The Business of Practice: Hiring a Veterinary Associate

Episode 24 of the podcast allows us to hear from Dr. Mike Pownall on successfully hiring associates in his veterinary practice.

There are many more jobs for associate veterinarians open right now than there are candidates to fill those jobs. Here are tips on successfully hiring an associate. iStockPhotos.com

In Episode 24 of The Business of Practice podcast we talk to Mike Pownall, DVM, MBA, about successfully hiring multiple associate veterinarians in a time when many associate positions remain empty for months or years—if they are ever filled. Pownall is a partner and practice manager at McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Canada. He also is a partner in Oculus Insights. That company is focused on helping veterinarians and other members of the animal health care industry improve their businesses.

“We have lost two vets to small animal, but we have gained seven vets this year,” said Pownall. 

So how did he find qualified candidates and get them hired when so many associate veterinarian jobs have languished with no takers for months (or even years)?

Pownall said he has been working very successfully with a veterinary recruiter. “I didn’t need a recruiter until two years ago,” said Pownall. But the equine veterinary industry has changed, with fewer graduating veterinarians entering equine practice, more equine veterinarians retiring and the fact that half of all equine veterinarians leave for other work within the first five years of practice.

One of the ways Pownall has found qualified, enthusiastic equine veterinarians is to recruit to a broader work pool. While one of his hires was a former employee who went to veterinary school, others have come from Mexico working through the Canada-US-Mexico Free Trade Agreement.

“I’ve learned to get rid of the US/Canada bias” when hiring, said Pownall.

That doesn’t mean that every Mexican veterinary school graduate can just swoop in and start working legally in another country, noted Pownall. 

He recommended when looking for qualified candidates from outside your country that you should work with an experienced veterinary recruiter as well as an immigration lawyer. Be prepared to have to help the right candidate to get the proper licensing. That might mean you pay for the veterinarian to take the NAVLE or that you and your attorney need to work with your veterinary licensing board. (The North American Veterinary Licensing Examination—NAVLE— has been administered by the International Council for Veterinary Assessment—ICVA—since 2000. This is a requirement for licensure to practice veterinary medicine in all licensing jurisdictions in the US and Canada. The NAVLE consists of 360 clinically relevant multiple-choice questions.)

“What happens is when veterinarians are desperate for help we hire the first person who says yes, then recognize a month later that it was a mistake,” said Pownall. 

Instead of hiring out of desperation, hire from a point of finding the person who fits in your practice culture, he advised.

You will get many tips and learn from Pownall’s experiences in hiring associates in today’s business climate during this podcast.

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