The Business of Practice: Employee Engagement

Two smiling female veterinarians stand next to a flaxen chestnut horse in a rope halter.
Employee engagement means that associate veterinarians, techs/assistants and other staff are giving their employer 100% effort. iStock

Employee engagement is paramount to the success of any business. The term “quiet quitting” has been bandied about routinely in recent years, but that is just another term for being “disengaged” at work. Employees do the job, but they aren’t giving it 100%.

In this podcast, we talk about employee engagement in equine veterinary practice with Drs. Stacey Cordivano and Kelly Zeytoonian. They are co-chairs of the Practice Culture subcommittee operating under the AAEP’s Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability. Keep in mind that employees can be associate veterinarians, office or barn staff, or vet techs/assistants.

Practice Culture Subcommittee

There are six subcommittees operating under the AAEP’s Commission on Equine Veterinary Sustainability. Cordivano said the AAEP recognized its top goal as targeting ways to improve vet life. “We want to make equine practice better and more enjoyable,” said Cordivano.

Zeytoonian said items like boundaries are extremely important to her committee. She said they want to help veterinarians understand boundaries and learn how to discuss them with team members and clients.

What is Disengagement or Quiet Quitting?

Cordivano said in general, it is doing the bare minimum for a job, or “coasting” through work.

Zeytoonian said during the pandemic, employers saw the “great resignation” take place. “And that turned into quiet quitting,” Zeytoonian said. “The ones who wanted to leave are gone, and of those left, there are some doing as little as possible while staying under the radar.”

For employees, Gallup polls have shown employee engagement is low among younger workers. “No one cares,” Zeytoonian said.

The way to counteract that is to find out what those individuals enjoy and try to let them learn and grow, she said. “Promote those areas in vet practice,” Zeytoonian noted.

Cordivano said for veterinarians, “it’s hard to imaging our colleagues doing this (being disengaged or quietly quitting). [Equine veterinarians] go above and beyond! But being engaged means working in the best interest of the business. Vets might be working hard, but they are not pushing the organization’s best interests. You need to have an aligning of core values [of the practice and the individual vet].”

Zeytoonian said that is the same for the staff. She noted that vet techs and assistants are “not just a hitching post.

“We have wonderfully skilled technicians working for us,” Zeytoonian said. “But we will lost them to small animal [practice] where they can do more.”

She said that for the issue of staff engagement, “clients can see the lack of enthusiasm. We have to find individuals who are not engaged and find ways to engage them.”

She warned that pushing strong, engaged workers to do more will result in burnout issues. “You need to reward your superstars!” Zeytoonian stressed.


Both Cordivano and Zeytoonian stressed the need to allow staff and associate vets to share ideas for the practice.

“Welcome ideas! That ties into psychological safety,” said Cordivano. Let them know they can admit mistakes and not fear punishment or be told to ‘stay in your lane.’ Research shows increasing psychological safety increases engagement.”

Editor’s note: Find so much more from this discussion in the podcast! And check out this article from Gallup on employee engagement.

About Dr. Cordivano

Stacey Cordivano, DVM, founded Clay Creek Equine Veterinary Services in Pennsylvania in 2010 and expanded to a two-doctor practice in 2021. She started production of The Whole Veterinarian Podcast in 2020 with the goal of connecting fellow veterinarians with resources to aid in their personal growth and development. She is an active member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and now serves on the AAEP Wellness Committee.

About Dr. Zeytoonian

Kelly Zeytoonian, DVM, MBA, CERP (Equine Rehabilitation Certificate Program), is the owner of Starwood Equine Veterinary Services and Starwood Veterinary Consulting in California. Zeytoonian also serves on the Board of Directors of the Northern California Association of Equine Practitioners.

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