18 Aug Vet Nurses: are yours motivated or de-motivated?
According to 90% of surgeries polled by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) earlier this year, over half of pet owners do not understand what registered veterinary nurses do.
Alongside this research, the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) says ‘vet nurses provide skilled supportive care for sick animals as well as undertaking minor surgery, monitoring during anaesthesia, medical treatments and diagnostic tests under veterinary supervision. Vet nurses also play an important role in the education of owners on good standards of animal care.’
A typical veterinary nurse goes to college, studies hard and achieves a qualification, of which he or she can be proud – yet the title ‘Veterinary Nurse (VN)’ is not protected by law, so pretty much anyone, it appears, can call themselves a Vet Nurse, which is somewhat concerning.
What frequently comes to light when our Vet Dynamics coaches investigate the pricing and charging structure of our clients’ practices, is that many nurses are often under-utilised, their services are rarely charged for, they feel devalued and think that their capabilities aren’t perceived by vets and practice owners as highly as they deserve. It’s no wonder they can become de-motivated and some even opt to leave the profession!
Think about it…
Veterinary practices charge a consult fee for clients to bring their pets to see the vet, who is highly qualified with letters after his or her name and maybe ‘Dr’ in front. They are perceived as THE professional in the practice. Yet many practices still give away ‘FREE nurse clinics’ – simply charging for any products used or given, which is fine if it’s part of a marketing strategy or wellness scheme. These clever, qualified (they have letters after their names too!) hard-working, caring people’s professional time is given away for free! It just doesn’t make sense.
Time to rethink the way you work…
Here at Vet Dynamics, we strongly encourage veterinary practice owners to completely rethink the way they structure their pricing, charging and service offering. Sticking with ‘the way it’s always been done’ when there are massive changes happening in the veterinary sector is resulting in independents having an uphill struggle to stand out against the corporate vet groups who tempt and tease price-conscious pet owners away.
Practices who find themselves in a ‘plateau’ situation are either merging, selling to the corporates or plodding along bravely trying to keeps their heads above water, yet caught in what we call ‘The Busy Trap’ and not able to find the time to work ON the business and less IN it.
We find the majority of our new clients are, on average, discounting 48% of their consults AND giving away free nurse consultations as well. That’s over half of their consult revenue being given away. Why? Who decided that random discounting was the way to grow a successful practice? It’s ‘nice’ but, from a business point of view, completely crazy!
It’s a whole new world…
It is time to embrace the future of veterinary medicine and stop charging by pet type or treatment. How often do you chase a hamster around the consult room and end up with a bleeding finger? Yet a Labrador might just lie there, take the injection and then lick you to say thanks. In my experience, the little creatures are often the most complicated and difficult to work with, yet get a ‘small furry’ discount!
Instead, consider pricing your fees this way: 15 minutes of vet time = X, whilst 15 minutes of nurse time = 1/2 X. That’s it. Value your nurses and ensure that they are paid for what they do. Simplify your pricing and get rid of discounted consults. Anything ‘free’ should be built into your Pet Health Club, if not, charge for your nurses’ time.
Val Belbin RVN Cert Ed is joint head of Myerscough-Lynwood School of Veterinary Nursing and coordinator for all the veterinary nursing programmes. She says “The vet nurse training is getting more and more difficult and although the entry requirements haven’t changed the academic level expected of them in their training is much higher. Also,” she added, “vet nurses are now more answerable for their actions following the requirement to become registered and it is really critical that they are recognised as the knowledgeable professionals they are and more than ‘just a nurse’.
Value your nursing team – they could be doing so much more for your business and, if you open your mind to the possibilities, you may just have a stronger, more motivated and loyal team working alongside you and a practice that flies to new heights!
By Kay Irvine