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The Costs of Having an Understaffed Veterinary Clinic

The Costs of Having an Understaffed Veterinary Clinic

It’s no secret that there is a staffing shortage when it comes to animal care, and the pressure to fill veterinary positions and veterinary technician positions are of the utmost importance to any clinic. Even though there are hurdles when it comes to staffing, the longer positions remain unfilled the more problems could arise. Alleviating the stress a staffing shortage helps to reduce the strain on the current staff. But there are other benefits when it comes to prioritizing staffing in your clinic. 

What are some of the issues that arise when your clinic is understaffed? The first problem that emerges from a veterinary staffing shortage is that the remaining professionals within the clinic are forced to take on a greater workload. That kind of additional pressure results in personal stress that could lead to workplace errors. Avoiding burnout is essential when it comes to maintaining morale within the clinic. The despair of overwork coupled with mistakes that might come with a larger workload has a ripple effect of dissatisfaction among employees. 

Your initial reaction might be to try and alleviate the problem with burnout by paying your current employees more. However, trying to solve your under staffing issue with overtime money for current employees won’t help with their burnout or reduce the tension and stress of being overworked. Paying overtime will also ultimately be more expensive in the long run than filling open positions. Are you familiar with the cost to replace an employee in veterinary medicine? The cost to replace an employee is between 50 and 75 percent of their annual salary and that number only gets higher depending on specialty of position. If you are risking losing more staff to burnout then it will eventually lead to having to replace them as well, resulting in the financial burden of replacing the exiting staff. 

Being understaffed doesn’t exclusively affect staff alone. Vets and vet techs with overwhelming caseloads are more likely to let their job dissatisfaction bleed into their work, resulting in either mistakes when it comes to caring for their patients or tension while working with pet owners. The compassion fatigue that comes from being overworked can lead to disintegrating relationships between pet owners and your staff. When this occurs you can only expect client loyalty for so long before they will start to explore other veterinary clinic options. And it doesn’t stop exclusively at just losing former loyal clients, with the advent of Yelp! and Google Reviews it can possibly result in receiving negative reviews and scaring off future clients, as well. 

So what can you do while struggling with being understaffed? The first thing that you should do is have a candid conversation with your veterinary staff to explain the current staffing situation. Make sure that you assure them that you have established a plan to fill the gaps in the schedule. And then sincerely address your appreciation for your employees, be earnest when it comes to giving them praise for their hard work and that you see their additional efforts. It would also be beneficial to demonstrate your appreciation in a number of ways while sifting through potential new employees. This can be things like taking your current staff out to lunch, giving them gift cards, writing a handwritten note, or providing them with extra vacation time when you are finally able to fill in veterinary roles.   

It is integral to fill in gaps in your veterinary staffing with immediateness, and there are a number of ways to achieve this including ways we’ve detailed throughout our blog [link out to one or two of the previous blogs I’ve written about staffing, there have been a few]. You can also utilize a veterinary staffing agency along with independently posting on veterinary job board sites. Remember to prioritize the happiness of your current staff and clients while finding quality candidates; and be sure to lean on the efficiency of vet staffing so that you can spend more time with your employees and work and less time sifting through paperwork. 

If you have an under staffed animal hospital you can go to, create a free employer profile and purchase a job posting subscription.  Then you can post your job ad and search our resume database with active candidates from all around the United States!