In the past year and a half, workforce well-being has been catapulted to the forefront of organizational efforts worldwide. As a professional veterinary community, we were united by shared challenges, with practices around the U.S. all experiencing similar increases in caseloads, changes to hospital workflows and procedures, and intensified client interactions. These obstacles, along with individual feelings of worry and stress, were felt equally as we navigated the new, and sometimes turbulent, landscape together.
Despite these challenges, there is a silver lining: an increased understanding of the importance of employee well-being and enhanced organizational efforts aimed to uplift its people. For us at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital, the health and well-being of our Associates has been a priority from the beginning, knowing it is because of the hard work, passion, and dedication of these professionals that we are able to consistently provide high-quality care for pets when they are most in need.
With the inherent emotional and physical demands of a career in pet care, assistants, technicians, paraprofessionals, and other support team members often leave the field after just a few years. While the causes for veterinary professional job departure are vast, they are often rooted in both personal and work-related factors.
Substantial research has been conducted on factors that influence job satisfaction and its relation to job departure. Financial benefits, organizational and professional support, control over medical practice and working life, career opportunities, and professional development prove to be most important. Hospital culture, including relationships with co-workers and managers and recognition for work, job security, responsibility, and hours of work, also influences job satisfaction.
As a large veterinary employer in the U.S., employing over 7,000 professionals nationwide, BluePearl set out to simultaneously address the multiple causes of job departure for its Associates, not only focusing on ways to improve Associates’ well-being at work, but overall livelihoods. This month, we proudly announced our multi-year investments to create clear career pathways for our Associates. Key aspects of those investments include CareerTrax, the industry’s largest electronic career pathing platform which supports a first-of-its-kind leveling and compensation structure, and continuing education incentives.
CareerTrax monitors Associates’ skill set development for career advancement (leveling up) as well as gives Associates full visibility into skill and leveling requirements for each role, level, and specialty. This new tiered skill system extends career path options for all BluePearl Associates – from kennel workers and front desk staff to experienced veterinary technicians – and puts the power to grow in their hands. With this novel, compensatory skill leveling system, Associates know early on the opportunities available to them, and the skills and knowledge needed to advance.
Supporting our Associates’ health and well-being through targeted mental health interventions as well as career pathways and advancement opportunities in skill development and compensation, brings autonomy and fulfillment to the individual, elevates the standard of care for patients, and brings value to the overall profession of veterinary medicine. As noted by Eleanor Brown, a best-selling American novelist, anthologist, and speaker:
“When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Through a combination of macro, micro, and individual interventions that holistically support our people – across all physical, emotional, and financial aspects – we have built a solid framework from which other industry partners can emulate and implement.
Here’s a bit more about the steps we’ve taken to improve job satisfaction and empower our Associates.
Professional Growth Opportunities: Aimed to create purposeful futures that veterinary professionals can feel confident about, we offer:
Healthcare and Policy: Ensuring mothers and fathers have adequate time to spend with their new family members, we introduced a new paid parental leave policy that provides Associates four weeks’ time off at 100% of their pay. In addition to the parental leave, birth mothers can take advantage of short-term disability benefit which provides 60% of pay for up to 26 weeks. In 2021, we also expanded healthcare coverage to include gender reassignment on all U.S. medical plans.
Training and Mentorship: Whether training for new system implementations such as CareerTrax, or residency and intern programs that offer training and mentorship for new veterinary professionals, we have programs to ensure our Associates feel supported and equipped for long-term veterinary medicine careers.
Regional Mental Health Aid: BluePearl’s Health and Well-being (H+W) Team consists of seven regional veterinary social workers and two wellness trainers who offer support and resources to local hospital teams. They also perform wellness checks on hospital leaders to ensure they have the professional support they need when dealing with stressful situations, and so they can better support Associates within their practices.
One-on-one Mental Health Assistance: Aside from the support of our regional social workers, the Health + Well-being (H+W) team launched its Wellness Ambassador Program which trains Associates in Mental Health First Aid and enables them to serve as a bridge between individuals in need and regional leadership and veterinary social work teams.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: To nurture a more connected community of veterinary professionals, and to create a safe space for each Associate to be their authentic selves and thrive, BluePearl organized diversity resource groups and holds panel conversations – all of which are overseen by BluePearl’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council.
Anchored by our purpose – enriching lives through remarkable care for pets – we understand that Associates are truly the heart of the veterinary business. Through these multi-year investments in career pathways and health and well-being, we hope our Associates live healthier, more purposeful lives today and in the future.