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AAHA Culture Connection

A component of the AAHA Culture Initiative

According to the 2018 Merck Animal Health Veterinary Wellbeing Study, veterinarians under the age of 45 reported greater rates of serious psychological distress than the general population. Major self-reported conditions of those distressed included depression (94%), compassion fatigue and burnout (88%), and anxiety and panic attacks (83%).

And they’re not the only ones struggling. According to a 2016 study by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, half of all respondents cited issues related to practice culture, including office dynamics and communication, as their greatest professional challenge. Forty-one percent of technicians surveyed also indicated compassion fatigue as a major factor negatively affecting their job.

Workplace stressors and mental health issues like these don’t just take a personal toll on affected team members. On a larger scale, they can also be responsible for driving down employee engagement—the emotional bond team members have to your organization and its goals—which studies have identified as a key indicator of a healthy workplace culture.

In Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch, authors Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorensen explain the difference between engaged and disengaged employees:

Engaged individuals “consistently perform at significantly higher levels across outcome measures. They enthusiastically drive productive relationships with customers and associates. Continuous improvement and innovation are a personal quest.”

Disengaged employees, on the other hand, “are unhappy and actively share it. The focus of their relationships is built on the negative; they cosign other people’s discontent with no exploration of solutions.” (Coffman and Sorensen, 2013)

What is the AAHA Culture Connection?

A collaboration between AAHA and leading management consulting firm, The Coffman Organization (TCO), the AAHA Culture Connection is a two-part employee-engagement program designed to help practices achieve the organizational culture they’ve always wanted by offering personalized insights, recommendations, and tools that empower teams to build a positive and productive work environment together.

The AAHA Culture Connection:

  • Allows each team member to see their own role in creating a positive culture through partnership and teamwork
  • Equips managers with the information they need to assess the effectiveness of their hospital culture today
  • Prepares the team to take ownership of the culture needed to rise above the everyday challenges of practice

Ready to be a part of one of the most important professional initiatives of our time?

Register now

Do you know where your team stands?


Practice owners and managers

Do you want to . . .

  • Get your team humming with efficiency?
  • Decrease hospital drama?
  • Quickly understand what your team needs to get the job done?
  • Encourage your team to build a stronger connection to your practice?
  • Tap into individual strengths to bring out the best in every team member?
  • Attract the very best talent and be recognized as a great place to work?
  • Be a leader in the veterinary profession?
  • Join a community of other practices working toward the same goal?

If you’re struggling with team members who “quit but keep coming to work” or want to know the secret to keeping your superstar employees motivated and productive (without “rewarding” them with more work to do), the AAHA Culture Connection can help.

Technicians and support staff

Do you want to . . .

  • Hit the reset button on your practice culture?
  • Improve team communication and processes?
  • Be an advocate for your coworkers?
  • Restore your passion for the veterinary profession?
  • Realize your individual strengths and put them to work?
  • Easily share what your coworkers are really thinking with the leadership team?
  • Grow your own management skills?
  • Establish yourself as a leader within your hospital?
  • Stop feeling alone?

If you’re feeling invisible rather than invincible in your current role, struggling with a leadership team that doesn’t practice what they preach, or are eager to gain the confidence to (effectively) bring your ideas to the table and create real change, the AAHA Culture Connection can help. 

How it works


1. Survey your team

Once you’ve registered and your account is set up, your team will be ready to take the NEXUS Experience™ survey (see below) and you will be able to access the Practice Management Community. Each team member will receive an email with a link to complete the NEXUS Experience™.

The survey only takes a few minutes to complete and is 100% anonymous and confidential.

2. Process the feedback

Once team members have completed the survey, they will receive a personalized insight report with strengths-based strategies to help them increase their personal satisfaction, engagement, and growth. The report also includes a question for each team member to ask when discussing the group’s overall results.

In addition, managers will receive a comprehensive, summarized report of the entire team’s results. Scheduling a meeting with your team to discuss these results is an important step forward.

3. Access your resources

Check out the Agenda Builder™ and other tools in the Practice Management Community for individualized recommendations to help guide your discussion and set actionable goals for improving your hospital’s unique culture. Outline what your team will focus on and when you will meet next to review your progress.

4. Resurvey your team

Keep the conversation going! Check in with your team regularly, encourage them to use the Practice Management Community, and repeat The NEXUS Experience™ every year to track your progress.

Where do I start?

The NEXUS Experience™

The AAHA Culture Connection starts with The NEXUS Experience™. You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. This brief survey uses scientifically targeted questions to measure employee engagement and identify key pain points within your hospital’s current culture. The results are shared in confidential, individualized reports for each member of your team as well as in an anonymous group report, which will be used as a springboard for discussion. 

Start here

Practice Management Community

Once you finish the NEXUS Experience™ and know what your practice’s most pressing issues are, it’s time to tackle them. This exclusive online community offers ongoing support through educational resources and interactive tools like the Agenda Builder™, which can help you plan staff meetings customized to the needs of your unique culture—meetings that team members will actually want to attend. 

Learn more



How to register

Log in

New to AAHA or forgot your login information? You can retrieve your password or set up a new account here.

Select your hospital

After you have logged in, select the hospital you would like to enroll. If you are affiliated with multiple hospitals, you will see each hospital listed here.

Select your practice size

After selecting the hospital you would like to enroll, we’ll need to know your practice team size. Please select the appropriate size from the list.

After you’ve selected your practice team size, the price will display on the right side of the screen. Save and continue to checkout. Submit your payment information and select “purchase.”

Upload your staff list

Email addresses are used solely to provide each employee with a confidential link to participate in The NEXUS Experience™. They will never be shared, distributed, sold, or otherwise disseminated outside of The Coffman Organization.

Fewer than 50 employees

If you have 50 or fewer employees, you will have two options to upload your staff list:

  • Review and submit your staff list. To remove an employee from this list, simply uncheck the box next to their name. You may add employees to the list in the next step, after selecting “save and continue.”
  • Upload an Excel (CSV) file using the template provided. Once you have added your employee list, you may return to the site and upload the completed file.

51–100+ employees

If you have more than 50 employees, you will not upload your staff list until you are contacted by TCO. They will offer your larger practice exclusive options for uploading staff lists.

Submit your information

You’re almost done! To finalize your registration, TCO will need just a few more details.

  • Primary contact: Provide the name of the individual who will be submitting information on behalf of the hospital.
  • Survey results contact: You will also be asked to identify who you’d like the aggregated survey results to be sent to, if different than the primary contact.
  • Profile name: Provide a short hospital profile name for the Practice Management Community (e.g., “ABC Vet Hosp”). This name will be visible to other Practice Management Community users.

Once you’ve submitted your information, TCO will contact you within three business days. Please be sure to add [email protected] to your email’s safe senders list to avoid communications ending up in your spam or junk folders. Remember, your hospital’s data will only be used to send out The NEXUS Experience™ survey.

Have questions or need additional help?

Contact the AAHA team at 800-883-6301 or [email protected]

Register now

“We’re more supportive of each other and I feel a more positive vibe in the hospital. [AAHA Culture Connection] allowed me to see problems I didn’t know were there.”

Rebecca Korven, DVM, owner of

AAHA-accredited Celtic Creatures Veterinary Hospital, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada



Does my practice even have a culture?

Yes, it does! While it may not always be top of mind, you, your team, clients, and patients experience your hospital’s culture every time they walk in the door. In AAHA’s Guide to Veterinary Practice Team Wellbeing, “workplace culture” is defined as “the results of diligent adherence to established and expected workplace behaviors determined to be essential for achieving the organization’s goals, as well as the avoidance of those behaviors that are deemed unacceptable.”

Who is this program for?

The AAHA Culture Connection is for the leadership team and anyone else who cares about their workplace, role, and partnership with others. While cultural change is a top-down process, everyone on the team must be involved. Remember, you can’t build a culture for your team. You must build it with them. Because of this, the program is intended to be used by every member of the practice team.

Why should I be concerned about my practice culture?

Healthy people = healthy practice. According to Jennifer Blackmon, corporate director of culture transformation for The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, happy employees are 12% more productive, stay in their roles longer, and use fewer sick days.

Professional wellness is widely recognized as a critical issue within the veterinary profession, as mental health issues such as depression, financial stress, compassion fatigue, and suicide have become increasingly concerning problems. Workplace culture and self-care have consistently been identified as key areas that can lead to improved overall wellbeing in our personal and professional lives.

My team members seem fine. Why do we need to talk about this?

Disengaged team members wreak havoc on culture—but signs of disengagement can be difficult to detect if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Just like septicemia, unless you’re monitoring subtle parameters, you can be caught in a crisis when your team can no longer compensate. A doctor who is quieter than usual, a technician who begins making critical mistakes, a receptionist who rolls her eyes at the client who just turned his back . . . how do you know if these are individual, private problems or issues caused by the environment your team spends the most time in—your hospital?

How will this program benefit me?

For practice owners and managers

The AAHA Culture Connection helps you invest in your greatest and most valuable resource—your team! By keeping them happy and healthy, you will:

  • Reduce costly turnover due to increased employee satisfaction. According to The Coffman Research Institute, turnover for engaged employees is one-third of the overall average
  • Improve patient care and client satisfaction as team members build strong, lasting connections to your practice. Engaged teams are more productive, which leads to improved service, and in turn, increased client satisfaction and retention
  • Increase productivity by tapping into each team member’s unique strengths. According to The Coffman Research Institute, engaged teams achieve 116% of their goals, while disengaged teams achieve less than 60% of their goals
  • Elevate your reputation—and attract and retain top talent—by caring for your team first

For technicians and support staff

The AAHA Culture Connection gives every team member an opportunity to create change. By joining the discussion, you can:

  • Close the communication gap and build mutual understanding between leadership and the rest of your team
  • Elevate patient care and client satisfaction through improved team communication and processes
  • Leverage your unique strengths to do more of what you love
  • Establish yourself as a leader and help shape the future of your hospital

What is the AAHA Culture Initiative?

The AAHA’s Culture Initiative is a multifaceted program that aims to prevent or mitigate mental health issues in veterinary practice teams and provide guidance for those teams to build stronger, healthier workplaces. 

What is The NEXUS Experience™?

Part one of the AAHA Culture Initiative program, The NEXUS Experience™ is a brief survey that uses scientifically targeted questions to measure employee engagement and identify key pain points within your hospital’s current culture. The results are shared in confidential, individualized reports for each member of your team as well as in an anonymous group report, which will be used as a springboard for discussion.

Learn More

What is the Practice Management Community?

Part two of The NEXUS Experience™ program, the Practice Management Community is an exclusive online community that offers ongoing support through educational resources and interactive tools like the Agenda Builder™, which can help you plan staff meetings customized to the needs of your unique culture—meetings that team members will actually want to attend.

Learn more

How much does the program cost?

Number of employees
AAHA-accredited member
1–20 $475 $675
21–50 $675 $875
51–100 $875 $1,075
100+ $1,275 $1,575

I’m ready to sign up! How do I register?

Congratulations—your team is on its way to building a healthier culture! You can register here.

Register now

AAHA's Culture Initiative is supported through a generous educational grant from Merck Animal Health.