Lakewood, Colo. — Associate veterinarians are jumping jobs faster than the average American worker, according to a new study,
and salaries that don't keep pace with inflation could be partly to blame.
Average annual employee turnover at veterinary practices is at 29.7 percent, or about double the national average of 12 to
15 percent, according to the fifth edition of Compensation & Benefits, a guide compiled by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
Broken down, that figure includes turnover rates of 20 percent for associate veterinarians, 13 percent for managers, 35 percent
for technicians and 44 percent for other staff, with turnover rates reaching the highest in urban and mid-sized practices.
Many factors are involved in the study of turnover rates, notes the guide, but one thing that is consistent is the high price
employee turnover can cost a business. Costs of turnover, aside from the time owners and personnel must devote to replacing
an employee, include training and recruitment costs, plus the risk of running a short-staffed and possibly inefficient practice,
according to the guide.
"It's tempting, especially in this economy, to say that your compensation and benefits are 'good enough' because they're average,"
says John Albers, DVM and AAHA's executive director in the guide's introduction. "While paying low wages and keeping benefits
to a minimum may save you money now, the cost is high in the long run. You need to provide above-average compensation and
benefits to attract and keep above-average employees."
This may be especially true in coming years, with a recent study from Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
predicting more than 1,000 vacancies in the profession in New England alone by 2014.
Salaries behind inflation
In a comparative study of veterinary salaries from 2003 to 2007, the guide shows that the compensation for owner and associate
veterinarians did not keep up with the national inflation rate of about 6 percent. While owner compensation increased by almost
32 percent from 2003 to 2005, it grew only by 1.3 percent from 2005 to 2007. Associate veterinarian pay increased 15 percent
over four years — almost 20 percent in the first two years covered by the study, but dropping by almost 5 percent over the
next two years. Registered technician compensation was the most stable, growing at 7.5 percent over the entire four-year span.
Average compensation and profits for a practice owner was $126,299 per year, or about 30 percent of their productivity. That
reward was the result of working 47 hours per week, 49 weeks a year, generating an average of $401,069 personal annual production
dollars from 3,773 annual invoices at an average of $123 each, according to the study. The average associate also worked 49
weeks a year, but worked only 43 hours per week and took home about $71,000 per year. Compensation equaled about 22.5 percent
of the associate's production revenue of about $354,410 per year from about 3,015 invoices at $145 each.
But money isn't the only factor in keeping employees happy, says veterinary practice consultant Robin Brogdon, MA, president
of BluePrint Veterinary Marketing Group Inc. and a member of the Association of Veterinary Practice Management Consultants
"I think the right guidance and nurturing can create an environment that can help a new graduate feel they are in the right
place for the long term," Brogdon says.