Investing in Your Veterinary Team: A Guide to Professional Development & Beyond

Posted by Lauren Ambrosio on September 7, 2023

It's no secret: working in the veterinary field is demanding. Vet technicians, assistants, front desk, and kennel staff are passionate about animals and pet care. As a practice manager, retaining these exceptional individuals is crucial. While recognition and gratitude are foundational, professional development, competitive pay, and a supportive work culture are tools to ensure your team stays motivated, fulfilled, and, most importantly, stays with you. We’re going to talk about why professional development is important, and you’ll get some actionable tasks you can take back to your clinic and discuss with your leadership team.

Whether this is your first look at improving your clinic through professional development, or you and your team are trying things, and nothing’s changing, keep reading. Positive changes take time to reveal their impact, so you must have a long-term plan not to give up. But first, let’s get into why providing professional development for your VAs, CVTs, DVMs, and reception is important.

Cat being restrained while a technician performs an abdominal sonogram.

Why should you care about your staff members’ professional development?

Your team, the backbone of your practice, pours heart and soul into their work every day. So, why should their professional development be a priority for you?

Every member of your veterinary team possesses a deep-rooted passion for excellence and an innate desire to provide the best care. Recognizing and supporting this passion through professional development isn't merely a gesture; it's a strategic decision. As they refine their skills, the quality of service your practice delivers elevates, ensuring you remain at the pinnacle of veterinary care in a rapidly evolving field.

Loyalty isn't just about paychecks and routines; it stems from a sense of growth and belonging. When staff see a roadmap for their aspirations within your practice, their commitment deepens. This curtails turnover and cements a collaborative, professional atmosphere crucial for superior patient care. Your team isn’t a family, but they want to work hard for you to provide for theirs.

Prioritizing professional development melds passion with skill, ensuring every challenge is tackled with combined expertise and zeal. It's not just about growing individuals but advancing your entire practice.

Steps to providing professional development to veterinary practice employees

1. Ensuring competitive pay

It's a straightforward principle: value breeds value. Offering a competitive salary isn’t just about the money; it's a tangible sign of respect and recognition for your team's dedication and expertise. Research salary benchmarks in your region and offer bonuses or incentives for exceptional performance or additional training completion.

2. Continuing education and conferences

The field of veterinary science is ever-evolving. To stay at the forefront, your team needs access to ongoing learning. Allocate a budget for continuing education, whether it's an online course, a workshop, or a seminar– just make it accessible to your team. Sponsor members of your team to attend conferences, which are great for networking and gathering CE credits. Some of your most dedicated staff would love to attend a conference in another city but cannot foot the bill alone. Always pay your staff to attend CE and conferences, primarily since it benefits your business. With proper planning and scheduling, you could even take your entire team to a conference! They can be great for bonding and fostering friendships, which can positively impact your work culture.

3. Mentorship, networking, and community outreach

Learning from those with more experience is invaluable, and that goes triple for brand-new assistants and technicians. Introduce a mentorship program within your practice by pairing seasoned professionals with newcomers. The presence of ‘new blood’ in the clinic can be hard for tenured employees, and it’s just as nerve-wracking for the new tech! The new team members will learn the ropes faster this way and gain insights from knowledgeable, tenured staff who know all the things the training videos don’t tell you. Also, encourage your team to participate in pet-related community events (on the clock!) as an ambassador for your clinic and make connections with members of the community you serve. It isn’t just about getting your business’s name out there but making a difference in your community.

4. Technology and innovation

Today's challenges need modern solutions. Integrating new tech tools can streamline operations and elevate patient care. To stay abreast of the changes, dedicate a day every quarter to explore and discuss technology. Invite vendors for “lunch and learns” and make sure every team member can use new machinery and software deployed in your clinic. Not only does it make sense to provide proper training to your team, but they will feel confident when they go to use the new centrifuge or explain a vaccine or treatment to a client.

5. Cultivating a supportive practice culture

A healthy work environment is where individuals thrive without fear of making mistakes. A lot can go wrong in a veterinary clinic; if your employees are worried about getting fired for those mistakes, they’re bound to make more errors. You need to provide coaching and establish an open-door policy for feedback and concerns. The information mustn’t be used in retaliation but to make positive changes for the individuals involved and the clinic as a whole. Listen and make necessary changes, all while being communicative and accepting of suggestions from your team.

6. Assessing & celebrating progress

While there aren’t necessarily sales goals to hit at a private clinic, the opposite is true at a corporate-owned clinic. Your team is in it for the love of animals, but the company’s goal is to make money. Rather than celebrating the company’s or the clinic’s sales numbers, which have little impact on the team, share victories and recognize employees for their contributions. If a client compliments you on your team, tell them! Recognition goes a long way. Some employees may not like public praise, so find a way to reward their hard work that doesn’t make them uncomfortable. Sometimes, knowing that they’ve made a difference in a pet’s life is all a tech needs to hear. That’s because this job is so rewarding, even when it’s hard.

Your veterinary team is your greatest asset. They brave the demands of the job because they genuinely care. As a practice manager, it’s your role to ensure they feel valued, empowered, and equipped to tackle challenges. By introducing professional development opportunities, providing competitive pay, and fostering a positive work culture, you’re not just improving your practice’s operations– you’re cementing its future.

Strengthen your veterinary team with quality training and development

Partner with a proven training provider to upskill your workforce. Whether you aim to refine your existing team's skills or cultivate a culture of excellence for new hires, Penn Foster offers bespoke training solutions tailored for the veterinary field. Don't let your practice stagnate when success is just a training session away. To dive deeper into the world of opportunities Penn Foster offers, reach out to our training experts today.