Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

Tips to Hiring an Associate Veterinarian

August 18, 2021
veterinary associate

Hiring an associate veterinarian is an important decision for your practice. On the business end, you need to make sure that your customer base and practice are scaling to accommodate the new veterinarian. Is it a good investment to bring in a new associate? 

Once you know that you need a new veterinary associate, you need to plan out your strategy for the type of associate you want to work with and how to attract the right fit. You also need to consider what you want to include in the associate contract. Are you looking for a long-term partner that will eventually want to buy into the veterinary practice or take over for your retirement? Are you just looking for a great veterinarian to add to your roster for the short term?

Like anything with your business, building a strategy before you begin will help you make the right decisions to achieve your goals.

Is Your Practice Ready for a Veterinary Associate?

Planning ahead is a good business practice. But before hiring a veterinary associate, you want to make sure that your business is ready. You may be looking to scale and increase your patient load. In this case, hiring a veterinary associate so that you're fully equipped to meet the demands of a growing schedule may be the best option. Your practice may be growing on its own and the scheduling demands may be getting too hectic for your current staff.

Here are some things to consider before hiring a veterinarian:

  • Your facility size. Can your current location accommodate another veterinarian? If you have a small clinic and all of your rooms are already in use, you may not be able to hire a veterinarian without expanding the facility or moving to a new location.
  • Your current schedule. If you have trouble meeting the demands of your current schedule, it's a good indication that you need more help. Do patients need to wait weeks for appointments? Do you have trouble fitting in emergency appointments? Do you have an influx of new patients and not enough time to see them all?
  • You are looking to expand your patient size. Having too many patients for your current size is one issue, but you might also be looking to bring in a veterinary associate who will bring in new patients. If you're looking to expand your business, bringing in another veterinarian will be part of the process.
  • Your current schedule is overbooked. A lot of veterinarians may want to reduce hours when they get closer to retirement. Or you might have staff that wants to specialize in a new area and you would need to bring in another veterinarian to take over with their regular caseload.

Before starting your search for a new veterinary associate, you should have a clear understanding of your goals. Are you trying to expand a certain area of your business? Do you want to bring in an associate who will eventually buy into the practice? These questions will help you decide what type of veterinarian to hire.

Financial Considerations in Hiring an Associate Veterinarian

There are costs associated with hiring a new associate veterinarian. That's no secret. But the question you really need to ask is what they bring to the practice and what the benefits will be. Because this breaks down to a cost versus benefits decision.

Most veterinary clinics and hospitals will need to hire new associate veterinarians at different points in their lifecycle. Old veterinarians retire, life changes might mean people on staff need to work fewer hours, and business growth will mean expanded personnel. There are a lot of reasons that hiring an associate veterinarian is the best financial solution.

Here are some of the things you need to consider as far as the financial cost of a new veterinarian:

  • Recruiting costs. It is time-consuming and costly to find the right veterinary associate. There is a time commitment involved in training, as well.
  • Increased overhead. You need to include the new associate's pay, any education compensation if the practice handles the expense of licensure, and any additional benefits you offer your staff.
  • Increased staff. Hiring a new veterinary associate may mean that you need to hire more staff members to help with that veterinarian’s patient load.
  • May decrease your income in the short term. The cost for hiring new staff comes out of the profits of your practice, so it may mean you and your partners are taking home less in terms of profit in the short term. The overall goal is to increase the profits, but it may take several months. So it's something you should be aware of.
  • May not earn out their salary for several months. As a new associate veterinarian is getting acclimated, they may not have a full enough patient schedule to earn their salary in the initial weeks or months. That often changes rapidly and most veterinarians do earn their own pay scale within a short period of time. They may not bring any value to the profit margin for a longer period of time. 

The benefits of hiring an associate veterinarian:

  • Allow for an increased patient load. If you're a two veterinarian practice and you add one associate, you've just increased your patient load capacity by 50% in theory. While it may take a little time for the new associate to build a name for themselves and bring in a full patient schedule, they will help you increase overall profits and capacity.
  • Allow for a better quality of life for other partners/associates. Often, practices bring on a new associate veterinarian because the staff is too overbooked. Your new associate can help fill the schedule so that everyone can have the time off they need when they need it.
  • Bring in a new type of client. If you hire a veterinarian with a specialty that's different from your own, you can increase the patient size and add services to your practice.

Developing Your Strategy for Growth

If you're ready to hire an associate veterinarian, it's a good time to really consider where you want your practice to go in the next five or ten years. If it's a practice buy-in, you should take the time to discuss the growth all practice owners expect to see, and what they have in mind for the practice and their personal time.

Considerations, like whether or not you'll want the associate to be able to buy in at any point, should be discussed well before that time period. If your staff is looking for more time off or more help in the practice to allow for less stress, these are things to consider and discuss with your team before making decisions on shared responsibilities.

If your office is exceptionally busy, hiring a new veterinarian may not be the ideal solution. It may just mean that you need more supporting staff members. For instance, are your veterinarians only working in a veterinary capacity or are they also dealing with charts, patient education, and things that can be taken care of by veterinary assistants or front office staff? 

If you are in a position where you need a new veterinarian to help meet current demands and grow the business, it's ideal to plan out how you see the future with this new key member of your team.

Looking for an Attorney to Help You Draft Your Veterinary Associate Agreement?

If you're currently considering a new associate veterinarian, you'll need to draft a veterinary associate agreement. Dental & Medical Counsel can help.

We offer a wealth of experience in all facets of the law as it relates to veterinary practices. Contact us today to discuss your current legal needs and to schedule a complimentary consultation with veterinary attorney Ali Oromchian.

 Contact Us Today for a Complimentary Consultation!


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