The wellness expert's view: There's always hope

Rebecca Rose, CVT
President, CATALYST VetPC

Rebecca Rose, CVT, founded CATALYST Veterinary Professionals in 2014. She is a certified career coach, worked in private practice as a veterinary technician and practice manager for over 20 years, has sat on industry councils, and served as President of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America in 2016.

Regulations and Process

Spring 2020: Stress for practice managers

Practice managers are more common in veterinary hospitals than ever before, and right now they're handling more change than ever before. They're implementing fluctuating local, state and federal mandates. They're figuring out how to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. They're looking for ways to keep the practice afloat financially, such as ramping up telemedicine, which comes with its own set of regulations and implementation challenges.

Employee attendance is more complicated now, too. Practice managers are organizing the re-entry of team members amid health and discrimination concerns, which comes with a higher likelihood of employee lawsuits. I recommend veterinary practice managers evaluate and update their employee handbook, focusing on understanding what's in new state and federal regulations and how they move forward within the law.

Fall 2020: Stress for team members

Practice managers must consider how high unemployment and changing household situations are affecting their team. Unemployment can hit veterinary team members heavily because a large majority are not the main bread winners. Many team members are managing children at home who need extra educational support.

Thinking people can remove personal life from work is ridiculous. If there's an ill child at home or bills that aren't getting paid, these things impact performance. That's why employee assistance programs (EAPs) exist. All veterinary practice managers need to build up their EAPs and remind team members on a monthly basis that EAP benefits are in place and available to be used.

Business Values

Spring 2020: Changing our focus

For practice managers, the pandemic will provide an opportunity to revisit the foundation of our teams. We can go forward to the basics in our values, vision and mission. I recommend this regardless of whether the team is a corporate or private entity.

The pandemic will certainly shift your team's values. A person's health and well-being are first and foremost. They're wondering whether they can go to work, whether they have to go to work, whether they're getting exposed. They're worrying about the health and social impacts on their children. What are team members valuing as families and what are we valuing as veterinary teams?

Fall 2020: Healthier client interactions

Resilience and empathy are rising to the top of teams' values. Practice managers are reaching out asking how to help their teams manage clients' anger. Just like team members, clients are experiencing anxiety in their lives, which can lead to anger.

Role playing is the perfect training for these situations. People roll their eyes at it, but role playing equips teams with the emotional intelligence to handle situations they will definitely encounter. Practice finding a point of empathy with angry clients, such as you're both here for the pet. Conflict-resolution training is also important, so team members understand it's ok to set boundaries while acknowledging that a client may be coming from a place of anxiety and uncertainty.

Importance of Well-Being

Spring 2020: On the backburner

Well-being is not foremost in most practice managers' minds. They're thinking about maintaining caseloads and how to figure out policies and protocols.

Placing personal well-being first is difficult, but being selfish in this sense is perfectly fine. Our veterinary teams are very much caretakers and caregivers in our core, and we have to put special emphasis on saying, "Yes, I'm filling my cup in order for me to be able to overflow it to others."

Fall 2020: Economic and mental value

The American Veterinary Medical Association Chief Economist, Dr. Matt Salois, is writing about the pandemic impacting our teams' well-being. (See more of his thoughts on page 14 of Bowman Report.) We've always felt in our guts that if our teams are healthy, our hospitals are healthier. Our veterinary teams are in dire need of sustainability in terms of health and career longevity. I pray COVID-19 will result in a valid, actionable well-being conversation and that at this time next year we will be able to say that our teams are healthier.


Companies using employee well-being programs saw an average of 4.5% yearly productivity growth in the two years following launch of the program compared to 0.1% growth in the two years preceding implementation of the program

Source: "The Financial Impact of Employee Wellbeing Programs on Workforce Productivity," Human Capital Management Institute (HCMI) in conjunction with Virgin Pulse Institute. Accessed November 11, 2020.

The Future

Well-being KPI

Companies track key performance indicators (KPIs) like customer retention and website traffic in order to measure whether their business is healthy. But businesses won't be healthy without healthy employees. That's why I recommend each business, including veterinary practices, set a KPI in team well-being. Well-being is not intangible. On the contrary, it is measurable through tangible KPIs, such as hours of sleep, physical activity level, water intake, healthy diet and so on.

This topic ignites me and I'm on a mission to get companies and veterinary practices ignited about it too. Of the 40,000 veterinary hospitals across the U.S. and Canada, very few track well-being. Some track employee turnover and absenteeism because they understand how high numbers in these areas affect the bottom line. Similarly, the industry must help practice managers understand the tangible business benefits of wellness and how they relate to practice profitability and client satisfaction.

One place to start is a partnership between industry and private practice. Key account managers (KAM) at an animal health company could choose a few top veterinary practice accounts to partner with. The industry partner could present 10 options for well-being KPIs, asking the practice team to choose five.

After six months of tracking the well-being KPIs, the KAM and team could evaluate success and any changes that might need to be made. After a year of tracking, the KAM and practice manager will have collected hard evidence of how well-being impacts the team and the business. I have no doubt the results will be positive for team members' happiness and the practice's bottom line.

Resource Library

Visit our page on CATALYST VetPC for free tools to help veterinary practice managers improve well-being for their business and their teams. You’ll find information on:

  • Creating effective Employee Assistance Programs
  • Establishing a wellness key performance indicator
  • Coaching teams in professionalism, efficiency and efficacy
  • Designing and delivering interactive, informative team workshops
Leave a comment