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The Business of Practice: Can You Afford an Associate or Assistant?

Episode 21 looks at the question: What should a veterinarian do when she/he has too much work for one practitioner, but not quite enough for two veterinarians?
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When equine veterinarians become too busy to handle all the work themselves, they begin to think about hiring an associate or an assistant, according to Amy Grice, VMD, MBA, who practiced for more than 20 years before starting Veterinary Business Consulting. She advises veterinarians and practice owners on a wide variety of projects and challenges.

"It's hard where there is too much work for one vet," said Grice. "When they get to the work of about 1 1/2 vets the vet thinks he or she needs an associate." But, she advised, it is difficult to get an associate these days unless you offer a competitive salary of $70,0090-$75,000 plus benefits. "And if the owner only has 1 1/2 of the work, then the owner will have to tie up some pay for a better quality of life."

The Business of Practice podcast is brought to you by Dechra Veterinary Products.

In the podcast, Grice reminds veterinarians that trying to "grow" a practice to support two full-time practitioners while paying for that second veterinarian is extremely hard. "If they find an associate with a new skillset, such as acupuncture, chiropractic, dentistry, or some ISELP training for lameness and imaging, then they might be able to parlay those skills into more work more swiftly and grow the practice quickly."

Grice also recommended if solo practitioners think they have too much work—they might already not be taking new clients—that perhaps it is time to "fire" some of the current "D+" clients that either are not great pay or for some other reason are not considered top clients.

"The alternative is to hire an assistant or a second assistant," said Grice. "You could start with a part-time (20 hours a week) assistant with no benefits and no overtime. Remember that person's pay has to come from the profits of the practice. You have to make more money or you take less (as the owner)."

In the podcast, Grice recommends before hiring someone that you create a list of tasks for an assistant, from driving and restocking the truck, to setting up and storing equipment on the farm, to handling lab forms. 

And, Grice recommended if a veterinarian already has a full-time assistant, maybe instead of hiring an associate she/he should hire a second assistant.

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The Business of Practice podcast is
brought to you by Dechra Veterinary Products.

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