The Modern Equine Vet
April 2024
Vol 14 Issue 4 2024
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Practice Management

Support Staff Can Help Maximize Veterinarian Effectiveness and Profits

By Tom Rosenthal

The more equine veterinary practices expand the roles of their support staff, the more effective and profitable the practice can become, according to a presentation at the 69th AAEP Convention, held in San Diego, CA.

Maximizing the work of licensed veterinary technicians (LVTs), veterinary assistants (VAs) and other staff can help a practice retain its talent by letting veterinarians focus primarily on patient care while providing professional development to support staff members so they have a more meaningful career, said Mike Pownall, DVM, MBA, partner of McKee-Pownall Equine Services, in Ontario, Canada.

Additionally, that can improve the work-life balance and the quality of life for both the veterinarians and the support staff members, he said.

Dr. Pownall cited a 2018 AAEP/AVMA Economic Survey that found single veterinary practices without support staff reported annual gross sales of $205,000, while those with support staff grossed $330,000—$125,000 more.

This made them 1.6 times more productive than practices without support staff, according to Dr. Pownall.

With a shortage of equine veterinarians entering and staying in clinical practice, veterinary practices everywhere are suffering, he added. As a result, veterinarians are caring for more patients, increasing the chances for burnout. The best way to stop this is to become more efficient, he explained.

Dr. Pownall and his wife Melissa McKee, DVM, started their practice in 2002 in the Toronto area. Their practice has grown to 16 veterinarians in 3 locations, he said. “The reason why the practice grew was the use of support staff and really having an emphasis on letting the vets do what vets do and training and nurturing support staff.”

By empowering support staff to have more responsibilities, veterinarians can see more patients during a workday and have fewer post-patient responsibilities like maintaining medical records, client communications and preparing submissions to the laboratory for testing, he explained.

Additionally, veterinarians are using LVTs and VAs for such responsibilities as removing sutures, changing bandages and laser therapy.

He noted there is value in having an LVT or VA accompany the veterinarian on a patient visit because they help provide additional safety in dealing with a physically challenging client or discussing the case after the visit.

Putting Tasks Off Costs Money
Bridget Heilsberg, DVM, the owner of Crown 3 Equine, in Whitesboro, Texas, who also spoke at the conference, noted that front-office staff can take over the vital role of ensuring that activities are properly billed.

She suggested practice owners make a list of the things that they don’t like about practice ownership or management. These chores can range from clerical and administrative duties, such as scheduling appointments and ensuring bills are paid, to carrying out specific procedures in the field.

“Those are the things that you put off doing, and they’re costing you money,” she said. “Now find someone or multiple ‘someones’ to do those things and [who] enjoys doing the things that you don’t like doing. Make sure you can afford the people and then hire the people to do those things.”

She said an important step in effective team building is to determine what is permitted under your state’s or province’s practice act.

Dr. Heilsberg cited the website of the American Association of Veterinary State Boards ( as an invaluable resource in determining what functions support staff can perform under the laws in each jurisdiction.

“Find out what your practice act says,” Dr. Heilsberg advised, and then use the information as guidelines to maximize the practice. “Staff utilization turns into higher profit margins,” she said.

Another vital step in team building is taking the time to determine what needs are not being met at the practice and filling those gaps. MeV

For more information:

American Association of Equine Practitioners. Economic Report (April 1, 2019). 2019%20FINAL_AMVA_AAEP_Equine_Report.pdf