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Strategic Workforce Planning For Veterinary Hospitals

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Over the last year, the pandemic crippled many US businesses; however, many veterinary practices continued to grow. As people stayed home, they purchased pets which increased the need for veterinary care. As a result of the client growth, many hospitals became understaffed, creating a need to hire more associates. Understaffed hospitals result in overworked and burned-out associates, which can potentially lead to turnover. While we can not control external forces such as Covid-19, a business can effectively plan its people strategy for current and future needs. This article will discuss the need for strategic workforce planning for a veterinary hospital and how to align the people strategy with business objectives. 

The Society of Human Resource describes workforce planning as the following: Workforce planning is the process an organization uses to analyze its workforce and determine the steps it must take to prepare for future staffing needs. To effectively build a hospital team for sustainable growth, workforce planning may start a year in advance and with ongoing reviews of workforce needs. Typically, when a hospital is fully staffed, leaders get comfortable and do not plan for change. Change is inevitable; for example, associates have families, step down from FT to PT, move, or find another job. Additionally, if you plan to increase your pet count, you must plan to hire enough staff to meet the need. 

Workforce planning is critical as it allows you to plan for current and futures needs. Some positions take longer to fill depending on the location, reputation, and type of medicine you may practice in your clinic.  A clinic must consider many scenarios when planning to hire new associates; for example, some considerations include location, skills needed, reputation, hospital culture, mentorship, schedules, hours of operations, and much more.  Planning is critical to ensure you have the right staff, at the right time.  At it's simplest as you think about workforce planning two things should come to mind, will you need to replace staff or are you planning to grow your practice to meet business needs?  

Replacement “Those at Risk” 

Take inventory of those who are at risk of leaving your practice. You should review this with your hospital administrator periodically. Additionally, have an ongoing conversation with your team to gauge how they are doing. Risk assessments are imperative to help you uncover whether your associate is at low, medium, or high risk of leaving. Some key indicators of increased risk include but is not limited to the following:

  • Associate disengagement 
  • Compensation concerns
  • Relocation
  • Having a family
  • Having a family
  • Retirement
  • Lack of professional growth and development 


As you continue to build your client base and see more pets, you will need to hire more staff. Additionally, you may want to hire more associates if you have surpassed the threshold of pets you care for daily or cannot schedule pets promptly. Factors that attribute to growth include but are not limited to the following:

  • High Pet Count 
  • Increase in clients scheduling appointments
  • You plan to open a new hospital
  • Hospital is currently fully staffed
  • Concerns for associate well-being and inability to scheduling time off

As you assess your workforce, you can determine any risk factors and or growth requirements. As your business grows, you may need core staff such as veterinarians or para-professional or you may need to hire support staff such as a digitial marketer. In our next article, we will discuss the tools needed to help you with workforce planning.