During the early stages of your veterinary career, every task and skill seems to require immense focus and conscious efforts until you feel proficient. So many small actions demand your attention every single day that you may be tempted to keep your head down and your blinders on to stay focused. This may be well-intentioned, but new veterinarians may lose sight of the larger role they contribute to the practice. 

Knowing how what you do fits into the larger practice financial picture can make you a more productive associate, increase your job satisfaction, and help you unlock opportunities to advance patient care.

More than an employee

As a new veterinary graduate, you may feel pretty low on the professional ladder, but once you are an associate veterinarian in practice, you’re more than a cog in the wheel, and your production directly impacts the practice’s financial health. Every procedure you perform, appointment you see, or inventory item you dispense contributes not only to your own paycheck, but also other operational costs, such as employee salaries and wages, drugs and supplies, and equipment upgrades, purchases, and maintenance. Your practice value influences everyone’s ability to care. 

Veterinary medicine is a service industry

Although we don’t like to admit it, veterinary medicine is—at its core—a sales and service industry. We sell care services to pet owners to ensure their beloved companions live long, healthy, and happy lives. 

Although this perspective may seem to strip veterinary medicine of its nobility, you can have compassion and a business mindset. You want to ensure your earnings match your services and justify your practice position. You can easily do this by imagining you are your own small business inside the practice and the decisions you make, revenue you generate, and time you invest can support or hinder the practice’s ability to provide high-quality veterinary care for pets and their owners.

Quality medicine is quality money

Every day, you are contributing monetary value to your practice through billable services and your influence on workplace culture, and you must ensure a respectable return on investment (i.e., you) for your veterinary hospital by charging appropriately. In other words, know your worth! Experienced, knowledgeable, supportive veterinary animal and client care take time, skill, and compassion, so ensure your costs reflect your effort and expertise. 

Discounts don’t pay off

New veterinarians are frequently tempted to discount their services or waive the service fee to increase client satisfaction or avoid potential conflict. Common reasons for discounted services include:

  • Apologizing for delays, errors, or working slowly
  • Getting clients to agree to recommended services or gold-standard care
  • Improving or reinforcing the client-veterinarian relationship to build a loyal client base
  • Avoiding awkward or emotionally difficult cost-of-care conversations

Unfortunately, despite a client’s initial satisfaction, discounts ultimately don’t pay for anyone involved—including the client. Discount fallout includes:

  • Clients learn to expect discounts or free services 
  • Clients don’t learn the true cost and value of high-quality veterinary care
  • Poor production numbers may influence future salary decisions
  • You may be pressured to provide additional services to make up for profits lost on a discounted invoice
  • Persistent discounting can affect the practice’s ability to hire additional staff, pay current team members appropriately, or invest in new equipment or renovations

If you still feel pressured to offer discounts despite their ugly cost, look closely at the services you’re providing and whether you’re effectively communicating cost-of-care value and importance to your clients.

Thoughtful contributions help improve the practice

With practice technology and equipment in the real world, you get what you get and you don’t get upset—unless you understand how a new purchase could benefit your practice and can effectively communicate the reasons to your employer.

It’s natural to want new equipment, but it’s important to have a well thought-out plan before asking. First, consider your practice’s financial health. Would the equipment be a sound investment with an appropriate return, or would the purchase strain other operational costs? Would hiring more staff to finally unburden your overwhelmed team members be smarter and more valuable? 

If you have the financial means, carefully consider other logistics, such as space, time, and training. Write a proposal that outlines the costs and benefits, ensuring you make your request from a business perspective. This not only increases your credibility, but can also show you can be an enormous asset to future practice growth and development, and your employer will always turn to you for input and ideas.

The minutiae of daily practice life can be all-consuming, especially when you’re starting out. But, seeing your role on a micro and macro level can remind you that you’re part of something larger than yourself, which will ultimately lead to increased job performance and satisfaction.

Ready, Vet, Go Veterinary Mentorship provides professional guidance and support for new and early career veterinarians to help them make positive contributions to the veterinary industry and enjoy long, healthy, and rewarding careers.

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