Wendy Hauser, DVM
Peak Veterinary Consulting

The role of a Veterinary management professional is challenging. Veterinary practice managers wear many hats: Human Resources expert, regulatory and compliance oversight, marketing, facility and operations management, and ensuring financial stability. In the current uncertain, complex business environment, their jobs have become infinitely harder. Let’s look at three factors that are impacting these valuable team members.

Workforce Shortages

The difficulty in recruiting veterinarians and Veterinary technicians is well documented. Part of the problem arises from the lack of retention in the Veterinary profession. The 2022 NAVTA Demographic Survey disclosed that nearly one-third (31%) of respondents were actively looking for a new position. The 2022 AVMA Census of veterinarians found 40% of private Veterinary practitioners were thinking of exiting Veterinary medicine before retirement.  Further complicating the Veterinary workforce issue is the variability in hours worked by veterinarians. During the 2023 Animalytix Mid-Year Market update, it was explained that increasingly veterinarians are working less than 2,080 hours per year, which traditionally defined a full-time veterinarian.  When practices are continually understaffed, it creates inefficiencies that decrease productivity and increases the stress felt by the entire team.

Often overlooked is the need for practice managers to step in for missing team members, sometimes as Veterinary assistants and other times providing front desk coverage. This negatively impacts the ability of the practice manager to perform the myriad of duties specific to that role.

Profitable Veterinary Practices?

Ensuring Veterinary practice profitability has become increasing more challenging for Veterinary practice managers for several reasons:

  • Increasing Costs of Providing Veterinary Services

This includes labor costs incurred during retention and due to attrition. When considering labor costs, too often the cost of new hires is the primary calculation. A more impactful aspect is the cost of turnover, driven both by the loss of potential income as well as replacement costs to recruit, hire and train. It is estimated that the turnover cost for Veterinary technicians is about $59,000 and $104,000 for veterinarians.1

The increased wages needed to recruit both veterinarians and Veterinary technicians have outpaced revenue growth. Vendor and lab fees are also rising; in 2022, they were estimated to have increased by as much as 12%2.

  • Inflation

In July, YTD Veterinary services inflation had increased by 10.63 percent3; this is on top of the 2022 increase of 8.8%4. While revenue has increased in Veterinary hospitals by 6.5% YOY5, it is far below Veterinary inflationary levels reported. Veterinary care depends on discretionary spending by clients; because inflation has impacted all aspects of consumers’ lives, clients have less income to spend on pet care. As a result, visits have decreased YOY by 1.9% and the number of invoices is reported to have fallen YOY by 1.1%.6 Another troubling area is the decrease in new patients, which was reported in the September Insider Insights (VHMA) to be -11.9% YOY7. As a percentage of total visits, new patient visits have been trending downward nationally for five years, from 16% to 14.5%8.

Creating Healthy Workplace Cultures

Practice management professionals recognize the need for creating workplace cultures that are inclusive, supportive, psychologically safe, and encourage individual development. These factors help to decrease burnout and improve team member retention. While managers are responsible for creating a healthy workplace culture, they also need hospital leadership to help them set personal boundaries. Practice managers, with rare exceptions, are always “on” as seen by responses to an August 2021 VHMA monthly survey9:

  • 53% of respondents reported working between 41-50 hours/week.
  • 60% reported working overtime at least once weekly, with 18% stating that they worked overtime every day.
  • 44% stated that they checked emails after they left for the day and 95% said that they take calls or texts from team members while at home.
  • 59% of managers who completed the survey stated that they had thought about leaving the career field in the past 36 months.

Veterinary businesses depend on strong practice management to survive and thrive. What are some ways that professional managers can overcome the challenges above by leveraging new ways of doing business?

Workforce shortages can be overcome in some of the following ways:

  • Using remote employees, such as virtual assistants and receptionists. These employees can be sourced through a variety of companies such as Saibervet, Hello Rache, Chronos, and Concierge Elite.
  • Creating workflow efficiencies. Ideas include:
    • Have clients complete medical visit forms before they arrive for a visit. This information is imported into the electronic medical record and verified with the client by the examination room team member, maintaining the relational aspect to the visit.
    • Using new technologies that simplify the burden of medical records, such as Petgenus, an AI-driven solution that streamlines medical documentation and improves communication.
  • Increase team member retention by providing continued development and advancement using tiered levels within each role in the hospital. Within each position, there are clearly defined competencies that are achieved before moving to the next level. Competencies are broad and aligned with what creates purpose and meaning for each employee. The levels allow for transparency regarding pay ranges and benefits that are offered at each stage of development.

Profitable Veterinary Practices center on patient acquisition, retention, enhancing services, and helping clients to say “Yes.”

  • Patient Acquisition

Now is the time to rethink marketing strategies, including online and community presence.

  • Website refresh: Does the website clearly convey the hospital “why”: why are they in business and why should pet owners care? What makes them unique and valuable to those they serve?
  • How is the practice reaching new pet owners? Check out Petszel, a new technology that can help match new pet owners and hospitals.
  • Recapturing active and lapsed clients. Some ways to improve client visits include:
  • Examine current reminder systems.

Are clients receiving reminders? Are the reminders interactive, with education about the importance of each recommended service? Do the reminders clearly explain what services are due, which are upcoming, which are missing, and which have never been performed? If these questions can’t be answered with a “Yes,” a solution is Healthier-Pets Communications, a platform that provides a customized hospital client portal with interactive client education, reminders in three formats, and metrics to track adherence to recommendations.

  • Offer wellness plans

Now, more than ever, clients need to budget for Veterinary care. During the Animalytix Mid-Year Market Update, it was stated that canines are receiving less wellness services while felines have shown a slight uptick in wellness care. Surveys have found that more than a quarter of Millennial and Gen Z pet owners want their veterinarians to offer wellness plans. This helps them budget for needed care and creates an easy-to-follow roadmap of services that are due, which increases communication and partnership.

  • Enhancing services

What services are being overlooked in the practice? One area that is chronically underserved is dental health. Up your game in the examination room by showing owners what is going on in their pet’s mouths. One new tool is OraStripdx, a 10-second test that reveals the presence of periodontal disease. If the infection is present, the test changes color, helping clients to understand the need for recommended care. Educate puppy and kitten owners how to brush their pet’s teeth and the importance of dental home care.

  • Overcome financial limitations.
  • Educate clients at every visit about the anticipated future cost of care for their pet’s life stage and offer tools to help them afford the care their pets will need. These include pet insurance, wellness plans, and third-party payer systems.
  • Provide care for pets in need by creating a hospital-specific charitable care account. Check out myBalto, which has created a seamless way for clients to donate during the checkout process.




  1. Neill CL, Hansen CR, Salois M. The Economic Cost of Burnout in Veterinary Medicine. Front Vet Sci. 2022 Feb 25;9:814104.
  2. Reynolds T. Inflation hitting Veterinary practices. AAHA Newstat January 12, 2022.
  3. July 2023 Update: Petflation Slows, Remains More Than Twice National CPI. Petage August 25, 2023.
  4. Gibbons J. Petflation December 2022.
  5. Vetsource Industry Summary September 12, 2023.
  6. Vetwatch Insight Report September 2023, Week 36.
  7. VHMA Insider Insights Benchmarking Report. September 2023
  8. Meredith T. A view from the trenches. Animalytix mid-year market overview July 2023.
  9. VHMA Insider Insights Management Trends, August 2021.

Critical Competencies: A Guide for Veterinary Management Professionals. Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. https://members.vhma.org/store/viewproduct.aspx?id=3048705