What to do When an Associate Vet Quits

It’s the nightmare moment that every practice owner dreads. When an associate vet quits, it throws the entire clinic into chaos. Suddenly, workloads double overnight, responsibilities like on-call hours go from difficult to grueling, and the pressure can end up driving a larger staff exodus. It’s both a symptom and a cause of larger issues in a clinic. 

When an associate vet quits, it throws all of the existing problems at a hospital into stark relief. So how can we respond? How do we make it through in the short term, and how can we rebuild over time?

a shocked little cat

1. Cut back for now

It’s not an easy decision to make, but reducing the amount of cases that your clinic handles for a short period can help you to make it through the initial struggle without burning out the rest of your staff. This is especially important for small clinics, where losing one associate has significant impacts on the other DVMs.

For one clinic that lost an associate to maternity leave, the response was prioritizing the most important cases. They cut back their overall operating hours slightly and blocked off emergency slots for urgent same-day concerns. This meant handling less of the smaller, day-to-day wellness appointments and nail trims, but it allowed the clinic to continue operating with a smaller staff and provide the most vital care.

One other benefit here: prioritizing emergency cases allows your clinic to see the patients that will drive the most revenue. It might sound cynical, but this is an important consideration when an associate vet quits. According to The Vet Recruiter, six months of trying to hire an associate can lead to $200,000 in missed revenue. Anything you can do to recapture revenue in the meantime will be vitally important for your clinic during these rough months.

a cute dog with a serious face expression

2. Bring in virtual tools

Losing an associate drives up the amount of work for everyone in your clinic, but it has an especially intense impact on your remaining DVMs. For busy clinics where staff is already feeling overwhelmed, that can be devastating. The goal, then, is to find ways to fill in the gaps.

The upside here: you’ll likely find that there are better processes for some of your existing operations. When an associate vet quits, it can reveal inefficiencies, and the resulting struggle can drive clinics to make long-term investments in their day-to-day procedures. It’s not a great experience, but the result is a healthier clinic. 

For your remaining DVMs, offering telemedicine can be one key way to streamline things. It makes simple rechecks quicker without taking up an exam room. DVMs can also use tools like Talkatoo to help with your day-to-day tasks.

For the rest of your team, move any labor that doesn’t need to be done in-clinic out of the waiting room. Dr. Rachael Kuhn has found that using Jotform can be a great way to have clients complete check-in paperwork before they ever arrive at her practice. Similarly, if you can move any client communications off of the phones, email and live chat are generally more efficient and streamlined, since they can be handled asynchronously.

We cover the concept in more detail in this post, but work that can be done virtually includes:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Follow up calls
  • Rx refill requests
  • Triage
  • Call back reminders
  • Check-in forms
  • Taking deposits/pre-pay

While these steps don’t immediately impact the workload of your DVMs, they can help to reduce the amount of chaos within the clinic, and the knock-on effect is a more stable atmosphere overall. Simply put, it’s the difference between pulling away techs to handle phone calls and having them focus on supporting the doctor. Speaking of support staff…

a cat and a god staying together and showing affection

3. Use your support staff efficiently

For many practitioners, being told to better utilize their techs prompts an eye roll. Everyone knows that this part of the team shouldn’t be doing reception work. The trick is figuring out how to best utilize your staff within the context of your specific practice. 

As a starting point, your assistants should be doing nail trims, suture removals, and other similar appointments. From there, you can consider segmenting your CVTs to focus on different parts of your operations. One approach is to split this team into hands-on clinical work and client-facing work.

The clinical side handles blood draws, diagnostics, anesthesia, and bandage changes. The client-facing side takes care of chronic illness rechecks (like thyroid issues, diabetes, etc.), nutrition consultations, new puppy client education, discharge, case triage, vaccine booster appointments (excluding rabies), and assists with telehealth. The goal is to clearly break down roles so your DVMs can then focus on sick pets, urgent appointments, and surgery.

Prioritizing efficiency when an associate vet quits can make all the difference. Look for any redundancies and anywhere that roles lack clarity. Even small steps forward here will help your staff to focus on providing gold-standard care, rather than administrating day-to-day issues.

a cute little dog

4. Rethink on-call

A pet’s health doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule- should its access to care? After hours support is vital for clients, and it’s a non-negotiable for any clinic that wants to provide top-tier medicine. The problem is finding a solution that works for both your team and your community. On-call hours are exhausting and one of the leading drivers of burnout. It’s entirely possible that the struggle of balancing on-call with a day-to-day work schedule drove your associate to quit in the first place. 

So there’s a key tension here: more and more consumers are demanding support outside of a clinic’s usual hours, but finding DVMs that are willing to work on-call is really difficult.

Luckily, this situation has a clear solution: GuardianVets. Our team of credentialed veterinary technicians support your community after hours, triaging cases and only contacting your DVMs based on your protocols. We make it easy to offer 24/7 care to your community. 

Even if your team isn’t on-call, additional support outside of your regular hours can help your clinic to retain clients after an associate vet quits, as well as making it easier to build appointments into your schedule. 

Remember: when an associate vet quits, your first priority should be supporting and retaining your remaining staff. That means working especially hard to build a healthy environment, even as things get intense.

GuardianVets is the partner you need. Learn more here.

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