How do equine veterinarians take care of clients without being all alone or burning out serving horses 24/7/365? Kelly Zeytoonian, DVM, MBA, the owner of Starwood Equine Veterinary Service and Starwood Veterinary Consulting in California, shares her unique journey to creating an equine veterinary practice that succeeds in serving the veterinarians, the business and the clients in this The Business of Practice podcast.
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In a six-vet practice, four practitioners work four days per week and two work one or two days per week. The four-day practitioners work 7-8 hours each day. That’s right; they don’t work 10 hours per day. Zeytoonian said these work hours are figured into the fact that each vet is on call for emergencies two days per week and usually add more hours through that work.
“This schedule allows us to show up fresh to work,” said Zeytoonian. “That way we don’t skip steps for safety and are aware and astute.”
Zeytoonian said her practitioners also rely on veterinary assistants and technicians. “It makes a world of difference in us staying safe and helps in billing and followup,” she added.
Zeytoonian is a proponent of using vet techs and assistants, saying, “Why not lean on a well-trained individual who focuses on keeping us safe and making our lives easier?”
She also talked about paying veterinarians a living wage, especially for those young associates with student debt.
The practice also focuses on not “bugging” coworkers on their days off. “When the day is over, the day is over,” said Zeytoonian.
The practice also doesn’t allow clients to directly contact vets through text, phone or email. “Our clients are Starwood Equine clients, not one vet’s client,” explained Zeytoonian. “Clients know we talk behind the scenes about history and are up-to-speed on cases.
“We explain we are a team that provides excellent care for the horse and the vet,” said Zeytoonian. “We found it works pretty well with our clients.”
Zeytoonian also said they tailor work days based on veterinarian needs. One vet does triathlons and works out in the mornings, so her schedule starts later in the day and goes longer into the evening. Another vet has young children so she needs to start early and end early so she can attend school events.
“We also talk to our clients,” said Zeytoonian. “And if our veterinarians have concerns about a situation where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe—if a half-feral horse needs vaccination—we might have that horse go to a trainer for a couple of months before we will do the work.”
Zeytoonian said the mental and physical safety of the practices vets is important.
If other veterinarians are trying to find some help, Zeytoonian’s key words of advice are: Don’t rule out any possibility.
“This all started with a conversation of what we want our work/life to look like, then we go to the spreadsheets to see if it will work,” said Zeytoonian.
In a CareCredit roundtable last year Zeytoonian said: “I like seeing that practices are [setting boundaries], and we don’t have to fall into that six-day workweek where you work till you drop.”
Topics included in this podcast include:
- Emergency duty
- Physical demands
- Debt to income disparity
- Long hours
- Practice culture
- Work ethic disparity
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