Musings of a Veterinarian

Ten Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Veterinary Practice: Part II

July 17, 2011 By: Dr. K Category: For Vets, General, Practice Management

Ten Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Veterinary Practice: Part I

I’ve listed  the first 5 signs it’s time to leave your veterinary practice in Part 1. The remaining 5 signs below are equally important. Feel free to list more signs or relate personal experiences!

6. Compromised Patient Care

Do patients sit in their filthy cages all day? Tipped over water dish never filled? If your practice fails at basic care for patients, it will never excel at advanced medical care. Practices that competently complete the basics are easy to find; Finding practices that excel at advanced care proves more challenging.

A dear friend told me about a nightmare hospital where they put on the facade of a referral hospital, even providing blood products. Of course, not one of the support staff members knew how to perform a blood transfusion. Couple that with their lack of transfusion supplies and you’ve dialed up a situation for poor patient care.

Compromised patient care, at any level, is a deal breaker. Clients entrust their beloved pets to veterinary hospitals and believe we will rightly care for them. We are obligated to peak performance. If a practice does not have its focus on patient care, refuse to compromise.

7. The Practice Is Chronically Understaffed

The formula for stress at work:

Stress = Too many tasks + Too few employees – Patient care (see #6).

If your practice is always hiring, firing, or losing employees, you can bet that turn-over rate is an indicator of severe dysfunction traceable to the leadership. Practices with high churn rates find themselves in a perpetual cycle of being understaffed. High churn also means new employees in need of training. But without staff who trains them? Too few and untrained employees results in one big problem: Poor patient care!

8. Lies, Lies, Lies

Whether it’s lying to employees or lying to clients, businesses built on lies are dangerous. Evacuate now.

9. Inability to Effect Change

The ability to effect change is integral to feeling like a contributing member of a practice. Having ideas for improvement embraced and implemented rewards free-thinking employees. Movers and shakers become frustrated when their repeated attempts at correcting problems are thwarted by ineffectual leadership.

If you’re ideas and offerings are met with cold stares, or worse, promises of compromise that never come to fruition, perhaps it’s time leave for fertile ground.

10. Life Has Changed

The fluidity of life can alter your needs so that jobs that formerly fit well then may not fit now. Marriage, children, illness, and family struggles all may change your employment needs. It’s never wrong to seek a job that fulfills your financial needs, provides better benefits, or offers the hours compatible with your life.


If you are in the market for a new job in the poor economy, perseverance and ingenuity are key. Make yourself more marketable by filling niches. Create job opportunities instead of just pouring over the classifieds. Thinking outside the box just may open doors for job fulfillment!

5 Comments to “Ten Signs It’s Time To Leave Your Veterinary Practice: Part II”

  1. Robert Schowalter, VMD says:

    I like the comment that stagnant minds rot and stagnant paychecks are rotten. As the owner of a practice I strive to take good care of my employees. I’m 60 and they are all under 35 but I love them all. I intend to go in on Monday and share your wisdom and tell them that if they are stagnating it is their fault for not telling me because that is the last thing I want. Thanks, I just discovered this blog but I am a huge fan.

  2. Thank you, Dr. Schowalter. I’ve learned these points through firsthand experience and it begs repeating over and over until it clicks.

  3. Thank you for this interesting perspective. I am trying to learn more about the Vet field and this is certainly eye opening and useful when considering about this as a career choice. I guess every profession has its ‘evil side’ but these warning signs are a good checklist to reflect on and refresh every once in a while.


  4. Erica Clarke says:

    What about people who applied to vet school, got into two schools, but aren’t sure they want to go?? My dilemma… I don’t know if it’s b/c I’ve been away from working with animals for a while (about two years while getting a MPH) or if it’s because I think I want to be a “human” doctor instead. I realized med school requires two years of intense study, with two years of rotations after that. While it does require residency, doctors come out making a whole lot more than vets. I want to go back to my unending urge to work with animals, however, I just can’t shake this off. Did I experience the burn out before I even entered the career??

  5. You certainly would make more money in human medicine, but with the uncertainty in healthcare in America right now, malpractice law suits, and risk of communicable disease, I am very leery of human medicine. I began undergraduate studies pre-med; I planned on becoming a trauma doctor.

    Follow your heart, not your wallet. If human medicine is what you want, pursue it fully.

    One last note: Veterinary school and medical school are the same length. Both are 4 year degrees that combine classroom study and clinical rotations. Veterinarians are not required to engage in internships and residencies but about 40% of new grads do an internship. I highly doubt you’ve experienced the burn out that those of us in practice experience. It is more likely you are unsure or were never 100% committed to becoming a veterinarian.

    Best wishes. Life decisions are tough.


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