New hospital hires: How long does probation last?

New hospital hires: How long does probation last?

Ask the 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year: How long should I put new veterinary team members on probation?
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Jul 31, 2017

Check with an attorney in your state if you're worried about the legality of your policy on new-hire probation periods. If you want the Practice Manager of the Year's general advice, keep reading. (Shutterstock.com)Q. How long are your probation periods for new hires? We're debating between three months and six months.

We do a 90-day probation/training period for all new hires. You can extend the period, but any benefits you offer for full-time employees—such health insurance—must be eligible to be added before their 90th day of employment. And you don't want to hold out on pet discounts, paid time off and so forth much past 90 days.

My state, Georgia, doesn't really recognize a legal "probation" period. Check with your state before setting your policy. The state looks at three criteria to decide whether a person is being officially terminated, not just "let go during training":

  • Has the employee made more than $3,200 while in your employ?
  • Was the employee given ample opportunity to learn the job?
  • Was the employee aware that the job was in jeopardy?

So, I recommend that you decide within a a few weeks whether your new hire is fitting in with the personality of the team and catching on in training. If the employee shows any red flags regarding ethics or other problems, cut your losses sooner rather than later before you've invested a lot of time.

For example, we once hired an experienced nurse with a great personality and good skills. Only six days in, her trainer lost track of her one day. The trainer found her downstairs eating, and when asked why she left, she said she decided to take a break and clocked out. She, in fact, did not clock out, so she's someone who was dishonest in her very first week. I let her go immediately.

All the 90-day probation period really really refers to is when new hires are eligible to take advantage of the benefits you offer. Training is based on the level and the department. My pet resort employees are fully trained in three weeks, but my veterinary nurses next door are divided into four levels and aren't expected to finish training in just 90 days.

Judi Bailey, CVPM, is the hospital administrator at Loving Hands Animal Clinic and Pet Resort in Alpharetta, Georgia, and the founder and president of the Georgia Veterinary Managers Association. She is also the 2016 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year.