HOD to discuss workplace culture, staff members’ engagement and roles

The Veterinary Information Forum will take place during the regular winter session of the AVMA House of Delegates, which will be held Jan. 6-7, 2023, in Chicago in conjunction with the Veterinary Leadership Conference. During the VIF, the HOD will consider two topics: first, the impact of workplace culture on well-being and retention and, second, better engagement, existing and potential new roles, and professional development of veterinary support staff members.

A healthy veterinary workplace culture contributes to improved well-being and lower rates of serious psychological distress—and can directly promote employee retention. When veterinary team members are asked about aspects of their job that undermine their mental health and well-being, they frequently cite the feeling of always being on call, unfair treatment, unreasonable workload, low autonomy, and lack of social support. Some elements of a good veterinary work culture are having a strong sense of belonging, a high degree of trust in the organization, candid and open communication, and sufficient time to provide high-quality care.

Vet and technician examining dog

The HOD will discuss ways that practices can strategically consider employee mental health and well-being, effectively address toxic workplace behaviors, enable individual growth, hold leaders accountable, and tackle stigma regarding help-seeking behaviors. Delegates also will consider ways that the AVMA can help support employee well-being and workplace retention, in addition to existing programming and resources.

Veterinary support staff members, including veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants, are critical to the success of veterinary practices. Recently, many practices have been struggling to meet client demand, leading to discussion in the veterinary community on how to best improve efficiency in delivering veterinary services. Title recognition for credentialed veterinary technicians and fully leveraging their knowledge and skills can go a long way toward improving practice efficiency and productivity, as well as supporting their professional growth, career satisfaction, and well-being.

During discussion of this second topic, the HOD will consider a variety of questions. How can veterinary medicine further scale and support AVMA-accredited educational programs for veterinary technicians? Can practices also more fully use the talents of veterinary technician specialists? Some members of the veterinary community have suggested creating a midlevel position that straddles the roles of certified veterinary technicians and veterinarians, while others believe moving in that direction is ill advised. What needs to be considered before a midlevel position might be contemplated for veterinary medicine?

In addition to the VIF discussions, delegates will deliberate on changes to Association policies that the AVMA Board of Directors referred to the HOD with recommendations for approval, pending waiver of the requirement for 60 days notice.

The proposed policy changes are as follows:

  • An updated policy on “Inherited Disorders in Responsible Breeding of Companion Animals” that would supersede the existing policy of the same name and continue to emphasize the importance of responsibly managing inherited disorders in companion animals.
  • A new policy on “Therapeutic Medications in Competition Equids” to supersede the policy on “Therapeutic Medications in Non-racing Performance Horses,” mirroring revisions by the American Association of Equine Practitioners to the AAEP policy on this topic in 2020.
  • A new policy on “Unregulated Horse Racing” stating that the AVMA condemns unregulated racing of equids because of threats to animal health and welfare, such as infectious disease, administration of illegal substances, and abusive practices.
  • New policies on “Bovine Disbudding and Dehorning” and “Bovine Castration” that would supersede the policy on “Castration and Dehorning of Cattle” to recognize that castration and dehorning require different animal care and to clarify the distinction between dehorning and disbudding.
  • A consolidated policy titled “Harmonized Approach to Voluntary and Regulated Aquatic Animal Health Programs” that would supersede four policies on state oversight and federal programs pertaining to the health of aquatic animals.
  • A consolidated policy on “Veterinary Compounding” that would supersede the three existing policies on this topic, provide additional clarity, and add more resources.
  • A revised policy on “The Importance of Veterinarians in Food Safety” that adds a statement that management and leadership training would help improve the supervisory success, job satisfaction, and retention of supervisory public health veterinarians with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.
  • A revised policy on “The Veterinarian’s Role in Supporting Appropriate Selection and Use of Service, Assistance, Emotional Support, and Therapy Animals,” with proposed revisions that are largely editorial and maintain a focus on promoting the appropriate use of these animals and discouraging fraudulent activities.
  • A revised policy on “Dog Bite Prevention” that adds statements that all dogs can bite and reaffirms that the AVMA considers it inappropriate to label specific breeds or classes of animals as aggressive or dangerous, among other revisions.

Details about the resolutions going to the House of Delegates are available on the AVMA website.