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Corporatization of Veterinary Care

    • 149 posts
    September 26, 2017 7:48 PM EDT

    Corporate ownership of veterinary practices has been growing in the United States for some time. Our friends "across the pond" are just now starting to face a similar situation:

    British Vets Debate Corporatization of Clinics

    "The corporatization of Britain's veterinary industry was debated during the British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 13-16 at the Liverpool Arena Convention Center, with 72% disagreeing with the position "corporatization is inevitable and will benefit vets and their clients" and 28% of voters agreeing."

    What are your thoughts about corporatization of veterinary care? What are the pros and cons?   Strengths? Threat to the profession?

    • 149 posts
    December 11, 2017 1:49 PM EST

    Compensation for veterinary employment commonly includes a benefits package of some sort these days. Benefits vary but typically include group insurance benefits (health, dental, disability, etc.), continuing education stipends, vacation days, and possibly subscriptions to professional journals or online continuing education resources (VetVine, VIN, etc.). This is pretty much standard regardless of whether the hospital is part of a corporation or is privately owned.

    News hit the wire last month announcing that one corporate veterinary practice entity is now providing a debt relief program for qualifying veterinarians who are carrying student loan debt - in support of their associates’ financial well-being.

    My initial reaction was “wow” and “that’s great.” After all, it was reported that veterinary school graduates in 2016 left with student loan debts averaging more than $167,000, with over 20% of them having at least $200,000 in debt. I recall the stress I felt looking at the repayment schedule for student loan debt I'd amassed during my undergraduate and post-graduate study years. My debt obligation was but a fraction of what graduates are now carrying. The numbers we're talking about today are along the lines of a home mortgage!

    When I first read this news about the student loan debt relief program - again, I thought … wow and great. A nice benefit for an employer to offer - something unique and that differentiates them from other prospective employers - and perhaps something that might improve employee retention and reduce turnover. And then I started to wonder. What are the terms? What if a veterinarian breaks from employment with the company? What if they fall ill or become disabled and cannot work? What if they are terminated? What if ...?!?

    I’m really in touch with “what ifs.” The unexpected happened to me during the peak years of my practice career, and I was introduced to a harsh reality and the darker side of being employed by a corporate entity. I worked for a company whose mission statement and standards of care I respected, and a group that seemed to care about their employees. I also felt that they cared about me as an individual ... until which time they perceived me to be less valuable to the company. As long as I was able to produce revenues I was valuable and an asset. When I became unable to generate revenues (personally) - no matter what value I brought to them in other ways through the other aspects of my job description (tangible or not) - I became expendable. I "didn't fit the business model." And when I parted ways with them, as you would expect, I lost all of my benefits. 

    I'm pretty passionate about this topic and will soon be sharing my experience, perspectives, and lessons learned with others. All too often, people hone in on the "here and now." We don't tend to think about "what ifs." In doing so, my hope is that colleagues will take a closer look at their current situation or approach future employment opportunities with foresight, and ensure that they have a plan in place to ensure their well-being and peace of mind down the road when an unexpected happens to them.  

    • 1 posts
    March 29, 2018 6:06 AM EDT

    Hi Sheri,

    I am a technician that recently left a job due to moving for my husband's promotion. I was unaware of how miserable I was until I had the option to leave.  I worked for a private practice for 9 years and it was purchased by a corporation under the guise of a "hybrid." My boss had joked that his only exit strategy was to die, and he had been considering selling the practice but did not want to give up the way he practiced medicine.

    I had been a technician, became certified, was head tech, then became practice manager over the 9 years. When the company came in, they offered me a salary of a 9-year's experienced practice manager. (This was more than two of the doctors that worked there made...) They gave the whole staff raises and excellent benefits.  I told them that I had not been managing that long, and that I was excited to learn more, and I shared that I was struggling with managing because I loved medicine.

    I was told that I was doing fine, I did not need any further training, and as long as we ordered from their distributer, used their software, offered their wellness plans, and used their anesthesia protocols, we could continue business as usual.

    Instead, 3 months in, I was isolated from my initial mentors, felt fearful of losing my job, even was offered a technician position "instead," since statistically, techs do not make good managers.  To prove their point, they gave me very little support and discouraged my attempts to seek outside help.  They were grooming one of my lead techs to take my position behind my back.  I know they did not want to keep paying me what they were.

    I was so ready to leave that I started sharing my opinions and questioning everything. By the time I put in my notice (one year, exactly from the day they took over) the parting was mutual.  I'm saddened that the opportunity became dramatized and disorganized and that I was disposable.

    My replacement has already moved on to another practice. 

    I resigned because I did not want to get fired from a company that seems it will soon own all other veterinary hospitals.  However, if a position opens up (which one always is) that works with my schedule, pays well, and offers benefits, I still will keep looking. 

    Thanks for letting me rant!

    • 149 posts
    March 29, 2018 12:36 PM EDT

    Mercy - thanks for sharing. I know there's a frequent turnover of employees in some practices (and for some positions), and then there are some long-term faithfuls (gems) in others. You should be proud of all that you've accomplished and for having grown and shown interest to grow. It's hard to find people who share that kind of passion and desire to improve on their knowledge or skills and what they can offer to their employer.

    It's sad when someone's mindset takes a turn like what you described, and it's true, it's not until you're on "the other side" of it all that you can look back and see how miserable a situation was making you feel.  It's hard, too, because as you've alluded to ... you don't want to "burn bridges" and you never know what the future holds ... and the world of veterinary medicine is very small. I'm glad you were able to move on with grace and hope you find a better work environment and an employer who embraces your enthusiasm to excel. Best of luck!

  • April 11, 2018 9:11 AM EDT

    It is unfortunate but the profession has never dealt with its problem. It now may be forced to, I certainly hope so. If it doesn't the market will take care of it. We have a number of private vet tech programs in Illinois. Unfortunately students that graduate from these programs with an average income of slightly over 25000 dollars and average student debt of $25000. The programs say everyone that graduates has a job. The schools do not take into account the turnover rate and the pain caused by the low income that cannot be escaped as even bankrupsy is not a solution for stdent debt.