8 Reasons Vet Techs Leave Your Practice for Another
You spend so much time finding the right vet techs for your practice that when one of them leaves it can be very frustrating. Often, you want a reason but it can be hard to really know why vet techs leave.
Read on for some of the key influences on retention I've witnessed in my practice over the past 10 years.
1. Wages and Salaries
Most of us work to pay the bills. Sure, we may love our jobs and feel fulfilled by them, but ultimately, money remains a key element. In 2019, SHRM reported on a PayScale survey that higher pay was the primary reason people looked for a new job. My experience is that vet techs don't leave a practice they love for a small bump in income, but there is certainly a point where the promise of a large-enough raise can make the transition worth it.
2. Lack of Fulfillment
The preliminary results of a 2021 survey by American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) found that under-use can be a significant factor in losing staff members. Veterinary technicians who have trained to complete procedures, manage surgeries, and actively support their doctors may become frustrated if unable to apply those skills. This may, in turn, make your veterinary team feel you don't trust them, and that can drive a wedge between them and the management team.
3. Physical Exhaustion
The vet tech role involves bending, lifting, and restraining pets who aren't always convinced we have their best interests at heart. In the AVMA survey, 60% of respondents said the job was too physically demanding. That may make another practice that promises to minimize this struggle all the more appealing—by insisting, for example, on sedation for pets who are difficult or dangerous to handle.
4. Compassion Fatigue
Beyond the physical factors, compassion fatigue remains a problem for all of us. The situation has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it essential to devote more attention to preventing burnout among your veterinary team. I've heard in more than one exit interview that the team member will miss the good clients, but they just need a break from the burden of caring for sick or dying pets. Although we can't change the nature of the work we do, making sure that resources are available to support the team can and does make a difference.
5. Poor Management
Unhappy veterinary employees are more likely to leave, making it important to cultivate approachability so you have a chance to address issues before it's too late. By supporting your employees with a good management team, you can help them feel valued. Still, employees can be negatively impacted by a range of issues, and it's up to leadership to provide resources and maintain veterinary team morale. New hires have told me they were looking for an opportunity for reasons ranging from their previous company's actual culture not matching their goals—often due to poor management—to outright favoritism and bullying.
6. Lack of Career Opportunity
Career advancement is important; no one wants to feel trapped or stuck in their career track. This lack of support for formal training and advancement can push veterinary employees away. Plus, a vet tech who leaves to take a lead or manager position at another practice is likely a strong, talented team member—making them even harder to replace. Many practices in our area, including mine, now offer tuition fee support to help our teams grow professionally.
7. Veterinary Team Disruption
Losing one or two key team members can be enough to destabilize your team. This can manifest in a number of ways by drawing attention to other issues in your veterinary practice. After losing a manager, you may lose other team members who feel they were passed over for a promotion or don't like the new lead. An outgoing team member will also likely want to tell their peers how much better their new opportunity is and that can cause others to jump ship. In the end, proactive management can help to reduce, if not eliminate, the knock-on effects.
8. External Factors
There can be external pressures on your team that you may be able to mitigate. Employees may, for example, need some flexibility in scheduling for child or elder care that you might be able to provide. Although it's important to avoid putting extra pressure on other members of the veterinary team, you may be able to retain experienced vet techs by working with them. It's worked for us.
Losing employees can be tough, especially in smaller veterinary practices when it can feel like a personal rejection. After years of exit interviews, followed by finding out the "actual" reasons from other team members, I've learned that it can be hard on employees, too. Recognizing the factors that influence your teams' decisions and actively addressing them can make employee retention easier—and veterinary practices a happier place to work.