8 Ways to Improve Culture at Your Vet Practice

Posted by Laura Amendola on March 25, 2024

Workplace culture has become so important in recent years. There are so many things that contribute to office culture, and a lot of them are up to you as the employer to implement. Workplace culture contributes to burnout rate and impacts the bottom line for a clinic or vet practice, especially with labor shortages and lasting effects from the Covid-19 pandemic. Vicki McLain, CVT, LATG, VTS-LAM, and Veterinary Technician Instructor at Penn Foster College, says “you can do anything, even if you have people that don't have the strongest skill set to start, when you have a good culture.” If you want your practice to be a positive work environment and experience for your employees, consider applying some of these culture building blocks.


sad dog wearing a lab coat and stethoscope.

1. Offer professional development opportunities

Workers are often looking to enhance their skills or continue their education, so offering opportunities for your employees to do this may help with retention. Tuition reimbursement or partnering with institutions to supply training programs are great ways to achieve this. Penn Foster’s Veterinary Technician program is a great example of a way for students to gain more skills.


“At the end of the Vet Tech program students have earned their associate degree and they're eligible to sit for the VTNE, which accredits them with the AVMA and gives them the credentials that are invaluable and affords them so much more opportunity down the road. Once they have their credentials, they can then pursue vet tech specialties in all areas, from emergency and critical care to physical therapy”- Vicki McLain, CVT


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


2. Allow for flexibility

Employees value work-life balance more than ever, so allowing flexibility in their schedules can make for happier workers. Everyone’s circumstances are different and showing that you understand that can help foster a positive work environment. The increase in telehealth in recent years can also help contribute to flexible work schedules by allowing remote workdays dedicated to telehealth appointments.


Read more: 10 Workforce Trends to Expect in 2024


3. Promote mentorships

Being a new hire can be daunting, so buddying new employees up with existing employees can have several benefits. Your new employees will learn the ropes while building relationships with their coworkers. A bonded team can be crucial for an office to run smoothly, and mentorship programs in your practice are one way to help achieve this. They particularly can be valuable for fresh graduates just starting out their vet tech career at your practice.


Read more: 5 Ways Employee Training Benefits Vet Clinics (and Patient Care)


4. Wellness check-ins

Burnout and compassion fatigue are common amongst veterinary professionals, from vet assistants to veterinarians. Since the pandemic, burnout levels have remained high. Besides having a heavy impact on turnover – many veterinary technicians, for example, end up leaving the field within 5-10 years due to stress and burnout – it can be detrimental to the already potentially fragile mental health of your practice employees. So, how can you get ahead of burnout, stress, and compassion fatigue before they hurt your employees – and your practice?


Conducting regular wellness checks with your team members is a great way to gauge how they’re feeling and if action needs to be taken on your part to avoid unplanned mental health days or attrition. Additionally, it’s important to provide information, resources, and support for mental health to your practice employees, ensuring that they have the means to tackle problems head on before they become insurmountable.


We asked Vicki for her thoughts on this, and she said “the most important thing is that people need to understand that everybody's in it together, that it's not embarrassing to feel that maybe you are down or need to take a step back. I think it's imperative that if you have that good collaboration with your coworkers, you know you're all on the same team so you should be able to talk to one another.”


Read more: How to Set Up a Wellness Program for Your Vet Practice


5. Regular team building activities

Team building activities can help your employees bond and get to know each other better, as well as to blow off steam when work becomes too hectic or stressful. These team building activities can be small, like monthly dinners, or big, like office retreats. You know your office and team best, so plan based off this knowledge.


6. Embrace Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Employees want to feel comfortable where they work, so embracing DEI policies, procedures, and culture is so important. Your workforce is made up of individuals all looking to feel like they belong. Implementing DEI values to your culture code can help achieve this and make any new employee feel welcome. They can also help break down the divide between doctors and vet techs, something that historically has been a struggle in the veterinary world.


While implementing a strong DEI initiative can take time and effort, it's worth it. In fact, most veterinary industry employees said they support DEI initiatives in the workplace.


Read more: What Vet Techs Really Want from Employers


7. Recognition goes a long way

Are your employees going above and beyond? Are they continuously putting in fantastic work? Call it out! Workers enjoy being recognized for what they do, so celebrating their success can help build morale as well as motivation to continue delivering the results you want.


Read more: Why Celebrating Employee Success is Vital to Company Retention (and How to Do It)


8. Practice open communication

One of the easiest ways to engage with your team and to encourage them to engage back is to promote open two-way communication. Be transparent and honest with your workers about any upcoming changes or upheavals. They’ll take a page from your book and honestly communicate any issues or challenges they are facing in their work.


Achieving mutual respect can be hard in any workplace, but open communication can help your practice get there.


Cultivating the culture you want

Creating a workplace culture you can be proud of, and your team members are proud to be a part of, takes hard work and dedication, but the ends certainly justify the means. Implementing any or all of these tips can help take your practice from a fine place to work to a fantastic place to work! Learn more from our experts on ways to improve your practice and explore the Penn Foster veterinary programs today!