Veterinary Workplace Culture Survey: A Summary of Our Findings

9 min read

Culture is a vital part of the veterinary practice environment, as it plays a significant role in recruitment drives, practice growth, employee morale, and pet-owner experience. Additionally, it gets many out of bed every morning, motivating them to work. However, for veterinary employees responsible for driving that culture, it can be one of the most challenging parts of the job.

We recently carried out a veterinary workplace culture survey to understand practice employees’ opinions on their workplace culture. Over 250 respondents working across different roles in the practice took part, including receptionists, practice managers, nurses, veterinary technicians, and surgeons.

Some of our key findings:

  • 62.5 % have experienced bullying within their practice
  • 37.5% feel that ‘stressed colleagues’ impact practice workplace culture most
  • 14.1% are concerned that their practice workplace culture isn’t positive
  • Over 80% of respondents have experienced abuse from pet owners
  • 62.3% agree that technology can positively influence practice culture

Free Webinar: Is Positive Workplace Culture Still Possible In Veterinary Practices?

For better or worse? COVID-19’s impact on practice workplace culture

Question 1: On a scale of 1 to 10, how is the workplace culture within your practice?

Figure 1 (1 = Extremely Negative | 10 = Extremely Positive)

Question 2: What impact has COVID-19 had on the workplace culture within your practice?

Figure 2 (1 = Extremely Negative | 5 = Extremely Positive)

Analysis: 

Veterinary practice workplace culture has been an essential part of how several practices have survived the complications of COVID-19. However, the pandemic is also changing these same practices’ cultures, positively as well as negatively. 

We see a close connection between our respondents’ views on what their practice culture currently looks like and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on it.

To our surprise, a whopping 86% of survey respondents were convinced that their practice workplace culture is positive (answered between 6 and 10 to figure 1). This is higher than we expected, however, we must point out that a large portion of our respondents are Vetstoria users (shameless plug – but it could be a contributing factor).

One thing we can be sure of is that COVID-19 has forced practices to see, think, feel, plan, and act differently.

14.1% list their practice workplace culture on the negative side of the scale (answering between 1 and 5 to figure 1). Furthermore, 34.2% agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their practice culture negatively (answering 1 or 2 to figure 2).

In contrast, 24.1% of respondents stated that they think their practice culture has improved due to the pandemic (answering 4 or 5 to figure 2). This could be a sign of coming together and unity that is a great thing to see in our industry! 😊

The biggest contributors to veterinary workplace culture

Question 3: Which of the following factors do you think currently impacts workplace culture most?

Figure 3

Analysis: 

The elements that largely impact practice workplace culture positively are practice leadership, practice management, policies, and people. However, many practices fail to pay attention to these factors, and improving practice culture is often the least of their concern, especially in the midst of a global health pandemic.

Our survey showed that respondents thought that having stressed colleagues at the practice impacts practice workplace culture the most( 37.5%).

The second most chosen factor was changes to pet-owner behavior, with 25.7% of respondents conveying that changes to attitudes and expectations are significantly impacting their practice workplace culture.

15.4% selected new COVID-19 safety measures as the biggest factor. And quite surprising was the fact that only 8.6% of our respondents thought that reduced staff numbers have impacted their culture most. Considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on the global workforce, we expected this number to be slightly higher.

Not all practice employees feel valued 

Question 4: Do you feel that you are valued within the practice?

Figure 4

Analysis: 

When veterinary employees feel valued, their sense of self-worth increases. This enhanced sense of worth and respect are critical drivers in building loyalty, morale, and happiness, creating a positive workplace culture. 

In our survey, 68.7% of our respondents stated that they do not feel valued within their practice. An additional 4.8% stated that they don’t feel valued as much as they’d like.

With almost three-quarters of respondents stating that they don’t feel as valued as they like or at all, it’s no surprise that practice workplace culture is a big discussion topic right now.

If you’re struggling to think of ways to make employees feel valued within your practice, here are some easy ways to help: show recognition, give feedback, communicate, and reward employees for their hard work.

The majority of practice employees have experienced bullying

Question 5: Have you personally experienced or witnessed bullying within a veterinary practice?

Figure 5

Analysis: 

Sadly, bullying is rife within veterinary practices. This is reflected by the fact that 62.1% of our 250+ survey respondents have stated that they’ve witnessed or experienced bullying in the profession.

Such high levels of bullying have the potential to create problems that extend beyond workplace cultures, such as high absence rates, employee turnover, low morale, and stress.

Most practice employees experience pet owner abuse, some are not supported

Question 6: Have you experienced abuse from pet-owners and did you receive support from your team?

Figure 6

Analysis: 

Yes, most frontline workers face physical and verbal abuse at some point. However, any veterinary professional will tell you that this is commonplace within the practice. High emotions play a role here, but considering the effort and sacrifice veterinary professionals put in to provide animal care; it’s sad to see it happening.

Sadly, over 80% of our respondents have experienced abuse from pet owners. The consolation is that 71.3% stated that although they have faced such abuse, they were backed up and supported by other practice members. However, that still left 8.8% that received abuse from pet owners but unfortunately weren’t supported.

If we are to drive our industry forward, practice teams need to pull together and support each other. This will further enhance the culture and make the professional more rewarding for all involved.

The role practice managers can play in improving culture

Question 7: What can practice management do to facilitate positive workplace culture?

Figure 7

Analysis:

The practice management team (or practice manager) has the most influential role when it comes to shaping the culture within a veterinary practice. After all, they are usually responsible for the day-to-day running of the practice.

When asking our respondents what practice management could do to facilitate positive workplace culture, the most popular choice by far was ‘Provide more support to team members’ (62.9%). Other popular choices included: ‘Implement team building activities’ (49.3%), ‘Hire more staff’ (40.1%), and ‘Rewards and incentives for performance’ (43.4%).

While some of the above may be difficult to implement, as they require financial investment, the the return on investment seen in increased productivity, higher staff retention rates and improved pet owner experience lead to a most prosperous business in the long-run, and therefore should be considered.

Another interesting selection was ‘Outsource time-consuming tasks’, with (22.8%) of respondents agreeing that time-consuming admin tasks that can easily be automated are still being fulfilled by themselves.

Furthermore, having to perform repetitive tasks impacts the practice culture due to the increased stress felt by those responsible. Therefore the suggestion of outsourcing such tasks is justified. This outsourcing can take the form of hiring an external team to do the work or using technology to handle it.

This leads to the final question we asked our respondents, can technology influence workplace culture? 

The role technology can play in improving culture

Question 8: Can technology influence workplace culture?

Figure 8

Analysis:

66.9% of our respondents thought technology could influence their practice workplace culture, out of which 63.2% thought it was for the best, and 3.7% thought it was for the worse.

Technology influences the culture of veterinary workplaces. However, the technology you use in your practice will not create or change a culture single-handedly. It needs to be implemented to enhance your existing culture and processes.

What types of technology can influence the culture in your practice?

Internal communication tools:

Communication software helps build connections between all practice employees and facilitates practice managers and other staff collaboration. Such software further ensures every person is involved and is always on the same page, reducing frustration and unnecessary work repetition. Examples of these technologies include Slack, Zoom, or Google Meet.

Practice management software:

Practice management software helps manage and track patient information, financial data, appointment schedules, and more. A good system is a difference between chaos and harmony, and a well set-up and utilized system can definitely reduce stress within the practice.

Online appointment booking platforms:

Online appointment booking platforms such as Vetstoria automate one of the most time-intensive tasks that veterinary admin teams face – booking appointments. If the platform integrates with your practice management software’s schedule, it will save a huge amount of time whilst improving the pet owner experience (no more waiting on hold). Happier staff and happier pet owners – what better way to improve the practice environment?