Turn to creative scheduling for hiring and retention, social media for recruiting

Creative scheduling can be a powerful tool for practices in hiring and retaining veterinarians and other staff members, while social media can be a way to showcase a practice to help recruit potential employees.

Practice owner at desk looking at phone and laptop computer

Dr. Tannetje’ Crocker spoke on “Creative Scheduling in Your Practice” on July 30 at AVMA Convention 2022 in Philadelphia. She was then joined by Nicole Scott-Jones for the session “Short-Staffed? Solution: Social Media!”

In a poll by Dr. Crocker of more than 1,000 people on Instagram, about 80% indicated that flexible scheduling is important to them when searching for a job in veterinary medicine.

Dr. Crocker herself has worked as an equine ambulatory veterinarian, small animal general practitioner, and now as a small animal emergency veterinarian in Dallas. She also has two small children.

Before joining the small animal general practice, she was working as a relief veterinarian. When she got home each night, she shoved food in front of her kids, threw them in the bath, and put them to bed. It was really disheartening. Then the two veterinarians who owned the small animal practice wanted her to come on board full time. She agreed, provided she could work a different schedule than hers—or theirs.

The practice saw patients by appointment only, with a two-hour lunch break. Dr. Crocker came up with a schedule to use the surgery room when the other veterinarians were in appointments and to use the appointment rooms during the lunch break. She worked from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. two days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. two days a week, and 8 a.m. to noon three Saturdays a month.

Within a month, the owners said this was the best idea that Dr. Crocker ever had. The new schedule opened up a whole new revenue stream with more surgeries and lunchtime appointments.

Dr. Crocker gave other examples of creative scheduling. At one small animal practice, open Saturdays, the veterinarians work 200 days per year, with at least two veterinarians each day. Some batch their days, working five days a week, and others work three or four days a week. Overall, the workweek averages about four days.

Other small animal general practices have veterinarians work three or four days per weeks, with longer workdays of 10 or 12 hours, which might include a Saturday.

At an equine ambulatory practice, the schedule is 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, with some people on call. At another equine ambulatory practice, two part-time veterinarians share on-call duties with other equine practices.

Competition is growing across industries to recruit and keep employees, Scott-Jones said in the second session. She is the digital marketing and social media strategist for the Georgia VMA and oversees board functions and digital marketing for the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative.

Glassdoor, a website for employees to rate companies and look at job listings, found that about 80% of site users look at social media during a job search. Scott-Jones said practices can use social media to show clinic culture and team dynamics, display unique aspects of open positions and the clinic, and reach a larger applicant pool.

Dr. Crocker said practices can implement a basic social media strategy to recruit and retain more and better job candidates. This strategy can be fun for the veterinary team as well. First, identify team members to engage in social media for the practice. Allot time for content creation, and compensate identified members for their time.

To guide content, practices need to know their audience, which might be pet owners. The social media posts can show potential employees that the practice cares about pet owners. Start by trying basic content categories such as storytelling, motivational, and informational.

When Dr. Crocker started posting on social media, her topics were her cat, finding joy in veterinary medicine, cool cases, and being a mom while working as a veterinarian.

In planning content, practices can use a content calendar, recurring content, and popular hashtags. Each post should include a call to action. For example, if the post is about treating a newly adopted dog for heartworm infection, ask people if they have ever adopted a pet. Scott-Jones said the call to action might be the most important part of the post.

The speakers concluded by pointing to a few resources for practices: Canva for graphics, Vixer for video editing, and WhiskerCloud for websites and social media engagement.

The AVMA Veterinary Career Center offers resources for employers as well as job seekers. The AVMA’s My Veterinary Life website offers well-being resources in areas including work-life integration.

A version of this article appears in the October 2022 print issue of JAVMA.