The veterinary compensation conundrum

How you pay affects the job satisfaction of veterinary associates and other employees. Plus, flexibility is a factor as well.
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Aug 01, 2010
By dvm360.com staff
It's surely no surprise that veterinary compensation can be a touchy subject. We at Veterinary Economics have been covering the issue heavily in the past months (see the articles in our January, March, and May issues), so we decided to quantify some of the factors at play. On these pages are our findings regarding the compensation methods practices use, how satisfied owners think their associates are with that method, and how happy associates actually report they are with their method of pay.

So what's at stake with compensation? A whole lot. For one thing, it affects whether you're able to find and keep associate veterinarians and veterinary team members. And, of course, compensation also has a bearing on the profitability of your business. The key is to balance the needs and wants on both sides of the equation.

The good news is that in the workforce at large—and especially in the veterinary profession—the job is about much more than money. One way practices can offer a significant nonmonetary benefit is to provide scheduling flexibility. Giving employees and doctors the ability to pick and choose their hours (within reason) can provide a huge boost in job satisfaction and employee loyalty.
Data source: 2010 Veterinary Economics State of the Industry Study

The complete package:
What method of associate compensation does your veterinary practice use?

Owners: Are your associates happy with the model of compensation you use?
    Owners who pay production with a guaranteed base
    Owners who pay a salary
    Owners who pay on production
    Owners who answered "other"

Average associate starting salary by years of compensation

Associates: Are you happy with the compensation method your practice uses?
    Associates paid on production with a guaranteed base
    Associates paid a salary
    Associates paid on production
    Associates paid some other way

Veterinary technician compensation
    What compensation method is used to pay technicians?
    Technicians: Would you like to be paid on production with a guaranteed base?

Flexible scheduling
    Does your practice offer flexible scheduling, such as split shifts?
    Have practice employees requested flexible scheduling options?
    Small-animal practitioners: Did flexible hours lure you in?
    My view: Today's associates need—and demand—flexible hours
Creative ways to pay shouldn't stop with your associates
Smart veterinarians respect the part veterinary technicians and other team members play in client compliance and promoting services. But why don't more practice owners try out an incentive system like production-based pay that directly rewards them for the work they do in securing revenue?

Our sister magazine Firstline recently asked veterinary technicians how they're paid—and how they'd like to be. See the charts below for some interesting results. Could you incentivize some of your own technicians to bring in more practice revenue?

If you don't think this is an option, visit dvm360.com/technicianappointments. You'll discover how some client visits can be directed to your credentialed veterinary technicians—making production-based pay for these team members a more likely scenario.
Data source: 2010 Firstline Team Trends Study

The complete package:
What method of associate compensation does your veterinary practice use?

Owners: Are your associates happy with the model of compensation you use?
    Owners who pay production with a guaranteed base
    Owners who pay a salary
    Owners who pay on production
    Owners who answered "other"

Average associate starting salary by years of compensation

Associates: Are you happy with the compensation method your practice uses?
    Associates paid on production with a guaranteed base
    Associates paid a salary
    Associates paid on production
    Associates paid some other way

Veterinary technician compensation
    What compensation method is used to pay technicians?
    Technicians: Would you like to be paid on production with a guaranteed base?

Flexible scheduling
    Does your practice offer flexible scheduling, such as split shifts?
    Have practice employees requested flexible scheduling options?
    Small-animal practitioners: Did flexible hours lure you in?
    My view: Today's associates need—and demand—flexible hours
My view: Today's associates need—and demand—flexible hours
By Dr. Andrew Rollo

If you're an owner who bemoans the work ethic of today's associates, you should know we're not lazy. We're capable of putting our noses to the grindstone, clocking in 60-hour workweeks, and owning practices. But many of us have chosen a different path in veterinary medicine. We're finding new ways to balance hard work in this profession with our family responsibilities and personal lives. We're demanding more flexibility in our schedules to make that happen.

A growing number of 24-hour hospitals and multidoctor practices are attracting and keeping many talented associates by offering flexible hours and shifts. This flexibility is an even higher priority for those veterinarians who are single parents or living in dual-income households who need to balance childcare with work. We need late shifts, overnight shifts, weekend shifts, and other doctors to cover in emergencies.

Of course, strange hours can make it hard to attract associates, too. Some don't want to work the graveyard shift. That can make it as challenging for 24-hour hospitals to find doctors as it is for practices with a hard-and-fast 9-to-5 schedule. Some associates will jump ship if the hours or times they're asked to work don't fit with their lifestyle or family activities.

Veterinarians have asked for better work-life balance for a long time. Today, a new generation of associates is asking for balance—and we're getting it.

Dr. Andrew Rollo is a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and an associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Madison Heights, Mich. He writes a regular blog once a month at dvm360.com/community.

The complete package:
What method of associate compensation does your veterinary practice use?

Owners: Are your associates happy with the model of compensation you use?
    Owners who pay production with a guaranteed base
    Owners who pay a salary
    Owners who pay on production
    Owners who answered "other"

Average associate starting salary by years of compensation

Associates: Are you happy with the compensation method your practice uses?
    Associates paid on production with a guaranteed base
    Associates paid a salary
    Associates paid on production
    Associates paid some other way

Veterinary technician compensation
    What compensation method is used to pay technicians?
    Technicians: Would you like to be paid on production with a guaranteed base?

Flexible scheduling
    Does your practice offer flexible scheduling, such as split shifts?
    Have practice employees requested flexible scheduling options?
    Small-animal practitioners: Did flexible hours lure you in?
    My view: Today's associates need—and demand—flexible hours