The Importance of “Nice”- How to Hire & Retain Veterinary Staff

The Importance of “Nice”- How to Hire & Retain Veterinary Staff

By Dr. Duffy Jones, Owner, Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital, Founder, DVMSuccess

Do you remember those posters that you stared at for a long time and all of a sudden an image would pop out that was hidden from your initial view? I was never good at these, and would stare and stare and get mad that I did not see anything. Others would walk up, spend about 10 seconds looking, and see the image right away.  

Sometimes in veterinary practice when looking for employees, I feel like I am staring and staring at applicants and I cannot seem to make it fit or work with our office. I always try to look at a person who is applying and see if I can somehow squeeze them or force them into a job. It has never seemed to work. The normal pattern has been as follows:

  1. List all of the qualifications of the job I needed
  2. Find a person who I thought could do most of the job requirements without really asking them if that is what they wanted to do
  3. Hire them
  4. Become frustrated they were not doing the job I wanted them to do
  5. Then they would leave.

I have continued to do the same thing over and over hoping for a different outcome. Never did it occur to me I might be an idiot, even though my wife does remind me of that often! At some point I asked myself, what is the most important trait that I want in an employee? After much thought on this, I decided that the most important trait in anyone I hired was that they were a nice person. Not just good manners, but nice, caring, and a truly kind and giving person.  

Once I made this shift, all of my hiring decisions were based on whether an applicant fit this description first and foremost. I figured that if they are nice, we can teach them what they need to know about our profession. Instead of pushing a job on them, I started asking what part of veterinary medicine they really liked, and then figured out how to make it work. I did things in a way that I would have never imagined compared to the way I previously hired. I hired people with no experience, I hired people who could only work a few hours a week; I figured out how to keep people working for us remotely when they moved 60 miles away. I expanded the pool of new potential employees to high school students and relatives of our current employees. I transformed my thinking from making employees fit into our mold to figuring out how to use their best assets to help us.

Once I changed my mindset from saying “No, you have to do it this way” instead to, “Let us give this a try and figure it out,” my success rate with retaining employees went way up.  

  • Is this a perfect system? No. I have had more hiring misfires than most.
  • Did I have to work on a really good training program to make sure these “nice” employees with no experience knew what to do? Of course.
  • Did we have to spend extra time making sure we supported these employees? Yes we did. But when you start with a nice, caring, and kind person and open your mind to figure out how to get them employed successfully in your office, I bet you will see the same thing I did – a vast improvement in your hiring and retention. 

So instead of staring intently at the employee like I used to stare at those posters, relax your gaze and your mind and let the possibilities of how you can make a person work in your office pop into your sight.   I promise you it is there.   

Dr. M. Duffy Jones, completed his Bachelor of Science degree in biology at the University of Notre Dame and obtained his Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine. He then completed an internship at Georgia Veterinary Specialist in 2000. In 2005, he founded Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital located
in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Jones is a past president and the current treasurer of the GVMA. He is the co-author of The Business Side of Veterinary Medicine: What Veterinary Schools Do Not Teach You, published in 2017. Dr. Jones founded dvmSuccess in 2019 with a vision of applying his expertise, diverse experience and 21st century technology to the task of upgrading the practice financial advisory service and related services that serve the veterinary market.

From the Fall Edition of the “GA Vet” magazine.