Missing veterinarian – Missed opportunities

It’s on everyone’s lips right now in North America: there is a serious staff shortage problem in the animal health industry in terms of veterinarians and animal health technicians. Consequences for veterinary practices of such a problem can be far worse than what we might think at first. There multiple impacts, calculated in costs of opportunity, costs of replacement and psychological costs.

Costs of opportunity are the simplest to calculate. A full-time hired veterinarian can bring a business from 320 000$ to 400 000$ in annual earnings, depending on Canadian regions. Based on Benchmarks 2016: A Study of Well-Managed Practices published in August 2016, it’s more around 582 000$ to 614 700$ that a veterinarian can generate in annual earnings for well managed practices. If one of your veterinarians is missing, that’s how much you lose. Your payroll decreases while operation costs (building, mortgage, equipment, hardware, etc.) stay the same. Every month, you pass by between 26 600$ and 33 300$ in earnings for being short of one veterinarian.

Apparently, the tech-vet ratio (4:1) is one of the key factors of success for performing practices. A smaller team has to force its resources to see less patients and to cut corners. Staff shortage can be countered by extending appointment duration, but is it most efficient use of a veterinarian’s time if he or she must execute diagnostics while preparing prescriptions instead of delegating?

Clients from urban areas who couldn’t get any short notice appointment have now access to a large array of veterinary services. If they can’t have an appointment in your practice, they can go elsewhere.  Opportunity costs can also reveal themselves on the long term, since those clients who opened files in other practices will now receive annual calls from them about vaccines and follow-ups.

Vermifuge treatment, sterilization, vaccines and microchip for a puppy can earn a veterinary practice between 800$ and 1200$. To not be able to offer multiple schedule options for those kinds of appointments represents a big financial risk.

Replacement costs are harder to calculate. These are all the costs and time associated with the hiring and training process, including costs of publishing an ad, time for interviews and onboarding. Human resources specialists have evaluated that it costs 6 to 9 months of salary to replace one employee. And while you’re looking for a candidate, you don’t see any clients!

You think you can find someone quickly? Based on an article from DVM360 magazine “The Year Ahead: Things Are Looking Bright for The Veterinary Profession”, only 0,5% of veterinarians were unemployed in 2017. If you’re looking to hire a head hunter, know that you can expect costs of 15% to 25% of your employee’s annual salary.

Psychological costs are almost incalculable but will leave you with a long-term scar. A withdrawn, disheartened team with the ultimate consequence of having a veterinary owner in psychological distress that could lead to professional exhaustion. Health and family are also on the line. Animal health is a field where a lot of professionals tend to throw themselves body and soul into, without listening to signs of stress.

Maybe you find this article is a bit of a downer. The animal health field is far from being the only one affected by staff shortage. Just think about the restaurant industry. Experts wonder, is this crisis caused by a real lack of candidates or are we in fact looking at a re-assessment of the employee-employer relationship.

Some websites are already revolutionizing how an employee works with its employer. Upwork, the platform who reached 10 billion dollars worth of contracts over the last year only, connects freelancers with businesses with specific human resources needs. The hype around Airbnb and Uber shows it as well: people want flexibility. In veterinary medicine, more and more professionals find themselves at ease and interested in short term contracts. In fact, this change can increase job fulfillment and self-development.

This tendency to espace from tradition is what drives Oxilia to create a flexible community that responds to veterinary practice owners’ needs. This is a direct solution to the increase of turnover rate in the last decade, while being a truly less expensive option instead of the traditional hiring process.

Job ads website Workopolis tells us that 51% of employees keep a position for less than two years. And we’re not counting here the frequent maternity leaves.

Oxilia opens the door to a network of excited professionals ready for new challenges in their field without having to manage human resources on a daily basis. An increasing flexibility in animal health professionals to better answer the changing needs of practices, that’s our philosophy!