Veterinarian shortage: 6 creative ways to hire and retain rockstar veterinarians even during the drought


Gone are the days where resumes and applications are flooding in for our Veterinarian job openings. We are in the midst of an Associate Veterinarian shortage in the US.

Do you feel the squeeze at your practice?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the disparity is expected to continue to grow about 19% through 2026.

It’s a candidate’s market

A happy veterinarian with a dog

With Veterinarian unemployment hovering just over 1%, well below the national level, coupled with pet-related spending hitting an all-time high of $72 billion in 2018, competition for top talent is stiff.  

Because of this shortage, salaries are on the rise and veterinary hospitals are having to get more creative and flexible with their overall package. After all, the average veterinarian is entertaining multiple employment offers and in record time.

So, what are we to do? Roll up our sleeves and get to work.

6 tips for landing and keeping a veterinarian during the shortage

1. Be proactive: recruit

In many markets, inbound applications are few and far between. Who will be responsible for actively seeking out potential candidates for your practice?

Will you be enlisting the help of a veterinary recruiter? The task at hand is doable without one, but you have to be prepared to invest both time and resources to the search. While it is a challenge, it is also a fun ride and you meet some amazing people along the way.

2. Beef up your social and online presence

Work hard to develop a strong and positive social media presence for your hospital on both professional and client-facing pages. Responding to both employee and client reviews goes a long way and speaks a lot about the business. You better believe potential candidates will be doing their research from both an employee and client perspective.

Ensure hiring managers are active on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor and are constantly networking with both Veterinarians and Industry Professionals. Networking really is key. Ever hear of six degrees of separation? A connection may just happen to know someone, who knows someone, that could be your next rockstar veterinarian!

3. Get creative with advertising

THRIVE Affordable Pet Care music video

How are you going to ensure that your job posting stands out in the crowd? Why should the candidate want to come work for you versus the other handful of hospitals they are talking to?

Some creative advertisements lately have included themed team photos that hint to a collaborative, team-oriented environment and postings with eye-catching city/beach views demonstrating the local area as a desirable place to live.

You have to think outside of the box and be memorable. While I may be a bit biased, the new THRIVE Affordable Vet Care music video does just that by musically presenting the job opening and also showcasing THRIVE’s fun culture.

4. Perfect your candidate experience

Once you pique a candidate’s interest, focus on the candidate experience from the first interaction throughout the whole hiring process.

All those involved in hiring should be on the same page and relaying a consistent message about the hospital’s mission, culture, medicine, and environment. Sit down with your current team, identify some key differentiators for your practice and focus on those.

Be sure to listen to the candidate and what they are looking for. How can you meet their needs and improve their situation? During the process, appropriately following up and keeping the candidate abreast of the next steps is critical.

If you snooze, you most definitely will lose in this market.

5. Create a Compelling Overall Package

A group of happy veterinarians with animals

With Veterinarians in such high demand, they have a lot of bargaining power. You need to be ready and willing to be flexible with your offerings.  

Work/life balance is one of the most sought after benefits, though this can have different meanings based on the individual. What does this mean to the candidate and what does this mean to your hospital? Fewer hours? Fewer days? More PTO? No after hours or weekends?  

Do some discovery and find out how you can accommodate or meet in the middle. While compensation is important, many veterinarians are willing to make some sacrifices on salary in exchange for what they perceive is the optimal work/life balance.

Get creative with your benefits package and constantly reevaluate your offerings to make sure you are staying competitive. Don’t be afraid to do something new and challenge the status quo. When others follow suit (and they eventually will), remember – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There is something incredibly satisfying about knowing that you or your company had a hand in raising the bar and changing things in the industry for the better. It’s something to be proud of!  

Student debt repayment, 401k, wellness programs, CE stipends, and signing bonuses are a great place to start, but what can you do that’s a little bit different?

It does not have to be monetary. Personal growth, strong mentorship/support for new graduates, and culture can hold just as much weight.

Find out what speaks best to the candidate and deliver accordingly.

6. Focus on Retention

Business 101: It is much easier and more cost effective to retain current employees. Click To Tweet

The candidate experience you strive for should hopefully transition over to employee experience after they’ve been hired. Be sure you are able to deliver what you sold.  

Encourage open dialogue and feedback. Conduct regular reviews with employees and develop a growth path for those that are interested. Invest in your employees and make sure it is evident that they are valued contributors to the team.

The golden rule for thriving during the veterinarian shortage

Above all, always be recruiting.  

Just because there is not an immediate need does not mean there will not be one in the near future. Keep your options open and continuously network. It’s much easier and less stressful when it’s not crunch time.

Chrissy McGregor, the author

Chrissy McGregor is a Veterinarian Recruiter for THRIVE Affordable Vet Care. She is passionate about veterinary medicine and has contributed her knowledge and expertise through numerous roles in the industry over the past 17 years. In addition to working at the hospital level as a technician, Chrissy has also held positions in Veterinary Sales, Sales Management, Training and Development, and Veterinary Recruiting. In her free time, Chrissy can be found on the volleyball courts and softball fields or planning her next vacation. Her other full-time job consists of caring for and doting on her 5 treasured, but extra needy pets; Bella, Aslan, Franklin, Ben, and Theodore.