be busier when they return, but that break will reignite their spirits to face the challenges of being short-staffed and busy.

Staff shortages may always sting, but we’ll make it through with staff appreciation, prioritizing wellbeing, seeking feedback, and working tirelessly to bridge the gaps. And when the gang is finally reunited, they’ll be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with!


Photo credit: © hakinmhan E+ via Getty Images Plus

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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