Through a range of evidence-based tools, we work with veterinary practices to identify areas for improvement and growth within their business. Our work isn 't focused solely on increasing profit – although in this economic climate it’s certainly an important factor – but also on creating strategies which enable a veterinary practice to deliver the best possible service for pet owners and the right environment for the team.

The Employee Engagement Study is the most recent addition to the evidence- based approach of our VetSupport+ programme Although interesting, I’m sure that many veterinary nurses query the relevance of its findings, believing they were on the receiving end of the engagement issue.

But don’t dismiss its impact on you.

Important engagement

An engaged team presents a win:win situation between employees and employers – from better working conditions and a happier team, to improved financial returns for all. As a former veterinary nurse myself, I can see that the results present invaluable direction for a career- minded veterinary nurse.

In essence, if you are informed about the ‘drivers’ for an engaged team, you have just as much opportunity to help steer the direction of the practice – in collaboration with your senior management team – as the practice owner; and in doing so, demonstrate the extent of your capabilities.

In the research – which included feedback from veterinary nurses – leadership, performance management and team effectiveness were identified as key for an engaged team. And in my eyes, these are all areas where veterinary nurses can add value.

Handling frustrations

Poor performance management was identified as an area of weakness; while ‘management’ believed that appraisals and informal feedback occurred, staff disagreed. And management of‘poor performers’ was another area of frustration, with 53 per cent of qualified nurses stating that ‘poor performers’ were not managed effectively.

I’ve been into practices where performance management negatively impacts the entire practice – from profitability and staff retention, to the service received by clients. If you see this is happening and the team is increasingly frustrated, be proactive and raise the issue with your management team. From our experience, it’s likely they don’t currently know there’s a problem!

Trust and leadership

While personal relationships between management and staff were reported as good (79% of vets and 76% of staff agree that the relationship between management and teams are generally good) there is a lack of trust (80% of vets believe there is trust in the team, while only 62% of staff agree).

Leadership is the key to any successful business, so why not worry less about the personal relationship and flag trust issues instead? Talk about the challenges the nursing team are facing, and demonstrate your ability to take a leadership role in an area of the practice.

Team effectiveness is often the conduit between the vet in the consulting room and the rest of the staff. It is another key driver and an area I believe in which veterinary nurses can bring about real change. It’s not just about getting on; rather it combines good communication, efficient processes and consistent protocols so a culture of open communication and sharing of experiences can be achieved.

Veterinary nurses have so much to offer a successful veterinary practice, beyond the clinical expertise. So why not go ahead, and set your sights on getting engaged? 

Leadership, performance management and team effectiveness are key for an engaged team and are all areas where veterinary nurses can add value


Fiona Sims VN

To cite this article use either

DOI: 10.1111/j.2045-0648.2012.001771.x  or Veterinary Nursing Journal Vol 27 pp 201



Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 27 • May 2012 •