Veterinary groups must be proactive in their efforts to prevent burnout in the workforce. Clinics that fail to invest in the continual improvement of veterinary professionals will soon fall behind the competition. Without happy and healthy veterinary professionals, optimal patient outcomes in animal medicine will be impossible to achieve.
Thankfully, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are helping to rejuvenate the veterinary workforce. These programs ensure the physical well-being of workers while developing a positive workplace culture that ensures that employees feel valued. Veterinary consolidators who are invested in the success of their professionals should enlist the help of EAPs to prevent burnout in the veterinary domain.
What is an Employee Assistance Program?
Employee Assistance Programs help professionals deal with personal or work-related issues that impede productivity and harm their physical or mental well-being. Most EAPs focus on specific issues, such as substance abuse and burnout. Other EAPs are more generic, serving to develop a positive workplace culture that facilitates efficiency and a sense of belonging.
EAPs are essential for resisting workplace burnout in the veterinary domain. While the veterinary industry can offer high levels of job satisfaction, it also requires many professionals to endure situations that can take an emotional or physical toll. Veterinary professionals who are regularly around suffering animals or frustrated clients may be in need of assistance that only an EAP can provide.
Many EAPs deal with sensitive issues that clinic managers or consolidators may be ill prepared to respond to. Substance abuse continues to plague the veterinary workforce, with the American Veterinary Medical Association reporting that 11% to 13% of veterinary professionals are suffering from substance abuse. An EAP staffed with mental health and rehabilitation professionals can help alleviate the toll that alcohol and other drugs take on the workforce.
Many veterinary organizations are investing in EAPs more than ever before now that the veterinary workforce is generally younger. Given that these younger professionals are generally more vulnerable to workplace burnout, an EAP focused on burnout prevention is a natural solution.
What’s Included in an EAP?
Many veterinary consolidators still have their doubts about EAP packages. They worry that EAPs are expensive and fail to produce results, when in reality they’re affordable and help supercharge a tired workforce. At the end of the day, every EAP is unique and will offer specific features that cater to the needs of the industry they inhabit. In the veterinary sector, EAPs often focus on preventing and responding to workplace burnout.
An EAP in the veterinary industry may focus on any of the following issues:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Physical fatigue
- Substance abuse
- Childcare and family planning
- Grief counselling following the loss of a patient
- Integrating relief professionals into the workforce
Specific EAPs offer additional features that are focused on the unique issues that veterinary professionals face every day. Some EAPs may provide legal advice to veterinary professionals or entire veterinary organizations in the wake of a lawsuit. EAPs may also be enlisted in the aftermath of a major consolidation to ensure a smooth transition into a broader corporate family.
Benefits of EAPs for Consolidators and Veterinary Groups
EAPs that prioritize the development of a robust and positive workplace culture are becoming more popular in the animal healthcare sector because of a newfound emphasis on employee well-being.
Healthy workplace environments are commercially valuable in a number of ways, particularly when it comes to the cultivation and retention of invaluable human capital. This is especially important for veterinary groups that hope to recruit young professionals, as these youthful experts are more vulnerable to burnout and exiting the industry than their older counterparts.
EAP services can help veterinary organizations reduce costly turnover that eats into the broader budget. By enabling troubled employees to overcome whatever issues are plaguing their personal lives, these employee assistance programs ensure no veterinary professional has to leave the workforce for rehabilitative purposes. By preventing problems before they arise or quickly responding to them as they occur, EAP counseling keeps your workforce in a state of constant improvement.
Avoiding the steep costs associated with high employee turnover isn’t the only way that EAPs deliver value to veterinary groups. EAP benefits can also ensure that current employees receive the training and mentorship they need to quickly rise through the ranks of the workforce. The disadvantages of employee assistance programs, like costs, are quickly compensated by the workforce improvement they deliver.
Retaining DVMs and C-level employees is crucial for veterinary groups that hope to avoid paying additional recruitment and training fees. It also prevents veterinary operations from grinding to a halt in the absence of these valuable employees, who are time-consuming to replace. EAPs also contribute to the organization by cultivating a valuable company culture that ensures every employee feels like they’re a valued member of the team. This cohesion leads to more efficient everyday practices, which in turn generates higher profits for the organization.
Implementing EAPs at Scale
EAP services are incredibly valuable at the clinic and hospital level. Smaller organizations may never be able to reach optimal profitability without the help of an EAP, which keeps the workforce fresh and focused. Implementing EAPs is a worthwhile endeavor that more veterinary groups are undertaking every day.
Whenever a veterinary group seeks to implement an EAP across the entire network, it’s imperative that the following features are included:
- Digital accessibility: EAPs must be accessible via computer, smartphones, and other digital devices. Given that many EAP services cater to younger professionals, digital accessibility is a necessary part of ensuring that EAP benefits proliferate across the whole network.
- Broad availability: Veterinary groups that seek to implement EAPs at scale should understand that veterinary family members need to be taken care of, too. Offering counseling, financial services, or other features to employee families ensures a happier and more stable workforce.
- Strict confidentiality: Many EAPs deal with sensitive issues like substance abuse. Strict confidentiality and anonymity must be maintained at all times. Organizations that fail to keep employee counseling records confidential will find it difficult to win back the trust of the workforce.
To truly implement EAPs at scale across an entire veterinary organization, it may prove worthwhile to invest in a dedicated EAP provider. This provider will already have the EAP expertise so that you don’t have to retrain veterinary professionals to manage EAP services. They’ll also be able to recommend EAP software your organization can invest in to facilitate the long-term development and improvement of the workforce.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has cultivated a helpful list of state wellbeing programs, some of which are mandated by law. Reviewing this list to identify local EAP providers that can partner up with your veterinary organization is a great first step. EAP providers like the ESI Group and CuraLinc Healthcare often focus on providing services to larger hospital networks. The best provider for you may depend on the size of your veterinary network.
Continually Improving the Workforce
In-house wellness seminars and company retreats can also serve as an EAP. With high-quality managers, your network may be able to bolster employee well-being and develop a positive workplace culture without the assistance of an outside EAP. Nevertheless, many veterinary groups find that EAP services are affordable and effective enough to warrant investment that ends up paying for itself through enhanced worker wellness.
Some veterinary groups are even installing in-house software that they manage themselves. While this requires a dedicated IT team or other in-house EAP experts to oversee the software, it can be a more affordable option depending on the scale of your network and what features you’re looking for in an EAP. Combining regular in-person seminars with effective technology is a great way to continually improve the workforce.
Preventing burnout in the veterinary domain requires constant effort from both clinic owners and veterinary consolidators. While the problems facing the workforce of tomorrow may require additional investment or training to overcome, investing in an EAP today is a great way to start. The only way to guarantee the longevity and success of your veterinary group is dedication to the continual improvement of the workforce’s well-being.