The latest in the series of 'Practice+' workshops – sponsored by Merial and delivered with refreshing openness by Onswitch and Hazelwoods LLP – took place in Exeter on 28 April, covering key factors for practice growth and success, writes Wendy Miller-Smith.

The aim of the workshops has been to highlight the key areas on which a practice should focus in order to deliver excellent, whilst still profitable, care. To assist in this, attendees are encouraged to complete a Balanced Score Card measuring key practice data and trends. However, with so many of us just running to stand still each day at work, the session effectively showed just how little many practices actually know about the detailed financial workings of their business.

Alison Lambert of Onswitch began by looking at consumer trends and a stark statement from the National Office of Animal Health: ‘although most owners love their pets, only around half of them will get their cats and dogs vaccinated or use regular preventive treatments’.

The latest national Mintel data also show that consumers are buying more clothes and toys for their pets, and seeking out more offers on the services they buy. Clearly this then impacts on veterinary care when times are hard and there is only so much money to go round.

So with clients spending and visiting less, the modern practice has to work hard to attract new clients and promote its services, as well as using the staff and facilities as cost-effectively as possible.

We do well to take a look at the following figures, sourced by Onswitch on behalf of Merial:

86% of practices employ fully qualified VNs

in 68% of practices, VNs admit the majority of patients coming in for surgery and discharge them in 83% of practices

80% of VNs have their own consulting appointments yet only 15% of second vaccinations are administered by VNs.

Owners are more than happy to see VNs, so why not use us to deliver many more procedures than we currently do? Vaccinations perhaps? Everyone’s happy – the patient gets our own special brand of loving care and attention, the client gets our friendly face of experience and

professionalism, we get job satisfaction and fulfilment from doing some more hands-on stuff, the practice gets more vet time freed up, and so, ultimately, the practice manager is very happy too.

Hazelwoods showed figures to demonstrate that the practices with the greatest turnover also have the highest ratio of nurses to vets see graph below. But whilst more nurses bring in more money, those consulting rooms are still empty for more hours in the day than they are occupied.

Maybe the next logical step is to offer clients extended weekend and evening appointments with VNs, thus allowing the practice to fit in better with the ‘average’ person’s working life and time commitments, whilst also offering us flexible working options that suit our own family and lifestyle commitments?

The key word there, of course, is ‘options’, but it does seem like another win:win situation for VNs and practices who are prepared to think a little differently.

So one of the key messages from the workshop is that we nurses are great, but that our skills are under-utilised in most practices. Tell us something we don’t know!

The relationship between vet:nurse ratio and practice turnover


Wendy Miller-Smith


• VOL 25 • No6 • June 2010 • Veterinary Nursing Journal