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Corporatization of Veterinary Care

    • 133 posts
    September 26, 2017 7:48 PM EDT

    Corporate ownership of veterinary practices has been growing in the United States for some time. Our friends "across the pond" are just now starting to face a similar situation:

    British Vets Debate Corporatization of Clinics

    "The corporatization of Britain's veterinary industry was debated during the British Equine Veterinary Association Congress, held Sept. 13-16 at the Liverpool Arena Convention Center, with 72% disagreeing with the position "corporatization is inevitable and will benefit vets and their clients" and 28% of voters agreeing."

    What are your thoughts about corporatization of veterinary care? What are the pros and cons?   Strengths? Threat to the profession?

    • 133 posts
    December 11, 2017 1:49 PM EST

    Compensation for veterinary employment commonly includes a benefits package of some sort these days. Benefits vary but typically include group insurance benefits (health, dental, disability, etc.), continuing education stipends, vacation days, and possibly subscriptions to professional journals or online continuing education resources (VetVine, VIN, etc.). This is pretty much standard regardless of whether the hospital is part of a corporation or is privately owned.

    News hit the wire last month announcing that one corporate veterinary practice entity is now providing a debt relief program for qualifying veterinarians who are carrying student loan debt - in support of their associates’ financial well-being.

    My initial reaction was “wow” and “that’s great.” After all, it was reported that veterinary school graduates in 2016 left with student loan debts averaging more than $167,000, with over 20% of them having at least $200,000 in debt. I recall the stress I felt looking at the repayment schedule for student loan debt I'd amassed during my undergraduate and post-graduate study years. My debt obligation was but a fraction of what graduates are now carrying. The numbers we're talking about today are along the lines of a home mortgage!

    When I first read this news about the student loan debt relief program - again, I thought … wow and great. A nice benefit for an employer to offer - something unique and that differentiates them from other prospective employers - and perhaps something that might improve employee retention and reduce turnover. And then I started to wonder. What are the terms? What if a veterinarian breaks from employment with the company? What if they fall ill or become disabled and cannot work? What if they are terminated? What if ...?!?

    I’m really in touch with “what ifs.” The unexpected happened to me during the peak years of my practice career, and I was introduced to a harsh reality and the darker side of being employed by a corporate entity. I worked for a company whose mission statement and standards of care I respected, and a group that seemed to care about their employees. I also felt that they cared about me as an individual ... until which time they perceived me to be less valuable to the company. As long as I was able to produce revenues I was valuable and an asset. When I became unable to generate revenues (personally) - no matter what value I brought to them in other ways through the other aspects of my job description (tangible or not) - I became expendable. I "didn't fit the business model." And when I parted ways with them, as you would expect, I lost all of my benefits. 

    I'm pretty passionate about this topic and will soon be sharing my experience, perspectives, and lessons learned with others. All too often, people hone in on the "here and now." We don't tend to think about "what ifs." In doing so, my hope is that colleagues will take a closer look at their current situation or approach future employment opportunities with foresight, and ensure that they have a plan in place to ensure their well-being and peace of mind down the road when an unexpected happens to them.