AAEP Commission for Veterinary Sustainability: Help for Changing Your Practice’s Culture  

The AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability's Practice Subcommittee has made great progress in developing resources supporting the seven pillars of a healthy practice culture.
Two equine veterinarians smiling, experiencing a healthy practice culture.
The seven pillars of a healthy practice culture are designed to provide more psychological safety for practitioners. | Getty Images

The AAEP officers appointed leaders and members to the AAEP Commission for Equine Veterinary Sustainability’s Practice Culture Subcommittee in August 2022. Stacey Cordivano, DVM, and Kelly Zeytoonian, DVM, MBA, CERP, were appointed the co-chairs, and Emma Read, DVM, MVSc, DACVS, became the officer liaison. In 2024, Jaci Boggs, DVM, MS, DACVIM, and Kim Harmon, VMD, became the co-chairs. AAEP President Katie Garrett, DVM, DACVS, assumed the officer liaison position. Subcommittee members currently include Drs. Andy Cameron, Stacy Cordivano, Aimee Eggleston-Ahearn, Anna Hood, Jamie Pribyl, Emma Read, Chrissie Schneider, Nathan Voris, Harry Werner, Ashley Whitehead, and Kelly Zeytoonian.   

Practice Culture Subcommittee Goals

The subcommittee was tasked with defining the aspects that make up the “culture” of a particular practice and developing solutions and best practices to improve the culture of equine practice. Some areas of interest for the subcommittee included creative work schedules, internal practice communications, improved onboarding for new associates, family leave policies, and appropriate boundary-setting. The subcommittee’s ultimate goal was to empower practice owners to prioritize colleagues’ health and welfare without compromising economics or client care.  

Seven Pillars of a Healthy Practice Culture

Initially, the subcommittee focused on collaborating to build a rubric based on seven pillars of a healthy practice culture:  

  1. Safety (physical, psychological, and mental). 
  1. Security (comprehensive benefits, parental leave, and leaders modeling a balanced life). 
  1. Connection and community (relationships with colleagues, involvement in organized veterinary medicine, and networking opportunities). 
  1. Mattering at work (alignment of mission, vision, and values; involvement in decision-making; and recognition). 
  1. Professional and personal life (finding integration and balance, having autonomy over schedule, and setting boundaries).  
  1. Communication, both within the team and with clients. 
  1. Opportunities for growth, including mentorship, onboarding, reviews, engagement measures, and effective feedback. 

Resources for Veterinary Practices

The group then created a wide array of resources for each of the pillars. These resources include a cultural transformation toolkit, the Communication Boundaries for Equine Practice Handbook, a video guide to creating community, an employee reward and recognition assessment tool, a feedback survey for employees, a non-salary benefits survey, a guidance tool for using stay interviews, a stay interview tool, videos of how to conduct successful stay interviews, and a handbook guide for creating successful teams. At the 2023 AAEP convention in San Diego, the handbook was available as a hard copy. These resources are all available at https://aaep.org/aaep-equine-veterinary-sustainability-initiative/practice-culture.

Goals for 2024

In 2024, the subcommittee plans to develop a strategy for distributing information about practice culture through a variety of channels. It also plans to develop additional resources and expose even more practices to these tools and ideas. By improving practice culture across the equine industry, the subcommittee hopes to bring positive change to the profession and help attract and retain future equine doctors.  

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