Let Staff Play, And They Will Stay

Veterinarian practices that think outside of the box for their team are typically the healthier, happier places to work

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Over the weekend I had the pleasure of joining a large veterinary practice on their annual retreat. It was in Oregon/Washington, up in the wilderness in the pine woods and hills, and it was fantastic! They had invited me to present a day-long workshop on burnout and compassion fatigue, my favorite topics! Two of their team members had seen me present on these topics at SWVC (yes, they came down from Oregon to San Antonio), and took the topics back to their leadership.

A long winding road up into the hills, and six hours later, we ended a wonderful day of interaction and positive energy. (By the way, I don’t do very well on long winding roads, so I was a bit green when we arrived up there. I was smarter on the way down, and pre-medicated myself appropriately!)


Hold a veterinary staff retreat in the countryside

But enough about me; let me tell you the most fantastic part of the story. This practice, which has a long history in the Portland area, holds this staff retreat every year. They change locations from time to time, and being in Oregon, they have the luxury of having one in the hills or one at the sea shore. It’s voluntary, not mandatory, and typically they have a half to three-fourths staff turnout. The camaraderie and energy was so good between these teammates, I could sense it right away as people joined the event. Not surprisingly, they have very good staff retention.


Many of these teammates had been with the practice for years, even up to 10 years, 20 years, and more, and there was a theme among them…they had no plans to go anywhere else. In fact, those who didn’t necessarily have a credential-career in vet med admitted that if this practice closed or ownership changed, they likely would not work at a practice that isn’t this one. They were this devoted to the owner and the culture this veterinarian had created over the years.

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A little more about the event (to hopefully entice you to consider one for your team!): the location was 60-90 minutes away from the practice, and people could come up and spend both nights together, just one night, or just come for the day of the presentation. It’s flexible to allow anyone to fit it in their schedule. On the Friday night, they had a scheduled craft or game they enjoyed. (I had the privilege of creating a stone walking step, which will be shipped carefully to me back at home.) Then we played games and enjoyed the good meals they had brought along to be prepared at the site. There were certainly some folks that really did a lot to make this event possible, such as bringing the food and beverages, bringing the craft material and games, cooking the meals and cleaning up afterwards. Yet they were never alone. Their teammates pitched in and it was a true “team-building” activity!

Now I’m sure it isn’t cheap to put on a weekend event for the team every year, but the payoff is worth much more than money. These folks are committed to each other, and committed to this practice and its owner. Ironic, the practices that think outside of the box for their team, such as this event and in particular bringing in this topic, are typically the healthier, happier places to work. There was a really good chance that this team had no problem with burnout, and they were aware of the satisfiers that help to repel compassion fatigue. Give it a shot. Let them play, and they will stay!

Posted: May 4, 2012, 6:05 p.m. EDThttp://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/images/vpn-tab-image/wooded-path-250px.jpg5/4/2012 3:05 PM

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