How Associates Can Find Their Dream Veterinary Clinic

Veterinarians are in high demand, so new graduates or those looking to move to another veterinary clinic have their pick of the litter. This shift gives associates more power in their employment relationships. Rather than choose a workplace that's the lesser of two evils because they're afraid to speak up and lose the offer, job seekers can confidently negotiate for what they truly want and need.

Regardless of whether you believe there's a shortage of veterinarians, or you think the problem is based on a lack of efficiency, the new dynamic means that veterinarians can advocate for themselves, which is a positive step toward healing mental health woes. But, how do you navigate the sea of employment possibilities and find the place where you'll thrive? Most important is taking your time and carefully evaluating each option. Here are some additional tips to help you find your dream workplace.

1. Determine What Matters Most

Every job ad lists the reasons why you should work for a given veterinary clinic, but determining what matters most to you will help you weed through the endless listings. Think about your life right now and how you'd like it to look in the future. Then, determine which items are most important to you.

  • Location: Do you want to live in a specific part of the country? Are you willing to relocate? If you're searching your local area, consider the commute. A short commute can be helpful to prepare for the day or wind down before returning home, but spending over an hour sitting in traffic can become a major stressor.

  • Salary: The best job doesn't always offer the highest salary or a signing bonus. Determine your specific needs. How much do you realistically need to live comfortably and support your family and goals? Remember, negotiation is always a possibility, and large bonuses often come with strings attached.

  • Pay structure: Production pay structures can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the specific situation. If production is on the table, you should carefully consider the terms presented and then negotiate. Ensure you don't lose money when you take a vacation or that you don't have to reimburse a negative accrual while on family leave.

  • Benefits: Health insurance, retirement, and ample vacation time are essential benefits for most people. Be sure to ask about the continuing education budget and policy, license and membership reimbursements, their pets-at-work policy, employee assistance programs, and whether the practice offers assistance with student loans.

  • Schedule: Schedule flexibility is one of the most important factors in your work-life balance and overall well-being. Will you work weekends, evenings, overnights, or on-call? How many days per week would you prefer to work, and will this impact your pay?

  • Mentorship: New graduates should look for employers who offer mentorship programs that will help them establish their footing during their first few years. Are the practice's associate veterinarians competitive or supportive? Is a formal mentorship program offered?

  • Values and certifications: For some, practice certifications are a must. If you strongly believe in Fear Free, AAHA standards, or gentle feline handling, you'll have daily conflicts in a practice that does not share the same beliefs.

  • Staffing: Most practices are understaffed, but those that treat their people well struggle far less with turnover. Does the practice hire and properly utilize credentialed team members? What is the ratio of support staff on the floor to each veterinarian? The more support you have, the more productive, efficient, and happy you'll be.

2. Keep an Open Mind

You may have certain ideas about where you'd like to practice, but opening your mind to other possibilities can ensure you land in the right place. If you weren't happy in a corporate setting, you may fare well in an independent practice, or vice versa. Veterinarians suffering from burnout or with difficult scheduling needs may find happiness in a relief role. If you like the unpredictability of emergency work, an urgent care situation may be best. Also, think carefully about your goals—do you want to eventually own a practice or advance to a medical director role? Similarly, don't discount industry or non-traditional roles outside practice that could suit you better.

3. Work With a Recruiter

You may feel the internet is overflowing with positions, and you have no shortage of options, so you don't need help from a recruiter. But, a recruiter can sift through the opportunities and help you find the best matches. They can also help you find practices with smaller advertising budgets that the larger players overshadow. Look for career placement services through your veterinary school or professional organizations.

4. Trust Your Gut

Above all, follow your instincts when choosing a practice. Your workplace is like a second home, and you need to feel comfortable with the environment, culture, and co-workers. If you get a bad gut feeling when you enter a practice or during your interview, the position may look great on paper but is likely not the best place for you.

The job hunt can be a challenge, but persistence and careful screening will pay off in the long run. Remember, contracts are two-way agreements. If you sign on to a practice that doesn't turn out the way you expected, advocate for yourself and make changes, or move on to a position that truly makes you happy.

Angela Beal

Angela Beal is a veterinarian in Columbus, Ohio who loves using her writing to help veterinarians live more fulfilling lives by helping make practice life more efficient and less stressful. Angela has a background in private practice and academia, and since 2020, she has worked full-time with Rumpus Writing and Editing, a veterinary-specific writing and editing company. Rumpus’ clients include veterinary practices and industry partners, including marketing companies, national corporations, consultants, and several international businesses. Learn more at The views and opinions in this piece are the authors own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Vetiverse or IDEXX.

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