Stacy Pursell founded The VET Recruiter in 2004. Today, The VET Recruiter is the leading U.S. search firm in the animal health and veterinary industry. Stacy is the only Certified Personnel Consultant and Certified Employee Retention Specialist in the animal health and veterinary industry, and she has personally placed more people in the industry than any other U.S. recruiter.
Spring 2020: Robust job market
Even before COVID-19 hit, the veterinary profession was in a tight labor market, tighter than the overall employment job market. Veterinary practices are still dealing with a talent shortage, so it's still a healthy job market.
I'm still placing candidates in veterinary practices and in animal health companies, with about 80 percent of interviews being virtual via Zoom, Google Meetings, or other platforms. Practices are getting creative. Those hiring in veterinary practices are creating videos of their practices to share with candidates, and one practice even interviewed a candidate through a drive-through window. Other practices have put hiring on hold until they're able to hold in-person, working interviews.
18% expected job growth in the veterinary industry between 2018 and 2028*
4% National Unemployment Rate
0.5% to 1.5% veterinary profession unemployment rate
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Fall 2020: Even more robust job market
Veterinary practices are busier than ever, and so am I as a recruiter. The talent shortage is even more prominent now. Veterinary practices have told me they've turned away new clients or fired existing ones because, without more doctors, they can't keep up with increased demand for services.
When hiring candidates, veterinary practices are returning to face-to-face interviews. On the industry side, Zoom interviews are still the norm because so many companies are still asking employees to work remotely. In-person interviews are more important for veterinary practices because the employee will be working in the practice environment. Practices have strong COVID-19 measures in place, so candidates are comfortable following those protocols and visiting the practice.
7.9% National Unemployment Rate (nearly twice the rate before COVID)
1.0% to 3.0% veterinary profession unemployment rate*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
*Based on the doubling of the National Unemployment Rate during the same time period. Although there are no concrete unemployment numbers in the veterinary profession on a month-to-month basis, a doubling of the unemployment rate could be considered a worst-case scenario.
Spring 2020: Remote veterinary positions
More candidates have expressed an interest in working from home, and telemedicine could afford that opportunity. I just received the first request to help place a veterinarian to practice telemedicine from home, and I expect to see more jobs like that become available. While the majority of clinical practice veterinary positions will still require doctors to work in the practice to see patients, the telemedicine option is attractive to some. One candidate I recently spoke with has young children at home and was interested in a work-from-home position so she could spend less time commuting and more time with her family.
Fall 2020: Requirement for top talent
I placed a veterinarian in the telemedicine position that was open this summer, and the practice is planning to hire additional telemedicine positions once they've determined how to make the platform best work for them. However, the vast majority of veterinary positions are still traditional roles. The telehealth technology will come first. As veterinary practices adopt the technology, the telehealth positions may start to increase.
From a recruiting perspective, veterinary practices will start losing talent if they're not open to using more technology and digital tools. Top veterinary talent will be deterred from working at practices that don't evolve. Instead, they'll choose to work at a practice that not only has the technology in place but is also implementing it into workflows and improving the practitioner's work experience.
Fall 2020: Bad times don't excuse bad behavior
These are difficult times and we need to give people grace, compassion and flexibility. We're all in this together and things will go wrong for each of us – clients will need to reschedule, children will interrupt Zoom calls, technology will fail and the list goes on. Needing some forgiveness for the unexpected and unavoidable, however, is different from using the pandemic as an excuse to behave poorly and unprofessionally.
Veterinary practices tell me clients' rude behavior has increased during the pandemic. Clients are demanding to get appointments immediately, even though the practice is at full capacity. They're hurling insults at maxed out veterinarians and staff, which causes even more stress for the practice team. This is unacceptable.
In remote working situations, I've witnessed first-hand people who aren't presenting themselves professionally. They're taking calls in a loud environment or while laying in bed, they're obviously multitasking or they haven't brushed their hair. Even when working from home, people need to consider how they'll be perceived and whether their interactions will be effective
The industry is already creating new models focused on providing low-cost services, and there's value in continuing that innovation. I also encourage veterinarians to be open to working in low-cost clinics, because my biggest concern for the veterinary profession right now is layoffs in other industries. If people aren't getting paychecks, this will further fuel demand for low-cost veterinary care.
There is a market for all types of practices serving all types of pet owners. Some pet owners will pay for concierge service and the most advanced, highest level of care, while others will be interested in foundational, high-quality, low-cost care. A large percentage of pet owners don't go to the veterinarian at all, so we should continue to elevate the industry to reach all types of pet owners. Practices in each type of model will need to hire talent, so there will be jobs for veterinarians and staff in all of the models.
Some veterinarians are not attracted to the lower cost model, and I'm trying to better understand why. Low-cost practices deliver high-quality medicine and usually offer compensation similar to other veterinary practices. Lower cost clinics are sometimes wellness only, so some veterinarians may miss the opportunity to perform surgery, for example. But there's certainly a need and a demand for this type of care, so there will be plenty of job opportunities for veterinarians at low-cost clinics.