How To Keep Veterinary Staff Morale Up During These Challenging Times
More than anything, your veterinary team wants to help pets and their people. It’s their ‘why.’ The best way to keep morale up at any time is to acknowledge when and how the team has done just that. Even if the end result is a pet lost to illness or euthanasia that was really difficult if their actions rose to the occasion, it is imperative they hear from you – the doctor – that they did well, that they matter, and that they are appreciated.
Be Aware – Observe Yourself and Your Team’s Emotional Health
If you’re going to be truly in tune with how your team is doing, to support them, you need to be in touch with your own mental and physical state first. Check-in with yourself throughout the day – breathe – and then make sure your team is doing the same.
Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. If you’re highly self-aware, you may be able to evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behavior with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you. Then you can assess others and model the behavior you want from them.
Be Specific – Acknowledge the Behaviors that Warrant Kudos
A simple thank you is nice, but you’ll get more of the behaviors you want by specifically stating what a team member actually did, how they did it, and how it made the pet/client/you feel.
After a particularly intense shift, you might say: “[Name of Tech], Great job bringing dying puppies back to screaming, wriggling wonderful life. You are literally the reason they are alive – you didn’t give up on those little heartbeats and that is magical.”*
“[Name of Tech], Excellent life-saving initiative by getting chest rads done and putting our 2.1lb Chihuahua with penetrating chest wounds into oxygen immediately. This is the kind of intuition that saves lives. Also, thanks for hooking the ECG up to [name of pet] before I went into A-fib looking at her electrolytes.”*
“[Name of Tech], I rest easy knowing my hospitalized patients are in your compassionate and meticulous care. You have proven yourself time and again as a detailed and contentious monitor as well as a kind and gentle caretaker for some of our most critical patients.”*
“[Name of CSR], Zeus’ Mom really appreciated the extra time you spent with her reviewing discharge instructions on video chat. You gave her the confidence she needs to administer his daily meds.”*
*Actual notes written by an ER DVM to her staff at the end of a shift is something she does frequently. We don’t think it’s coincidental that this practice regularly gets 5-star reviews, experiences much lower turnover than typical ERs, and salaries as a percentage of revenue are on target if not slightly lower than industry benchmarks. This leaves room for group celebrations and bonuses when and where appropriate.
Be Grateful – Even the most dreadful days have hints of positivity. Notice them, honor them, be grateful for them, share them.