Episode #167 – The State of the Veterinary Industry During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #167 - The State of the Veterinary Industry During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter, Stacy Pursell, founder and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary organizations hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about the state of the Veterinary industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. It is great to be here. I hope you are staying healthy and well.

Julea: Yes,  I am healthy and well.  Stacy, the COVID-19 pandemic has been underway for well over a month now. So I imagine that you’ve seen quite a few changes in the Veterinary industry during that time. Is that why you wanted to tackle this topic today?

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. I have seen some changes, and I wanted to share those changes with our audience today. I also want to talk about the role of fear in the marketplace and why people should not allow fear to rule their decisions.

Julea: That sounds good Stacy. Where would you like to start?

Stacy: I want to start by saying that I’ve seen a range of market conditions. This is not a situation where you can say that this is happening and only this is happening or that is happening and only that is happening. The fact of the matter is that there is a LOT going on in the Veterinary industry and the employment marketplace as a whole right now.

Julea: I would imagine that one of the things you’ve seen is a slowdown in activity and fewer Veterinary practices wanting to hire. Is that the case?

Stacy: Yes, but believe it or not, some practices are busier than normal.

Julea: They are?  That is interesting Stacy.

Stacy: Yes. In fact, one practice told me that they’re 25% busier than usual. Their practice has been up 25% since the COVID -19 pandemic. It’s important for people to understand that even though there’s a lot of uncertainty and the economy has taken hit, that doesn’t mean that activity is down all over the Veterinary industry. That’s certainly not the case right now.

Julea: Let’s talk some more about the practices that are hiring? What specifically are you seeing?

Stacy: Some practices are still actively hiring right now. Even if they’re not hiring, they’re still interviewing.

Julea: How does that work?

Stacy: These practices are interviewing candidates, even if they’re not planning to hire immediately. Most of them are planning to hire within one to two months, after this pandemic is over. But they still want to see candidates and interview candidates during this time.

Julea: But not everybody is interviewing and hiring right now?

Stacy: No, there is the other side of the coin. Some Veterinary practices have halted interviewing and hiring for the time being. Along with that, there are practices that have seen a 20% to 30% decrease in activity, and even a few practices have closed their doors until this pandemic is over.

Julea: Can you elaborate on what the practices that are staying open are doing?

Stacy: Yes, of course. Some of these practices are cutting hours and laying off staff if their business is down. In most cases, though, they’re not laying off Veterinary doctors. If there are cuts, they’re typically relief doctor shifts.

Julea: Stacy, what about furloughs. Are Veterinary workers also being furloughed right now?

Stacy: Yes, some kennel workers and staff, but veterinarians, have been furloughed. I’ve also heard of some corporate office people being furloughed.

Julea: What other things have been happening in the Veterinary industry and in the marketplace?

Stacy: during normal times, the United States Food & Drug Administration mandates that veterinarians must physically examine pets in person in order to diagnose them and then prescribe medicine. Now, according to the FDA, veterinarians can use a video examination to diagnose the pets and then prescribe the appropriate medicine. This is one of the ways that Veterinary hospitals and practices are still up and running and they’re still open for business.

In fact, telehealth adoption is doubling and even tripling in some Veterinary businesses. Practices are finding a telemedicine solution and trying to make it a part of the workflow of the organization. I firmly believe that we will start seeing more adoption for telemedicine. It can provide real value and will be a new revenue source that is convenient and offers the engagement that practice owners want right now.

Julea: And Veterinary practices are still considered essential businesses, is that right Stacy?

Stacy: Yes, on March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued something called the “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.” This document listed workers who are deemed essential to infrastructure, and I’m happy to say that Veterinary clinics and pet stores were included on the list.

Julea: That’s great news Stacy!

Stacy: Yes, the American Veterinary Medical Association had been pushing for Veterinary practices to be deemed essential businesses, and that’s exactly what has been happening.

Julea: So Stacy, what’s your advice, based upon all this information that you just shared with us?

Stacy: My advice, for both employers and professionals, is to be proactive and not reactive. The analogy that I use for employers is to not be an ostrich.

Julea: An ostrich? What does that mean?

Stacy: There is a myth that ostriches stick their heads in the sand when they sense danger, hoping that it will simply pass by. However, did you know that ostriches actually do NOT bury their heads in the sand? What happens is that when an ostrich senses danger and cannot run away, it flops to the ground and remains still, with its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it. Because the head and neck are lightly colored, they blend in with the color of the soil.

Julea: That is very interesting! Are you saying that employers should NOT bury their heads in the sand right now?

Stacy: That is exactly what I’m saying! Instead of “sticking their head in the sand right now,”  and  doing nothing out of fear, I believe that employers should be taking the advice of financial guru Warren Buffet, who said the following:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.”

I think everybody would agree that Warren Buffett knows what he’s doing. After all, his network worth was $71.5 billion at the beginning of 2020. Before this pandemic began, the battle for top talent was fierce. Superstar candidates were in great demand. That talent still exists in the marketplace, and if some employers have decided they no longer want to pursue that talent, then this is a prime opportunity for your organization to do so.

If employers approach the current situation the right way, then they’ll see that there is plenty of opportunity for hiring. This is why especially Veterinary practice owners and veterinary practice managers should continue to interview and build their teams if they have a critical hiring need. These employers might be able to hire talented people away from their competition. As I mentioned, that’s the attitude that some of our clients have right now. If you’re a Veterinary practice or Veterinary employer and your competition is in “fear mode,” that means your competition is focusing more on the perceived levels of danger in the marketplace instead of focusing on some of the actual opportunities that exist. If that’s the case, then it’s time for you as an employer to scout the top talent of your competition and recruit those top performers for your organization.

Julea: What about professionals? How should they approach the marketplace?

Stacy: The analogy that I want to use with Veterinary professionals is surfing.

Julea: Surfing? How’s that?

Stacy: When you’re surfing, you can’t decide that you’re going to ride a wave as soon as the wave reaches you. It doesn’t work that way. If you try it, the wave will “wipe you out.” Instead, you have to paddling in the direction of the wave before the wave reaches you. Then, at the right time, you stand up on your surfboard and catch the wave as it arrives, allowing it to carry you in the direction you want to go.

Julea: Stacy, are you talking about the market recovery?

Stacy: Yes, absolutely. A wave of opportunity is coming our way. However, if you want to ride that wave and allow it to help you and your career, then you have to start paddling and preparing before the wave reaches you. In fact, in this case, you have to start paddling before you can even see the wave. And even more importantly, you can’t see the wave unless you’re actually looking for it.

Julea: Stacy, is it true that we might see a sharp market recovery/

Stacy: Yes, that is a possibility. Once the pandemic and the corresponding lockdowns and “shelter-in-place” orders are over, I’m expecting the economy will resume in earnest. People will go back to work, the unemployment rate will decrease, production will increase, and there will once again be more employment and career opportunities.

Julea: So what holds people back? Is it the fear that you referenced earlier?

Stacy: Yes, that’s absolutely the case. I’ve written and spoke about how fear holds people back during my entire career as a recruiter. I’ve seen it happen time and time again, and that was during good economic times. So it definitely happens during times like these, when there is so much uncertainty in the marketplace.

One of the main problems with fear is that people can not make rational decisions when they base those decisions on fear or if they act in fear. In fact, the opposite is usually the case. People make irrational decisions when they act in fear, and irrational decisions do not usually result in success.

It’s almost as if fear shuts down our brains, and that why you have to deal with fear directly. I’m a big fan of Brian Tracy, who is a motivational speaker and writer, and he believes that you have to attack fear head-on. When you try to ignore your fears, those fears grow. When you face your fears, they shrink. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works.

Julea: Stacy, how would you apply all of this to our current situation?

Stacy: The way that I look at it is yes, the road ahead is uncertain. But when you think about it, the road ahead is always uncertain. Nobody has a crystal ball, where they can see the future, predict it, and plan for it. That simply doesn’t happen.

And yes, the COVID-19 pandemic is a “black swan” event. It came out of nowhere, and nobody knew exactly when and how it was going to hit. We do face an uncertain road, but there is a path to recovery. That is what Veterinary employers and Veterinary professionals should be focusing on. Employers can still interview. You can hold off on hiring for 30 or 60 days until the pandemic is over, but you can still interview. And if you do interview, then you position yourself for greater success once the recovery begins.

And that’s the overriding message that I have for today. Don’t allow fear to control your thoughts and your actions. Be proactive and do what’s necessary to be successful and prepare for the recovery.

Julea: Stacy, thank you so much for all of this great information about the state of the Veterinary marketplace.

Stacy: It’s been my pleasure Julea. I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider.

Julea: That’s all for today’s show. For Stacy Pursell and everyone at The VET Recruiter, thank for your listening and we invite you to join us next time when we address more hiring and employment issues in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. We hope that you’ll join us then!