As you consume information and statistics about the market for veterinary services, you are probably considering how this might affect your needs for staffing. Staffing costs often take the largest chunk of a veterinary practice’s budget. Managing your staffing costs effectively can often make the difference between the success and failure of the business.
However, deciding how much you can afford to pay depends on factors such as the current market conditions, your projected revenue, regional demand for veterinary services and even your choice of pay structure.
By making smart veterinary management choices, optimizing your staffing ratio, improving productivity and researching veterinary revenue statistics, you can use the available data to plan for the cost of staffing more effectively and foster optimal business growth.
Here are the key factors you need to take into consideration when planning your veterinary practice staffing costs.
Deciding how much to pay veterinary staff can be a significant challenge, especially in the early days when you don’t have previous revenue figures to base your decisions upon. For best results, you should take a two pronged approach when determining your pay scales for all veterinary staff.
First, refer to the national wage statistics by visiting the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to their figures, the median hourly pay for veterinary surgeons is $45.90. For veterinary technicians, the median is $16.07 and for receptionists, around $14.45 per hour. You can also check out other industry sources for benchmarks, for example the “The Well-Managed Practice Benchmarks Study” as reported in this article for additional data points.
However, numbers can also vary depending on the location of your practice and the skill set required for each role. For example, veterinary receptionists’ national average annual pay is just under $28K while the St. Louis area is $25.7k, according to Glassdoor.com.
Next, consider your business revenue projections for the coming year to determine how much you can afford to pay. In addition to basic wage costs, you’ll also need to consider other employee costs such as health insurance, 401k, bonuses and employer Social Security payments when calculating your figures.
In order to keep your staffing costs manageable whilst providing a high standard of service, you should ensure your non-DVM to DVM ratio meets the needs of your business. There isn’t a magical figure that works across the entire veterinary industry, but according to the AAHA’s 2019 Financial & Productivity Report, the industry average is said to be around 4:1 (four full time non-DVM staff for each DVM). This will vary according to the staffing needs and structure of your business. You should do the analysis to find the right balance for your clients. You can calculate your projected staff ratio by dividing the number of total staff hours by the number of DVM hours for a chosen period of time and adjusting as necessary.
Staffing costs can escalate if you’re not making efficient use of your human resources. Highly qualified and trained staff shouldn’t be spending their time cleaning kennels, answering the telephone or processing payments if there is another employee such as a receptionist or veterinary assistant who could carry out the task instead. By utilizing your staff’s talents and skills effectively, you can increase your efficiency, improve the service for your customers and help your business to grow.
Creating a daily work schedule for your team can be a challenge to optimize for an effective workload balance. Using a consistent or standard schedule where everyone knows exactly what shift, days and times they are working (basically, same days/hours each week) can make it easier for the team to plan to be there on time and get things like their child care lined up ahead of time.
Does this work for your practice?
There are also other ideas for how to think about staffing. For example, you could continually review your changing workload and make adjustments to the schedule to address. By doing this, your veterinary practice may be more efficient and/or you may be able to provide your clients with a higher standard of service. This can be more challenging to prep in advance and give your staff enough advance warning on changes. Something that works great in the short term may not work as well in practice if it causes turnover. Evaluate the choices for your practice and determine what works best for you.
Optimizing your staffing levels can help reduce your costs, helping your veterinary practice become more profitable and continue to grow. Work with your partners and advisors to determine your staff ratio, work schedules, pay scales and skill sets of your human resources to effectively manage efficiency without sacrificing standards of care.
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